Healthier kids’ meals? Panera’s chief executive meets the challenge.

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Healthier kids’ meals? Panera’s chief executive meets the challenge.

Chicken nuggets. French fries. The pizza. Repeat.

The children’s menu item may seem familiar to many families, but the goal of a fast casual chain is to offer more options in front of younger customers.

Starting this month, Panera’s regular menu features almost all children’s versions. This part contracts, so does the price. “Kids can now choose 250 different combinations,” Panera chief executive Ron Shaich told NPR.

So how about a Greek salad with green and quinoa? Pumpkin soup or whole wheat bread with Turkey and cranberries? Perhaps these will expand the children’s taste.

Shaich announced the changes in a video, and he challenged the CEO of the fast food chain to review their children’s food choices, which he said could be a “nutritional nightmare.” In many chains, he says, children’s meals are almost always accompanied by French fries, promotional toys and sugary drinks.

“Me to McDonald’s, burger king and Wendy’s chief executive, the challenge, let them from their children to eat for a week on the menu, or to review the service in the restaurant for their children,” Shaich, said in the video.

Now, although Panera is a step ahead in focusing on good nutrition, not every Panera dish is a model of healthy eating. The Mac and cheese on Panera’s children’s menu contain 470 calories, up to 1,230 milligrams of sodium, and only 1 gram of fiber. The dish is more calorie-dense and sodium-packed than the four nuggets offered by competitors.

Speaking of his challenge, Shaich said he had not received a reply from any of his rival’s CEO.

McDonald’s responded to this challenge. “We are proud of how we continue to improve our food standards,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary told us in an email.

Harry points out that many changes in happy meals have been made in recent years, including reducing the size of French fries. In addition, the chain has promised to close children’s menus with sugary drinks, such as Coca-Cola. Instead, it promotes milk and juice. Its most recent product is low-sugar organic juice.

“We recently announced that we will could children happy juice added to our diet, and we have to make many other positive changes, such as from Chicken McNuggets remove artificial preservatives, this kind of preservatives and no artificial color or flavor,” concluded Hary.

Since 2012, she says, McDonald’s has served more than 2 billion servings of fruit and low-fat dairy products, such as go-gurt, and now automatically provides apple slices in happy foods.

Other chains have also revamped their children’s menus. As early as 2014, the subway promised to pile up vegetables and promote healthier choices for young customers.

But overall, many chains are out of touch with the various meals we recommend.

The dietary guidelines recommend that we put half of our fruits and vegetables on our plates, and we increase the consumption of whole grains that are rich in fiber. At the same time, we recommend reducing salt and refined carbohydrates.

Despite recent changes in the children’s menu, they still largely reflect the dietary habits of many americans, who consume too much sugar, salt and energy-dense foods.

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