Denver restaurants jumping on the healthy kids' meals bandwagon

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With great power comes great responsibility....

That was the message from First Lady Michelle Obama to the professional food corps at the National Restaurant Association earlier this week. In the quest to fight childhood obesity, the motive behind her national "Let's Move!" campaign, Obama urged restaurant owners and executives to offer healthier kidsʼ meals, such as apple slices or veggie sticks instead of fries, reminding them that half of Americansʼ food dollars are going toward eating out in restaurants.

But some Denver restaurants may already be ahead of Obamaʼs curve, offering healthy options for kids.

At Steubenʼs, 523 East 17th Avenue, a variety of kidsʼ meals are offered, all of which are served with veggies and fruit, a reflection of the restaurantʼs operators, who are also parents. "We started out with kidsʼ meals but it's kind of evolved," says Gina Selby of Steubenʼs. "Weʼre very aware of offering healthy options, because we all have kids here." She points out that Vesta Dipping Grill, the LoDo sister restaurant to Steuben's, also offers a great kidsʻ meal.

At Strings, 1700 Humboldt Street, event coordinator Katelyn Peterson says the kitchen offers a kidsʼ menu, but the kids are the boss and the kitchen will make whatever they want. "We offer the regular menu items that kids like: burgers, grilled cheese and pasta, but we will make anything they like," Peterson explains. "If they want chicken and broccoli, they can have that. We find it is easier for the parents, too."

Strings also makes the kids' experience interactive, inviting them to hang in the kitchen and scoop their own ice cream that can be topped with fresh fruit.

But while restaurants are offering healthier options for kids, the responsibility seems to not wholly reside with the restaurant itself but on the parents, as well.

"Restaurants in general have served the food that parents request for their kids, and the same is true with Elwayʼs," says John Imbergamo, a local restaurant consultant whose clients include Elwayʼs Cherry Creek, located at 2500 East First Avenue. "We have the burgers, chicken strips and popcorn shrimp that parents ask for, but we also have sides of fresh fruits and vegetables." He notes, however, "that fine dining restaurants are generally looking to avoid conflict and make sure kids are happy with what they have."

Granted, Elwayʼs is not Chuck E. Cheese, since it caters to an adult crowd, but Imbergamo also points out that kids deserve a little credit themselves.

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