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“Eating out is such a huge problem in Americans’ diets,” she said. “As a country we still have this mindset that eating out is a special treat and an indulgence, but people are eating our more regularly.”

Wootan said replacing something like french fries with fruit or vegetables will positively influence what people eat because most diners tend to stick with the default choice.

The government soon will begin requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations, along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains, to include clear calorie counts on their menus.

Mrs. Obama participation with Darden Restaurants was her latest appearance with retailers and other private-sector players in support of her anti-obesity campaign.

In January, she stood with Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest grocer, as it pledged to reformulate thousands of products it sells to make them healthier and to push suppliers to do the same.

This summer, the first lady applauded as Wal-Mart, Walgreens drug stores and several regional grocers committed to help eliminate “food deserts” by opening or expanding in rural and urban areas without easy access to healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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Darlene Superville can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap