|By Anita Jones-Mueller|
It made big news. First Lady Michelle Obama, speaking in a ballroom filled with the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) board of directors, special guests and the media, delivered a compelling address asking restaurants to join the fight to eradicate childhood obesity.
â€˜We need your help now, because when you see research showing that obese toddlers already display some warning signs for heart disease, it’s clear that we don’t have the time to waste,â€™ the First Lady emphasized. She described how the â€˜Let’s Move!â€™ campaign is working on this problem from all different angles, including providing parents with information and resources, increasing access to fresh foods in underserved areas, getting healthier foods in schools, and helping kids to become more active. â€˜None of that matters if, when families step into a restaurant, they can’t make a healthy choice.â€™
The First Lady praised the industry and the NRA for current nutrition efforts. â€˜You’ve developed the Food and Healthy Living Initiative to give restaurants a strong foundation for making healthy changes. You’ve launched a website, HealthyDiningFinder.com, to help consumers identify menu options in their area.â€™ She identified other positive efforts, including providing information and increasing produce, low-fat items and whole grains.
Then came the First Lady’s call to action: â€˜The reality is it’s not enough. Together we have to do more. We have to go further. And we need your help to lead this effort.â€™
How? Here are The First Lady’s suggestions for restaurants:
1. Reduce empty calories. â€˜Just as we can shape our children’s preferences for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, with a little persistence and creativity, we can also turn them on to higher quality, healthier foods.â€™
2. Apply your creativity to designing healthy options specifically for kids, and make those healthy options easy to find on your menu. â€˜Use your creativity to rethink the food your offer.â€™
3. Reformulate in incremental ways to create healthier versions, cut butter, serve healthier sides, reduce portion sizes, offer fruits and vegetables and â€˜emphasize quality instead of quantity.â€™
4. Market healthy options to kids. â€˜It’s critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy. And if there’s anyone who can sell healthy food to our kids, it’s all of you because you know how to get their attention.â€™
Mrs. Obama emphasized that the restaurant industry has the creativity, power and influence to make a big impact on our kids and contribute to â€˜the future our kids deserve.â€™ The First Lady’s closing remarks included a parallel between the French words for â€˜restaurantâ€™ and â€˜restore,â€™ proposing that the industry can be â€˜heirs to the legacyâ€™ of restoring childhood health and well-being.
Is your restaurant contributing to the First Lady’s mission of creating a healthier America for our kids and families? If so, let me know at Anita@HealthyDiningFinder.com. Healthy Dining will soon be launching a HEALTHY DINING FOR KIDS PROGRAM, and we want to include all restaurants that are offering healthier kids’ meals. For more information on offering healthier options, visit the Operators section on HealthyDiningFinder.com.