Major food makers pledge to cut sodium and sugar in processed foods

(NBC) – The federal government wants more power over what your kids eat, in and outside of the classroom. The government is also pushing the food industry to do more to make the food at grocery stores healthier.

There is a preliminary vote scheduled on the issue in Congress next week. Lawmakers will vote on whether to let the Agriculture Department set nutrition standards for foods sold in snack bars and vending machines at school.

The average family spends nearly twice as much on sweets, salty snacks and desserts as they do on fruits and vegetables.

First lady Michelle Obama told food manufacturers this week they've got to do more.

"This isn't about finding creative ways to market products as healthy. As you know, it's about producing products that actually are healthy," said Mrs. Obama.

She's pushing for user-friendly labels on the front of packages which the beverage industry has already agreed to. The industry has also agreed to put fewer calories in drinks sold at school by 88 percent.

"I want more limited choices for my children as they're learning to have the best behaviors. Much different for a thirty-year-old, a fifty-year-old, a sixty-year-old and saying 'oh, we're gonna lock up all the choices for you. I don't think that's gonna work," said Susan Neely of the American Beverage Association.

But grocery manufacturers say they do feel pressure from consumers.

"Consumers are telling us that's what they want. They're voting with their feet. When consumers are going into the supermarket more and more they're looking for the low fat, low sugar, low sodium options," says Scott Faber of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Even the snack industry is looking for options.

"We're trying to develop these products so that they have higher nutrient content but yet they are lower in fat and sodium," said Jim McCarthy of the Snack Food Association.

Healthier foods, pushed by government, created by manufacturers and are driven by consumers.

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.