Olive Garden, Red Lobster to Cut Calories, Sodium

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan

September 15, 2011

Other restaurants should follow Darden's lead and clean up their menus to make it easier for adults and children to choose healthy options.

What's on the menu is important because both adults and children get a third of their calories from eating out. Eating out is linked to obesity due to excessive portion sizes and the dominance of high-calorie, fatty, salty options on the menu. Unfortunately, kids' food has become synonymous with unhealthy food. It should be just the opposite. Restaurants and food manufacturers should be marketing healthy options to kids to support their health and cultivate healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.

A study of the nation's top 25 chain restaurants found that 93 percent of children's meal combinations are too high in calories, 45 percent are too high in saturated fat, and 86 percent are too high in sodium. Darden, corporate parent of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and several other restaurants, is helping to change that and make it easier for parents to order healthy meals for their children by making fruits and vegetables the default side dishes and milk the default beverage in place of the usual soda.


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