Olive Garden Joins Michelle Obama's Fat-Fighting Forces

olive gardenOlive Garden, home of the never-ending bread sticks, is jumping on the healthy eating bandwagon ... or rather has been hoisted up there by Michelle Obama in her mission to slim down America's fat kids. Today, Darden announced that its restaurants including the Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Bahama Breeze are going to start making their food healthier.

According to Forbes, they plan to reduce fat and sodium by 10 percent over five years, and by 20 percent over 10 years (not sure why it should take that long). Kids' entrees will now be served with a side of fruit or vegetables, and the default drink will be milk UNLESS a parent requests a soda or some French fries. There will be one menu item under 600 calories.

Welcome changes I suppose, but while Mrs. Obama calls them groundbreaking, I'm just not convinced any of it is going to make much of a dent at all in childhood obesity.

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"I believe the changes that Darden will make could impact the health and well-being of an entire generation of young people," she said.

If people are eating out in restaurants enough that these changes being made are going to actually affect their weight, then that's the problem I see -- eating out too much. I love dining out, but too much isn't good for anyone's weight no matter how careful you try to be. If you're there that often, you should perhaps consider saving up the money you'd be spending in the restaurants, eat at home, and buy your kids some running shoes or tennis lessons instead.

And if a family does need to eat out that much for whatever reasons, then a parent should be able to order intelligently for their child without restaurants having to revamp their menus. I can tell you've I've never once ordered anything but milk or water for my children in a restaurant no matter if soda was an option or not. And if a bowl of pasta looks too big, I help them figure out when they're full. Also, since we eat most of our meals at home and they're mostly healthy, I don't mind if my kids order French fries or some other treats when we're dining out occasionally.

I suppose it doesn't hurt to try to make the menus better, and it's a nice nod to the cause by restaurants, but it just seems like a lot of effort for something that's probably not going to make any difference. In the end, it's up to parents, not restaurants, to get our kids to eat well and establish healthy eating habits for life. Getting rid of the endless bread sticks would probably help too.

What do you think of these restaurants making their kids' meals healthier?


Image via marbla123/Flickr

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