Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let's Move and Michelle Obama. With friends like these....

Not sure if you caught the excited press releases last week. The Olive Garden and Red Lobster have joined Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign.

They've pledged to cut calories and sodium by 10 percent in the next five years, and 20 percent in the next 10 years. They'll also be making fruits and vegetables the default side dish for kids' meals, and 1% milk the default drink.

Now don't get me wrong, lower calories in restaurant foods certainly can't hurt, or can they?

Without a doubt one of the primary drivers of obesity are meals we're not cooking ourselves. 20% fewer calories off ridiculously high numbers of calories still leaves ridiculously high numbers of calories. And there's also no doubt that The Olive Garden and Red Lobster are going to milk their changes for all they're worth in terms of advertisements that suggest their reformulated choices represent their doing their part in the fight against childhood obesity.

Had I been consulted prior to the establishment of Let's Move, I'd have been pushing for the creation of Let's Cook, because I can't think up any more valuable an intervention than one where all of Mrs. Obama's powerful influence and resources would be brought to bear on teaching, encouraging and helping Americans to spend more time in their kitchens.

I don't think the problem of childhood obesity is going to be solved in restaurants, and programs and initiatives that serve to increase trust in restaurant meals as healthy options for children may well have the unintended consequence of making home cooked meals even more of a rarity than they've already become.

That doesn't strike me as a very wise plan.

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  1. Absolutely agree. How about "let's cook"...or "Let's grow" as in, healthy children and a garden (gardening has helped our family and will be a fixture from now on).
    Couldn't agree more re: restaurants- that is the "give a man a fish" mentality. We need to start teaching people how to fish on their own. Same goes for diets with pre-packaged food (much of which means a steady diet of -gasp- microwaved meals!!!): learn how to cook, how to love food, how to be inspired by local, in-season produce. Bring your kids in, let them choose, let them chop, mix, sample...Get back in the kitchen, people! :)

  2. Joyce Slater9:27 am

    Too true. That's why we developed "Kids in the Kitchen" in Manitoba. I am also conducting a research project examining the current situation of home economics-food and nutrition education in the school system - and how it could be improved. Gender-neutral "home ec" for today's food system and lifestyles is definitely in order!

  3. What annoys me about this story is that it's apparently going to take them five years to cut calories/sodium a mere 10%. Really? Five years? It's lip service to the idea of creating healthy options because 10% less of ridiculously high levels of sodium and calories still leaves you with ridiculously high levels of sodium and calories.

  4. This just stinks. I LOVE the Olive Garden but since the franchise has been removed from Ontario, I only eat there about once every two years when I happen to be in a US city where it still exists. For my once-every-2 years meal, I want it to be the same!! Not some calorie-reduced, taste-reduced, version of its former self. Bring on the 2000 Calorie Chicken Scampi! I am all for it. I want every single calorie. Please leave the traditional menu items the same OG.

  5. How can this program she initiated have any respect? I like the "let's cook, let's grow" so much better. Even making good choices in restaurants is so much more fattening than eating the same thing at home.