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Olive Garden Joins Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Campaign

Jenny Chen |
September 15, 2011 | 1:40 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor


Olive Garden's parent company has agreed to reduce sodium and calorie levels in its meals, particularly for the children's menu. (Creative Commons)
Olive Garden's parent company has agreed to reduce sodium and calorie levels in its meals, particularly for the children's menu. (Creative Commons)
The parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and four other restaurant chains joined First Lady Michelle Obama in her fight against obesity, promising to cut calories and sodium in meals served to children. 

Darden Restaurants, Inc. announced these changes on Thursday, which include reducing calories and sodium in all meals by 10 percent in the next five years and by 20 percent over ten years. 

 “Today we are taking a new step forward by creating a comprehensive health and wellness commitment, while preserving our commitment to offer our guests the delicious food they have come to know and love from their favorite Darden restaurants,” said Drew Madsen, president and chief operating officer of Darden Restaurants.  

Kids meals will now be served with a side of fruit or vegetables unless specifically requested otherwise, Madsen said outside an Olive Garden restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland. 

An 8 oz. serving of 1 percent milk is now the default beverage with free refills. 

The first lady has been promoting her anti-obesity campaign, “Let’s Move,” to get the restaurant industry to offer healthier menus and portion sizes. She lobbied for members of the National Restaurant Association to promote better options earlier this year. 

“Darden is doing what no restaurant company has done before,” Obama said. “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?”

One in three U.S. children is overweight or obese, which places them at a higher risk of developing health conditions. Obama’s movement has promoted exposure on important health issues and the need to balance a good diet with exercise. 

Changes to Darden restaurants will be implemented in full by next July. The company also owns LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, operating 1,900 restaurants in the U.S. 

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