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Michelle Obama Touts Healthier Chain-Restaurant Menus

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday praised a move by Darden Restaurants, the operator of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze to cut calories and sodium in its meals and offer healthier options for children, calling it a “breakthrough moment” for the restaurant industry.

“Darden is doing what no restaurant company has done before,” Obama said at an event at a Maryland Olive Garden. “They’re not just making their kids’ menus healthier so that parents have more choices and more control; they’re making changes across their full menu at every single one of their restaurants throughout the country.  They’re looking at all the food they serve, and they’re asking themselves one simple question:  How can we improve the health of American families?”

Working with the Partnership for a Healthier America, the nonprofit that oversees the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, Darden has committed to reducing calories and sodium in its meals by 10 percent in the next five years and by 20 percent in the next 10.

In addition, fruits and vegetables will become the default side option on kids’ menus, replacing the ever-present French fries. Sugary sodas will also be absent from the menus going forward. Instead, 1 percent milk will be the default beverage, with free refills. Menus will also be revamped to promote the healthier choices.

Noting that Americans spend half of their food dollars at sit-down or fast-food restaurants, Obama said she can sympathize with busy families who want to eat right but just don’t have the time.
But too often, she said, kids’ meals in particular are loaded with far too many calories.

“So the bottom line is that Darden is making the healthy choice the easy choice.  And they’re making it the delicious and fun choice, too,” she said.

Orlando-based Darden is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company and owns and operates more than 1,900 restaurants that generate more than $7.5 billion in annual sales.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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