Healthier choices for kids at Darden owned restaurants

Posted on September 26, 2011

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On September 15th, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign collaborated with the Darden Restaurant group and Partnership for a Healthier America to announce new improvements to the kids menus at popular Darden owned restaurants such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Darden has pledged to remove 10% of calories and sodium from meals by 2016 with the ultimate goal of cutting 20% by the end of the decade. These changes are taking place not long after a study out of Tuft’s University showed the discrepancy between estimated caloric values of restaurant foods and the actual caloric content at many popular restaurants, including the Darden owned restaurant Olive Garden. (Read our blog post about that study here.) These modifications are a necessary step in order for restaurants to succeed in a time where healthy eating is at the forefront. 

Big changes to the children’s menus will come in the form of different default offerings for sides. Children’s meals will no longer come with a side of french fries, and will be accompanied by fresh fruit or vegetables instead, althought adults can still request fries or sodas for their children if they wish to do so. The restaurants are also planning on revamping their menus to showcase healthier options, eliminating enticing photographs of the less healthy options available to kids.

In addition to adding fruits and veggies to kids’ plates, children’s menu items will also no longer include sodas by default, and will be served with 1% milk instead. This is a very important change, as sugar-sweetened beverage items can cause serious health problems such as obesity, type-2 diabetes and tooth decay. Recently, the Boston Public Health Commission has launched a public awareness campaign aimed at helping parents and kids move away from sodas and sports drinks, and towards milk and tap water. You can learn more about this on our website and watch the ads on our YouTube channel.

In our society, we are always on the go, and many of us do not have the time or energy necessary to prepare fresh meals at home every night. Because of this, restaurant eating is a large part of our lives; the official Let’s Move blog estimates that 1 out of every 2 dollars spent on food in America is spent in restaurants. This effort by Darden to change their menus should give parents back a sense of control over what is going into their children’s bodies, and help us all make better choices for ourselves and our families.

Darden operated restaurants in Boston and the surrounding areas include The Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille.

For more information about healthy eating choices, visit our healthy eating blog and check out the Boston Public Health Commission’s tips for healthy eating.

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