Downsize me: do you want carrot sticks with that?

In her role as First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has taken on eliminating childhood obesity as her mission. She is campaigning for healthier school lunches, enlisting the cooperation of parents and school districts.

I like many of her initiatives, they make sense. Both of my children attended public schools, so I know first hand that lunches are sorely lacking in nutritional benefits. Still there is disapproval from certain factions toward her proposals.

Apparently she is now taking on the restaurant industry, and that has caused more furor.

What I know of her latest proposal – to encourage restaurants to offer more nutritional menu items and reduce portion sizes – has been on the periphery. I’ve seen reaction online, but I haven’t read or heard any news reports quoting Mrs. Obama, so I went to the source… her recent remarks to the National Restaurant Association meeting back in Sept. 2010.

The bulk of her speech focused on children, improving school lunches and now getting restaurants to offer healthier menu options.

This sentence, I believe, is the gist of the most recent outcry…

“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.”

* (emphasis is mine)

That is what has my mother aggravated enough to ask me to help her find a mailing address for the First Lady. Her intention is to send a respectful, but reproachful letter.

My mom is not political, but she is frugal.

As Mrs. Obama is asking the NRA to help improve menu options for children, she may also inadvertently create a problem for another segment of the dining population, and one that has voting privileges – the elderly.

While the diets of our senior citizens could also benefit from some of the changes Mrs. Obama is encouraging – lower fat, more vegetable and fruit offerings, and cutting down on added sugar and salt – there is a consequence that wasn’t addressed.

When my mom and her husband dine out, which is not very often, they typically split an entrée. Both because they can’t eat a full dinner by themselves, but also as a way to save money.

Her issue with an appeal from the White House to reduce meal portions that this will have a negative impact on older consumers. If meals are smaller, splitting them will no longer be feasible. They’ll either have to purchase two meals, which could be cost prohibitive, or stop dining out altogether.

And, she’s none too happy about either option.

Do you think restaurants should change their menu offerings or reduce portion sizes as a way to combat childhood obesity? Is this a good idea for all consumers or should these changes be limited to only the children’s portion of the menu? Is it too much micro-managing?

These are two contact options I found on the White House website. I would love to read my mom’s letter to Mrs. Obama.

Online message:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Standard mail:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
(Please include e-mail address)

27 thoughts on “Downsize me: do you want carrot sticks with that?

  1. I agree with the idea of offering healthier choices in the school lunch program. Currently, our schools may offer a selection of healthy choices, but they also promote plenty of junk – donuts, french fries, juice drinks. Not many kids are going to walk away from sugar and reach for a carrot stick instead. With a healthier school lunch program, parents can still choose to have their kids participate or not. But micromanaging restaurants is going too far. It is already possible to get healthy food options at restaurants and for those who don’t feel it’s enough, they can choose to prepare their food at home. Forcing restaurants to make changes assumes that the general public shouldn’t have the right to choose how they eat. We may be an unhealthy country, but the government doesn’t have the right to force us to change our ways in this regard.

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  2. Oh I have so many opinions on this. Granted, step one is that people should educate themselves, care, and have some self-control. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, however.

    I’d personally like to see more healthful options. Part of the reason we don’t eat out more often is because there aren’t a ton of great options (takeout sushi being our exception but that’s still only 1/month or so), and I hate to see the wee ones – or me – eating that much nasty stuff. Portion sizes are huge, and I hate wasting when I’m in a situation where I can’t take it home. They ARE too big. But … I’m also a free market advocate, and obviously this is what people want. I have asked for a downsizing of my own meal before and gotten it – sometimes with a discount, too.

    As to who this should pertain to? Have you seen the adult obesity rates lately? *sigh*

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  3. Smaller portions are good in theory.. but I agree with your mom. If they make smaller portions will they make a smaller price? I think it would be nice to have a 1/2 order option or a regular or large option when it comes to a pasta dish.. personally I like leftovers when I’m able to bring to lunch the next day. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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  4. I don’t think the government should be involved in the portion sizes. Cleanliness, etc, yes, but not portion sizes. And as for splitting dishes, my daughter has 6 kids ages 2-10. When they go out to eat, they very rarely order kids meals, it would be cost prohibitive. Instead she will usually order 2 full size meals and split between the 6. It makes more sense. Plus, she doesn’t like the fact that what is on kids menus are typically fried foods with french fries, although more places are adding healthier options.
    My 2 cents!
    Bernice

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    1. Children’s menus, in my opinion, have always been the worst choices possible. Fat laden, fried, very few vegetable or fruit choices. That’s what needs to be overhauled, not necessarily entire menus.

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