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Sherlock goes on search for good kids' meals

Sherlock Zone sighed as he read the article in the Times. Kids' portions on most restaurant menus are unhealthy. Our food detective really wasn't surprised. He had glanced at kids' selections every time he investigated various restaurants through the years, trying to find meals that are in the Zone. It made him happy he wasn't a child.

The story, however, also contained some good news. The National Restaurant Association has begun a Kids' LiveWell program in collaboration with Healthy Dining to help parents and children select healthful menu options when dining out. Restaurants that participate in the voluntary program commit to offering healthful meal items for children, with a particular focus on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium.

Unfortunately, some of what the LiveWell program deems healthy is not Zone favorable. Whole-grain pasta is just as bad as other varieties. Drinking 100 percent apple juice and orange juice is certain to spike insulin levels. But after doing a little detective work, Sherlock found several restaurant chains that serve Zone-favorable meals. (He hopes your kids like chicken.) He'll probably revisit some of these restaurants to check out adult menu fare.

3 Squares: Chicken breast, small green salad, ranch dressing (have on the side), carrots and 8 ounces of skim milk. There are also fruit sides of grapes and strawberries. Say no to the banana.

Applebee's: Grilled chicken sandwich and broccoli with a side of applesauce. Throw away the bread.

Arby's: Junior turkey and cheese sandwich (same deal with the bread), apple slices, low-fat milk and a salad with diced tomatoes.

Bagger Dave's: Turkey chili and apple slices.

Boston Market: Kids' turkey or rotisserie chicken (no skin, white meat) with steamed vegetables and milk.

Bob Evans: Grilled chicken strips, sides of broccoli and fruit. Say no to the orange juice.

Carrabba's: Kids' grilled chicken with spinach and apple juice. No apple juice.

El Pollo Loco: Boneless chicken breast, side of vegetables, two corn tortillas, guacamole and salsa. Have only one tortilla.

Friendly's: Grilled chicken on mixed greens with grape tomatoes
Chicken with broccoli with apple slices on the side
Side dishes include carrots and celery sticks and broccoli.

Ground Round: Chicken breast with grapes

Outback Steakhouse: Grilled Chicken on the Barbie with broccoli and a side of fresh steamed seasonal mixed vegetables.

Shari's: Grilled chicken tenders served with apple and orange slices. Grapes also available. Pass on the melon.