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Michelle Obama hails restaurant chain's calorie-cutting

September 15, 2011|By Christi Parsons | Washington Bureau
  • First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards luncheon, held Tuesday in the East Room of the White House.
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during the Smithsonian's Cooper… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)

First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign scored a win Thursday when the parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden signed on to cut calories and sodium in its menu items over the coming decade.

At an Olive Garden in the D.C. suburbs, Obama stood with the chief executive of Darden Restaurants as he announced plans to cut calories and sodium by 20% and to improve children’s menus -- partly by making fruits and vegetables the "default" side dish.

Obama's "Let's Move" campaign doesn't try to change laws or regulations, but Thursday's event showed the first lady wielding the tool she does have -- public exposure. Obama is a vocal supporter for the corporations and causes she champions. The Childhood Obesity Task Force Report that the first lady unveiled last spring urges restaurants to "consider their portion sizes, improve children's menus, and make healthy options the default choice."

On Thursday morning, she praised the announcement as a "breakthrough moment for the restaurant industry," and applauded Darden for putting the health and welfare of its customers on its agenda. The company also runs LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze restaurants.

"They're asking themselves one simple question, 'How can we improve the health of American families?'" Obama said in the announcement at an Olive Garden in Hyattsville, Md.

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