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Michelle Obama, Olive Garden, Red Lobster vow healthier kids' meals

September 15, 2011 | 10:40 am

Darden Olive Garden, home of the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” and Red Lobster of cheddar biscuit fame have both agreed -– with a push from Michelle Obama -- to serve healthier food to children.

Parent company Darden Restaurants -– the largest full-service restaurant company in the world -- said Thursday it would cut the calorie and sodium content on its menus by 10% in five years and 20% in a decade. The company also owns LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 and The Capital Grille.

The pledge is a “breakthrough moment” for the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to reduce childhood obesity -– an effort that has already enlisted retail giant Walmart and pop superstar Beyonce.

The restaurants –- except for The Capital Grille and Seasons 52, which don’t have children’s menus -– will make fruit or vegetable side dishes and an 8 oz. serving of 1% low-fat milk standard with kids’ meals. The milk comes with free refills, but adults have to specifically request soda and French fries.

Orlando, Fla.-based Darden’s serves more than 400 million meals a year at its nearly 2,000 locations.

Images of food on kids’ menus will promote healthy choices; carbonated beverages won’t be shown. The changes, announced with Obama at an Olive Garden in Maryland, will be fully implemented by July, the company said.


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Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by Darden chef Julie Elkinton, second from right, talks to Charisse McElroy, right, and her daughter Jacqueline McElroy, 9, at a Darden restaurant in Maryland. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press Photo