Darden vows to offer healthier kids menus - The Packer

Darden vows to offer healthier kids menus

09/16/2011 04:37:00 PM
Fred Wilkinson

The world’s largest full-service restaurant company, Darden Restaurants, has agreed to offer fruit or vegetables as the default side option for every kids’ menu item.

The changes to kids menus should begin right away and should be fully implemented by next July, according to a White House news release.

First lady Michelle Obama joined Darden and Partnership for a Healthier America on Sept. 15 to announce what she called a breakthrough health and wellness commitment in the restaurant industry.

Darden’s brands include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze.

The firm is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company, operating 1,900 restaurants in 49 states and serving more than 400 million meals per year.

“This is absolutely fantastic that Darden is going to be offering a side of fruits or vegetables for kids meals,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association. “This will make a big difference, and they are showing that they are the leader among restaurants on this issue.”

Last September, the first lady spoke to the National Restaurant Association and encouraged foodservice operators to re-evaluate their menu offerings aimed at children.

DiSogra said the Darden announcement and McDonalds’ previously announced move to increase offerings of apple slices in Happy Meals indicates a positive change in the food environment for children when dining out.

In addition to its commitment on the kids’ menu, Darden said it will strive to reduce its calorie and sodium content in food. All Darden restaurants will work toward a 10% reduction in calories and sodium over the next five years and a 20% reduction in calories and sodium over 10 years.

“I’m here today because this is a breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry,” Obama said in the release.

“Darden is working to make the healthy choice the easy choice, and they’re making it the delicious and fun choice too. I’m confident that if companies like Darden continue to be creative and innovative and keep our kids’ best interests at heart then we will solve the challenge of childhood obesity and give all our kids the healthy futures they deserve.”



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Mike    
florida  |  September, 19, 2011 at 09:15 AM

People go to a restaurant for taste, value and cost. Most of us go 1 day a week to get something we can't or don't want to cook at home. If the food is cheap but has no taste, or not litteral plate full, we don't go back. If you can't eat it all take a doggie bag. If the government wants to start dictating calories, sugar, salt etc. they are over stepping their boundries, much like they are doing in all other businesses recently in the US. to go out to eat is still a choice, and as of yet we are not mandated on wher we can eat and how much. It needs to stay that way. Most restaurants have healthy choices for patrons. The government needs to stick to what it tries to do, and that is to make sure the food we eat is free of contamination, and pesticides. Keep it at that.

Mary MIller    
Blacksburg, VA  |  September, 20, 2011 at 06:36 PM

This is a great step forward. Parents want to have healthy choices for their children and we all need to be able to find great tasting food that is not full of calories and salt. Darden also has a Seasons 52 Restaurant that does a fantastic job of cooking fresh. Darden is indeed a leader and I am very appreciative.

Doug    
Raleigh, NC  |  September, 26, 2011 at 08:47 AM

I wonder what the Idaho Potato Commission and the U.S. Potato Growers Association have to say about Darden's decision to name their commodity the "bad guy" in children's healthy eating. Furthermore, I wonder what regular customers of Darden restaurants think about them getting involved in their children's diets. I wonder how much the Darden Group contributes to the president's re-election campaign and to democrat party. I also wonder how the Darden Group got so lucky to get a waiver from the government to avoid the onerous Obamacare requirements that are strangling other businesses.

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