Burger King pledged Wednesday to offer healthier fast-food items for American children under 12, with plans to sell and market flame-broiled Chicken Tenders and apples cut to resemble thick-cut french fries.
Burger King Holdings Inc., the world's second largest hamburger chain, said it has set nutritional guidelines to follow when targeting children under 12 in advertising, including limiting ads to Kids Meals that contain no more than 560 calories, less than 30 percent of calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars.
In that vein, Burger King is building a Kids Meal that will contain the flame-broiled Tenders, organic unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk, for a total of 305 calories and 8.5 grams of fat. It will be available in restaurants sometime in 2008, the company said.
The fast food chain is also developing what it calls BK Fresh Apple Fries. The red apples are cut to resemble french fries and are served in the same containers as fries, but they are not fried and are served skinless and cold.
"We not only want to better inform parents and kids about these new menu options but also to demonstrate through product innovation that better-for-you foods can be fun and taste good," said John Chidsey, Burger King's chief executive.
The 2.4-ounce (68-gram) serving of Apple Fries will have 35 calories, the company said. A small serving of Burger King french fries has 230 calories and 13 grams of fat, according to Burger King's Web site.
Burger King will use U.S. grown apples that are cut and packaged in a sterile environment and subjected to a pre-wash that contains lemon to keep them from turning brown, said Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith.
The Miami-based company will continue to offer its fried Chicken Tenders on its menu. The flame-broiled Tenders have 145 calories and 6 grams of fat per four-piece children's serving. A four-piece serving of fried Tenders has 170 calories and 10 fat grams.
Miriam Pappo, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, said the move is part of a trend to offer healthier products at restaurants as people become more aware of nutrition and take interest in exactly what they are eating.
"It's a good trend. The actual ultimate solution is still to eat less fast food," said Pappo, clinical nutrition manager at Montesiore Medical Center in New York. "It will only be successful if it tastes good and it will only be successful if it fills the child up."
Long criticized for a lack of healthier options, several quick-service food chains in recent years have developed items for those seeking fast access to a less-expensive meal that has fewer calories and less fat than a burger, french fries and a soda.
Burger chain leader McDonald's Corp. offers apple slices with a low-fat caramel dip and low-fat milk in its Happy Meals, while offering salads and fruit parfaits on its regular menu. Wendy's International Inc. offers salads, yogurt with granola and mandarin oranges.
Burger King also sells salads and has a veggie burger. It did not reveal a price for its new children's items because food and paper costs have not been set, Silversmith said.
Ronni Litz Julien, a Miami nutritionist and author, praised Burger King but said it was the responsibility of parents to teach their children to eat healthier.
"I'm elated with the idea that they are paying more attention to the children today," Julien said. "The truth of the matter is that children in this country have never been more unhealthy. Fast food has been a big part of that. ... If a parent doesn't encourage this from the get go for their children, whether its 4 years old or 10 years old, it can't possibly be successful."
By Adrian Sainz
© 2007 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.