First Lady Calls for Kids’ Menus With Healthy Choices; Says French Fries Should Be Special ‘Request’

By Penny Starr | September 14, 2010 | 4:04 AM EDT

President Barack Obama enjoys ice cream with daughters, Sasha and Malia. (AP Photo)

( – In remarks to the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., on Monday, first lady Michelle Obama said American restaurants should offer and market more healthy options to children on menus and make it easier for parents to select the best meal for their child.

She cited a “local survey” that showed most children’s menus have choices such as macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

“That’s why I want to challenge every restaurant to offer healthy menu options and then provide them up front so that parents don’t have to hunt around and read the small print to find an appropriately sized portion that doesn’t contain levels – high levels of fat, salt and sugar,” Michelle Obama said.

“These choices have to be easy to make and they have to give parents the confidence to know that they can go into any restaurant in this country and choose a genuinely healthy meal for their kids,” she said.

The first lady said restaurants should offer lower-fat fare and that high-calorie and fatty items such French fries might require a special order.

“It could mean serving 1 percent or skim milk,” Michelle Obama said. “Or you could make healthy sides like apple slices or carrots the default choice in a menu and make fries something customers have to request – which would hurt me deeply – I'm a fry lover.”

The first lady addressed the association as a part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to end childhood obesity “in one generation” and implied that restaurants are not contributing enough to the cause.

“But here’s the thing,” she said. “Even if we give parents all the information they need and we improve school meals and build brand new supermarkets on every corner, none of that matters if when families step into a restaurant, they can’t make a healthy choice.”

“And the truth is that while restaurants are offering more options and families take advantage of them more often, they aren’t always the healthiest choices,” Obama said.

The first lady referred to a portion of the health care bill that became law earlier this year requiring restaurants to show caloric information on menus and said if restaurants market healthy food properly, it would create demand for it.

“That’s why we’re committed to helping increase that demand and making it easier for you to do what’s right,” Obama said. “And we’ve started by requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie counts on their menus and menu boards.” 

She said her “Let’s Move” campaign is working with local officials in states around the country to reward restaurants that provide healthier choices.

“And, finally, we’re working with mayors and other local officials to make our cities and towns healthier and to highlight restaurants that agree to serve smaller portions and promote more nutritious options,” Obama said. “So I hope that all of you will join with us in these efforts.” 

“Together, we can help make sure that every family that walks into a restaurant can make an easy, healthy choice,” she said.