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Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Lady Obama Takes On The Restaurant Industry

AT Hyattsville, MD Olive Garden:  First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by Darden chef Julie Elkinton, second from right, talks to Charisse McElroy, right, and her daughter Jacqueline McElroy, 9.  Photo by AP's Manuel Balce Ceneta
First Lady Michelle Obama was at the Hyattsville, MD Olive Garden restaurant today to announce that Darden Restaurants, the world’s largest full service restaurant company, would modify its kids' menus to include healthier sides and drink options.

"Often, parents assume that when a restaurant offers a separate kids’ menu that the food on that menu will actually be good for their kids", said the First Lady. "They assume that the potion sizes will be reasonable. They assume that the food will be just as nutritious as food that they prepare for their kids at home." 

It's considered that one of every two dollars spent on food is spent in restaurants, and over one-third of calories consumed in America are eaten at restaurants.

The Childhood Obesity Task Force Report specifically calls on restaurants to, “consider their portion sizes, improve children’s menus, and make healthy options the default choice whenever possible.”
Darden Restaurants has accepted this challenge.

Darden is committing to reducing its calorie and sodium footprints, and to provide greater choice and variety to families through changes to its kids’ menus. Across the entire Darden portfolio of brands, the company is working toward a 10 percent reduction of calories and sodium over five years and a 20 percent reduction in calories and sodium over 10 years. On kids’ menus, fruits or vegetables will become the default side option and 1-percent milk will be the default beverage choice with free refills. Changes to the kids’ menus are starting now and will be fully implemented by next July.

Darden owns and operates 1,900 restaurants in 49 states, serving over 400 million meals per year.would be Partnership for a Healthier America today to announce a “breakthrough” health and wellness commitment in the restaurant industry. Darden brands include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze.

Calling today's announcement a "big deal" that "bought her out today", the First Lady said that Darden is doing what no restaurant has done before. 

"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", said The First Lady. "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?"

Darden also owns The Capital Grille and Seasons 52. Coincidentally, the Darden stock was up 44 points today at time of article publishing on today's news.

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More
Partnership for a Healthier America secured the following commitments and will be working with Darden to evaluate and monitor their progress with these efforts.

Kids’ Menus – changes starting now and to be fully implemented by July 2012
· Guarantee a fruit or vegetable will be the default side for every kids’ menu item at those restaurants offering a default side on the children’s menu: Bahama Breeze, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster.
· 1% milk will be the default beverage, provided automatically if no alternate beverage is requested. Milk will be prominently promoted on the menu and made available with free refills.
· Food illustrations on the menu will promote the healthy choices for meals and drinks.
· Healthier menu options will be more prominently displayed when possible.
· Carbonated beverages will not be displayed on children’s menus.
· Improve the nutritional content of one or more children’s menu items to provide equal or less than 600 calories, 30% of total calories from fat, 10% of total calories from saturated fat and 600 mg of sodium.

Calories/Sodium Footprint Reduction – changes to be implemented by 2016 and 2021
· By 2016, reduce calories by 10% and over a ten-year period by 20%.
· By 2016, reduce sodium by 10% and over a ten-year period by 20%.

Related
Rated 2009's healthiest restaurants:  Panera.   See what other restaurants made the list here.

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