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First Lady Leans On Darden Restaurants To Shave Calories Off Menus

Menus at Olive Garden and Red Lobster are about to get a health makeover. Darden Restaurants, which owns the brands, is the latest corporation to collaborate with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign aimed ending childhood obesity.

The company has pledged to reduce its calorie and sodium footprints with a goal of 10 percent reduction over the next five years and 20 percent in the next decade. And its four restaurants, including LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, will reformulate and resize portions.

At an event Thursday at Olive Garden in Hyattsville, Maryland, company leaders served up a 400-calorie Venetian apricot chicken dish to a group that included the First Lady and collaborators in the Partnership For a Healthier America.

The company also pledged to add more variety to kids menus. One example, which Red Lobster introduced earlier this year: Broiled fish served with fresh fruit and milk. This meal has just 350 calories and 4 grams of fat.

Given that one out of every two dollars spent on food is spent in restaurants, Darden's commitment is a big deal, according to the First Lady.

"I believe the changes that Darden will make could impact the health and well-being of an entire generation of young people," Mrs. Obama told the group gathered at the Olive Garden.

The announcement follows a spate of pledges from the food industry.

McDonald's has pledged to downsize fries in Happy Meal and add fruit to every meal. The National Restaurant Association is nudging its members to replace empty calorie options with healthier ones. And grocery chains and Walmart have said they will make healthier, affordable food available in "food deserts."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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