First lady makes headway calling for healthy foods

First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by Darden chef Julie Elkinton, standing right, talks to Donna Brown, seated from right clockwise, as well as her children Nichol, 13, Cody 12, as well as Casey, 18, from Kennett Square, Pa., during a Lets Move! event in a Darden restaurant in Hyattsville, Md., Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. The initial lady announced Darden Restaurants commitment to reduce a calorie as well as sodium footprint as well as to provide greater choice as well as variety upon a childrens menus as well as make full of health options a default choice whenever possible. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) {"s" : "dri,wmt","k" : "a00,a50,b00,b60,c10,g00,h00,l10,p20,t10,v00","o" : "","j" : ""} WASHINGTON (AP) -- Calorie by calorie, initial lady Michelle Obama is chipping away during big portions as well as unhealthy food in an effort to help America slim down.In a year as well as a half since she announced her campaign to curb childhood obesity, Mrs. Obama has stood alongside Wal-Mart, Olive Garden as well as many other food companies as they have announced improvements to their recipes -- fewer calories, less sodium, better children's menus.The changes are small steps, in most cases. Fried foods as well as french fries will still be upon a menu, though enticing cinema of those foods may be gone. High-sodium soups, which many consumers prefer, will still be upon a grocery aisle. But a amount of sodium in each can will gradually decrease in some cases, as well as a taste of their low-sodium variety will be improved.On Thursday, a initial lady joined Darden Restaurants Inc. executives during one of their Olive Garden restaurants in Hyattsville, Md., nearby Washington to announce which a company's chains are pledging to cut calories as well as sodium in their me! als by 2 0 percent over a decade. Fruit or vegetable side dishes as well as low-fat milk will become standard with kids' meals unless a substitution is requested.Mrs. Obama said Darden's announcement is a "breakthrough moment" for a industry. The association owns 1,900 restaurants in 49 states, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze as well as Seasons 52."I believe a changes which Darden will make could impact a illness as well as well-being of an entire generation of young people," a initial lady said.McDonald's, Burger King as well as more than a dozen other restaurants have also said this summer which they will revamp children's menus. Changing recipes as well as menu items is good business for a industry because consumers want wider choices -- chefs as well as food manufacturers contend consumers are demanding more full of health food than ever before.Nutrition advocates as well as food industry representatives contend which a initial lady embraced a issue just as consumers began to demand healthier foods as well as advocates were making headway in getting industry to make foods healthier. They contend she has been a key catalyst in getting lawmakers as well as companies to jump upon board."There's been more progress upon nutrition in a last several years than in a whole previous decade," says Margo Wootan, a leading nutrition advocate as well as lobbyist with a Center for Science in a Public Interest who has been working upon a issue for almost 20 years. "There is a lot of momentum in addressing obesity right now as well as a initial lady adds significant momentum to which movement."Wootan says Mrs. Obama as well as her staff have done more than just public appearances, working behind a scenes with industry as well as Congress to affect change. "She does more than use a bully pulpit," says Wootan.The landscape has certainly changed for a food industry since President Barack Obama took office as well as a initial lady launched her campaign. In which time, C! ongress has passed laws to improve school lunches, improve food safety as well as require calorie labeling in restaurants, all with industry support. The administration has proposed new food marketing rules for children as well as a food industry has come during least part of a way with their own proposal to limit marketing to kids. Major companies have launched a joint effort to cut calories as well as put more nutrition information upon food labels.The initial lady's effort has had "a dramatic impact upon manufacturers, restaurants as well as retailers," says Scott Faber, a lobbyist for a Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents all of a major food companies. "Until a initial lady launched her initiative there was no one American who was inspiring this generation of kids as well as parents to do more to have a full of health lifestyle."Mrs. Obama's participation with Darden Restaurants was her ultimate appearance with retailers as well as other private-sector players in support of her anti-obesity campaign. In January, she stood with Wal-Mart, a nation's largest grocer, as it pledged to reformulate thousands of products it sells to make them healthier as well as to push suppliers to do a same.This summer, a initial lady applauded as Wal-Mart, Walgreens drug stores as well as several regional grocers committed to help eliminate "food deserts" by opening or expanding in rural as well as urban areas without easy access to full of health foods, including fresh fruits as well as vegetables.One in three U.S. children is overweight or obese, putting them during greater risk of developing diabetes, heart mildew or other illness conditions. Mrs. Obama has said her goal is to help today's youngsters become adults during a full of health weight by eating better as well as getting more exercise.In a speech to a National Restaurant Association one year ago this month, a initial lady asked members to "actively promote full of health foods as well as full of health habits to our kids."Dawn Sweeney, CEO of a associ! ation, s aid which was an "acceleration point" for many restaurants which were already starting to change their menus."Certainly a focus she has put upon food as well as full of health living has been a great boost to create even broader consumer interest," Sweeney said.Find Mary Clare Jalonick upon Twitter during Darlene Superville upon Twitter during

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