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Michelle Obama at Olive Garden: "Nothing wrong with occasionally splurging on treats and desserts" Transcript

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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release September 15, 2011

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT A "LET'S MOVE" RESTAURANT ANNOUNCEMENT

Olive Garden
Hyattsville, Maryland

11:47 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Hi, everyone! How you guys doing? How many people got to get out of school today to have lunch? (Laughter.) Oh, nice, nice. Have you tried the food yet? It's good, right? All right, you hear that? Good food, well done.

Well, thank you so much. I am excited to be here today to see all of you, and I'm going to get a chance to walk around and say hello to everyone after I say a few words. I want to start by thanking Cami for that very kind introduction and for joining us today and for being a terrific mom. I also want to thank Jim Gavin for his leadership at an organization called the Partnership for Healthy America. They work closely with us on all these wonderful initiatives, and they're going to make sure that we continue to expand and do good things to improve the quality of health for our kids. So Jim, thank you. It's great to see you, as always.

And finally, I want to recognize Clarence Otis and everyone at Darden for the extraordinary commitment that they're making today. Thank you all. Terrific, terrific.

This is exciting. I am excited. I only come when I'm going to be excited, and this is exciting. (Laughter.)

With this new commitment, Darden is doing what no restaurant company has done before. They're not just making their kids' menus healthier so that parents have more choices and more control; they're making changes across their full menu at every single one of their restaurants throughout the country. They're looking at all the food they serve, and they're asking themselves one simple question: How can we improve the health of American families?
And it's that vision and commitment that brought me here today. I don't just come out. But I'm here today because this is a big deal. I'm here because this is a breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry. And I'm here because I believe that the changes that Darden will make could impact the health and well-being of an entire generation of young people.

Now that might sound like an overstatement to some people, but you don't have to take my word for it; you just have to look at the numbers. It used to be the case where people went to restaurants only for special occasions. I mean, us moms may realize that, right? I mean, my family used to go to Red Lobster after we got something good happen. It was exciting going to Red Lobster. And while that's still true for many families, today in America, even in these tough economic times, one out of every two dollars spent on food is spent eating out. And I didn't even realize that. We spend half of all of our food dollars in sit-down restaurants or fast food restaurants. And altogether, we eat about one-third of our calories at restaurants. That's one-third. That's what we do in this country.

And there's a reason for that, and I think the parents here can understand that. A lot of families today, their lives are hectic. Both parents oftentimes are working outside of the homes, and you kids have crazy, busy schedules. Everyone is doing eight activities and homework, and you got to be here and you got to be there. And everyone is exhausted, right? Just gets exhausted looking at you all. And I know the feeling because I've been there. I mean, it wasn't that long that we lived in a regular house. We didn't always live in the White House. And it wasn't that long ago that Barack and I were struggling just like most families to try to keep it all together. Our girls always had busy schedules, like many of you. They did then; they do now. And there were plenty of times that things like cleaning and grocery shopping and cooking fell by the wayside. And like many parents, we aspired to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals for our families because we knew that was the best way to ensure that our girls ate right was to cook it ourselves.

But sometimes we just didn't have the time and, quite frankly, we didn't have the energy. And that's part of the reason why so many families go to restaurants. Parents need a break once in a while, or they want a special treat, and they rely on restaurants to provide a good-quality, tasty meal at a reasonable price.
They also know that kids can find something good on the kids' menu. And, most importantly, no one has to do the dishes afterwards. That's really why we go out to restaurants. (Laughter.)

But here's the problem: Often, parents assume that when a restaurant offers a separate kids' menu that the food on that menu will actually be good for their kids. They assume that the potion sizes will be reasonable. They assume that the food will be just as nutritious as food that they prepare for their kids at home.

But too often, that's simply not the case. Research has shown that meals kids eat at restaurants have nearly twice the calories as meals they have at home. And for some options on kids' menus, they have more than 1,000 calories. One thousand calories -- that's approaching the recommended daily amount of [calories] that you guys should be eating, right?

So too often, instead of targeting the most healthy food to our kids, we're targeting the least healthy food to our kids. And parents need to feel confident that enjoying a meal at a restaurant doesn't mean sacrificing their children's health.

And ultimately, that is what Darden's new commitment is really about. It's about giving parents choices -- choices that will make it easier for them to give their children the healthiest possible alternatives.

And that's really what "Let's Move" is about, the initiative that I work hard on. It's not about telling people what to do. I say that all the time and I will say it again: This is not about telling people what to do. It's about parents taking responsibility for what their kids eat, and it's about companies like Darden helping parents meet that responsibility by providing healthy options.

And that's why, with this new commitment, Darden is making healthier drinks and healthier side dishes the default choices on their kids' menus. You know what "default choice" means, kids? That means that's the first thing you get. If you don't choose anything, you get the broccoli, okay? (Laughter.) It's good. And they're putting pictures of those healthy choices front and center, so that that's the first thing you guys see when you open the menu. Because we all know that whenever our kids see those pictures, whatever they see, that's what they want, even if it's not what they wanted when they walked in the door.

