Over the last year, First Lady Michelle Obama has told the world a lot about her personal and family food guidelines, during the course of many interviews, speeches, and remarks, and while planting and harvesting the White House Kitchen Garden. Bestselling author Michael Pollan has just published Food Rules, a tome on eating boundaries, and Mrs. Obama's rules have overlap with Pollan's platform. Both sets of rules embroider and expand on Pollan's now-famous mantra from his earlier book, In Defense of Food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." And both sets of food rules highlight gustatory pleasure, too. Mrs. Obama does not yet have her own book on the topic, so herewith, a collection of her food rules. Taken as a whole, they make perfect sense, especially because Mrs. Obama has said that "being First Lady is like the icing on the cake of helping other people."
Michelle Obama's Food Rules
1. No child in the United States of America should ever go to bed hungry, and no family in this country should have to worry that they won't have food on the table.
2. We need to educate kids about the need for healthy eating.
3. We eat dinner together as a family.
4. Vegetables and fruits are not the enemy; it is the power to a good future.
5. I’m a big believer in community gardens, both because of their beauty and for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across the nation and the world.
6. I love a good candy bar.
7. We're sweet potato lovers.
8. The tomato from your garden tastes very different from the one that isn't.
9. It's not about any absolute no's. It's just about striking a balance.
10. Mexican food is my favorite food in the whole wide world.
11. My kids are more inclined to try different vegetables if they're fresh and local and delicious.
12. Little changes can make a big difference. Simply adjusting how we eat, like trying to cook one or two meals at home each week; switching from soda to water; adding a vegetable or a fruit to a dinner plate, making that more the meal than the meat or the rice; and paying a little more attention to what's on the labels -- just little changes.
13. I'm a good cook when I have time to do it, but I'm not somebody who has to cook. If there is somebody else who has got a good meal, we're there!
14. If it's fresh and grown locally, it's probably going to taste better.
15. French fries are my favorite food in the whole world. If I could, I’d eat them at every meal — but I can’t. My whole thing is moderation.
16. Small and mid-size farmers grow the fruits and vegetables that we find on our supermarket shelves and at farmers' markets, and they are an important part of creating a healthier environment, healthier communities, and healthier families, and we have to support them.
17. When you go to school, it is so important for you to have a good breakfast, to make sure in your lunches that you have an apple or an orange or a banana, that you have something green when you eat any meal, lunch or dinner.
18. Every now and then I have this thing that I like to do with some of my staff members, and we sneak out, without telling anybody, and we go and test out all the fun places to eat in DC.
19. In my household...if you say you're not hungry, then you have to eat your vegetables, and then you get up and leave, and you don't ask for anything else, and go to bed.
20. Kids don't eat rotting fruit.
21. The President loves scallops.
22. You don't get dessert every night of the week. Otherwise it's not a treat; it's just something that you do.
23. There are people all across the country even in these times who can lend a hand and volunteer at a soup kitchen, even if they don't have the resources to donate.
Right before the election in 2008, Michael Pollan published Farmer In Chief, an open letter to the presidential candidates, about food and agriculture. In it, Pollan gave the presidential hopefuls good advice on how to turn around America's profound problems with diet related disease and environmental issues, by changing our agricultural practices. His suggestions included, among other things, planting a food garden at the White House, supporting smaller and local farmers, supporting farmers markets. The White House food policy agenda, led by Mrs. Obama and overseen by Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass, seems to be mirroring Pollan's letter, step by step. Food Rules is available here.
*Photo of Mrs. Obama at Spring Garden Harvest, from Reuters
Sources for Mrs. Obama's Food Rules: 1. Remarks during holiday press preview at White House, Dec. 2, 2009. 2. Remarks at Unity Health Care Center, June 29, 2009 3. Remarks at Take Your Child to Work Day, White House, April 23, 2009 4. Remarks at Healthy Kids Fair at White House 5. Remarks atUSDA, Feb 17, 2009 6. Interview on Good Morning America, June, 2009 7. Remarks on Iron Chef America, Jan 3, 2010 8. Remarks at Spring Garden Harvest 9. Remarks at Healthy Kids Fair 10. Remarks at LAMB School Hispanic Heritage event, May 4, 2009 11. Press preview for Governors Dinner, Feb 22, 2009 12. Visit to Health and Human Services Department, Oct 13, 2009 13. Interview in O magazine, April, 2009 14. Spring Garden Harvest 15. Womens Health magazine Sept., 2009 16. 16. Opening of Framers Market by the White House, Sept 19, 2009 17. Remarks at Kitchen Garden planting, April 9, 2009 18. Remarks at Take Your Child To Work Day at the White House April 23, 2009 19. Healthy Kids Fair, White House 20. Children's Health magazine, Sept. 2009 21. At press preview for Governors Dinner, Feb. 22, 2009 22.Remarks at Healthy Kids Fair, White House. 23. Remarks at Miriam's Kitchen, March 5, 2009