Darden to Cut Red Lobster, Olive Garden Sodium
Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI), operator of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster dining chains, agreed to work with first lady Michelle Obama’s Partnership for a Healthier America to cut calories and salt in its meals.
Darden will reduce calories and sodium by 10 percent in the next five years at its six different restaurant chains, Rich Jeffers, a company spokesman, said today in an interview. The Orlando, Florida-based company also made a 10-year commitment to decrease calories and salt by 20 percent.
Fruits or vegetables will become the default side dish in kids’ meals, along with 1 percent milk as the drink, according to Darden. The Partnership for a Healthier America is a nonpartisan group working to advance first lady Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity.
“This is a breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry,” Obama said at an Olive Garden in Hyattsville, Maryland, in a webcast with Darden Chief Executive Officer Clarence Otis. “The changes Darden will make could impact the health and well-being of the entire generation of young people.”
From 1980 through 2008, the portion of obese children and adolescents ages two to 19 in the U.S. tripled to about 17 percent. More than one-third of American adults are considered obese, based on body-mass index, a ratio of weight to height, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At Olive Garden, a dinner portion of spaghetti and Italian sausage has 1,270 calories, while the grilled chicken Caesar salad has 850. A kids’ cheese ravioli has 290 calories.
In July, McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) said it would begin putting apple slices and smaller packets of fries in all of its Happy Meals in U.S. stores this year. The change reduces calories in kids’ meals by 20 percent, the company said.
Darden rose 49 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $45.43 at 12:42 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares declined 3.2 percent this year before today.
Darden also owns the LongHorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze dining brands. The company owns and operates more than 1,900 restaurants.
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