The maker of cheese, Oreos, and Oscar Mayer cold cuts says it will begin offering healthier products "in response to rising obesity rates around the world," but you can bet the threat of litigation is playing a role, also.

In a sweeping overhaul, Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT) said today it would lower the fat and calorie content of many existing products and provide alternative choices where appropriate (good), as well as limit the portion size of single-serve packages (of dubious help -- we'll just eat two portions).

What may be most helpful is the company's promise to eliminate all marketing in schools and to "encourage appropriate eating behaviors and active lifestyles" in children. A healthy diet helps, to be sure, but an active lifestyle (i.e., exercise) is an essential part of curbing obesity.

Other food companies are also making the move toward healthy. USA Today says McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) will be testing the option to replace french fries with fresh fruit in its Happy Meals this summer, PepsiCo's (NYSE:PEP) Frito Lay will soon eliminate all artery-clogging trans fatty acids from its snacks, and Kellogg (NYSE:K) recently acquired Kashi, which makes cereals without highly refined sweeteners or preservatives.

Far from altruistically motivated, food makers are hoping to minimize future litigation. As USA Today says, "The nearly $1 trillion U.S. food industry has emerged as the fall guy for a coast-to-coast epidemic of obesity." Kraft's parent, Philip Morris-turned-Altria (NYSE:MO), knows all too well the cost of constant courtroom battles. And McDonald's, of course, was recently accused of misleading consumers about the healthiness of its food. Though that class action lawsuit was dismissed in January, Ronald McDonald is now Grimacing over charges that its fatty food is addictive.

No matter how you feel about the litigation, it's obviously forcing some changes.