An Olive Garden restaurant in Hyattsville, Md. was the site of an important announcement in the societal quest for healthier food choices recently. According to a release from the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to the restaurant Sept. 15 to unveil a partnership between her Partnership for Healthier America and Darden Restaurants–the company that operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants.

Melody Barnes, domestic policy advisor for the White House, according to the International Business Times, said Darden’s modifications are a “full-throated endorsement” of the changes the first lady has been promoting.

Darden has committed to a variety of changes designed to increase healthy meal content and decrease calories and sodium. Changes related to children’s meals will begin immediately, to be completely phased in during 2012. The company has set five- and 10-year goals for calorie and sodium reduction.

The plan is outlined in a press release from Darden Restaurants. It states that fruits or vegetables will become the default sides dishes on children’s meals and 1 percent milk will be the default beverage with free refills.

The company pledges to reduce its sodium content by 10 percent over the next five years, working “in partnership with its suppliers to secure this commitment in a `transition-over-time’ approach” and will focus on “items where it has the greatest opportunity to make a difference.” The 10-year goal is a 20 percent reduction in sodium.

Darden’s pledge for calories is similar to that for sodium, but according to the press release, it’s “looking at its calorie footprint as a measurement of total impact,” pledging a calorie reduction, across all its restaurants in aggregate, of 10 percent in five years and 20 percent over 10 years.

The company is considering several strategies for this, including portion size reduction, eliminating some items from menus, changing the recipes and introducing new, calorie-conscious choices.

“This is a breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry,” Obama said, according to a Washington Post report. “The changes Darden will make could impact the health and well-being of the entire generation of young people.”