So we're going to entice you to eat the good stuff, right? That's what Darden is going to do. So the bottom line is that Darden is making the healthy choice the easy choice. And they're making it the delicious and fun choice, too.

You see, business leaders like Clarence recognize the trends that are going on now in this country, and they're good trends. They know that folks are starting to read labels more. They're starting to count calories. They're starting to make different choices about what they eat. So Darden understands that what's good for kids and families can also be good for business, and that's important. They're here to make money.

And they're not the only ones responding to these trends. Since we launched "Let's Move," we've seen companies big and small starting to recognize these changing behaviors. Companies like Walgreens and SuperValu, Calhoun's Grocery, they're stepping up to sell fresh food in underserved communities. And more importantly, they're making money doing it. They're making a profit.

Walmart is committing to sell healthier products and make those products more affordable. And major food manufacturers are cutting sugar, salt and fat from the foods that they make.

Restaurants across this country are including calorie counts on menus now, and they're taking steps as well to improve kids' menus.

And we are extremely proud to see Darden continuing to raise the bar by taking additional steps to reduce sodium, calories across their entire menu. That means what we eat, too, as grown-ups. And they're tapping into the creativity and talent of these wonderful chefs that are standing here with me, to ensure that the food is not just nutritious but it also tastes really good. And I can vouch for it, because I was starving back there -- (laughter) -- so I had some of the -- I really was. I haven't had a snack. So I had some of the apricot chicken and the asparagus -- awesome. Very good. Tasty and healthy.

Darden understands that many kids -- especially
tweens and teens -- eat off the same menu as their parents. They also recognize that plenty of parents are looking for healthy options, too. That's because we as parents know that we are our children's first and best role models. So if we want them to develop healthy habits, then we can't order them the broccoli and the spinach and then turn around and have burgers and fries. Trust me, I tried it. It doesn't work. (Laughter.) Doesn't play so well.

With that said, there is nothing wrong with occasionally splurging on treats and desserts, right? I mean, that's the fun of being a kid. And quite frankly, it's the fun of being human. And I certainly have done my share of splurging. I splurge. It's a good thing.

So don't worry, folks will still have plenty of
wonderful splurging options at places -- at Darden restaurants. But if we're going to solve the problem of childhood obesity and improve the quality of health for our kids, then we do have to show our kids what to do with our actions. We have to show them the kind of habits that we want them to learn. And we do have to teach them about balance and moderation. I talk about that all the time in my household. You can have a treat, just not every day. It's important to have cake; you can't have cake every day. You have cake every once in a while, right? How many moms have had that conversation? (Laughter.) Yes, a lot of them.

But with this new commitment, Clarence and the other leaders at Darden are giving all of us that opportunity. And they're not just doing this as CEOs and executives who care about their company's bottom lines. This is what's important. And I've met with many of these leaders -- they're doing this as parents and as grandparents who care about our kids and about our country.

And that's what we've seen again and again since we first launched "Let's Move" nearly a year and a half ago. We've seen that once people understand the threat of childhood obesity -- they're educated on what's happening -- they want to step up and they want to do something.

And you don't have to be a major American company like Darden to make a difference in this area. I mean, even the tiniest mom and pop diner or family-owned restaurant can be a part of this movement. And they don't have to make the exact same changes that Darden is making to have a real impact, because there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. Every menu, every restaurant, is different.

And even small changes -- things like offering kids 100 percent fruit juice, or water or skim milk instead of sugary drinks, or maybe giving people the option of having their food baked rather than fried, these are the kind of small changes that can really add up.

So I hope that the people who are watching this announcement, particularly restaurants and other companies across the country, will see this and step up in the coming months in the same way that Darden has.

But I also hope that parents watching this will keep speaking up and keep demanding healthy options for their kids. And more than that, I hope that parents will take full advantage of these kind of new options. Because the truth is, is that these restaurants can only keep making these offerings and making these choices and making these business sacrifices if people actually buy them. Right?

So parents, we literally have to put our money where our mouths are, so that they keep doing it. We have to give them the incentive to do the right thing by stepping up and making those choices.

And I am confident that if we as parents do that, and if companies like Darden continue to be creative and innovative and keep our kids' best interest at heart, then we will solve this challenge and we will give our kids the healthy futures that they deserve.

So I want to thank you, first of all, our audience, for your patience. I've heard you all have been very good and very patient. I want you all to eat your vegetables and listen to your mothers. (Laughter.)

And I want to congratulate Darden on a terrific commitment. We are thrilled and excited to see how the country responds, and how your industry responds as well. So thank you for the wonderful job. (Applause.)

END 12:01 P.M. EDT

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 15, 2011 2:35 PM.

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