Monday, October 01, 2012

Kass: Home Cooking Is Crucial To Combat Obesity

The Senior Policy Advisor says eating healthier foods costs no more than eating junk food, and suggests simple menu swaps...
Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass maintains that home cooking is a good way to stretch tight food dollars as well sas the best way to achieve the nutritional goals of the Let's Move! campaign.  Simple menu changes can make a big difference, Kass said in a newly published interview with The Times-Tribune, a Scranton, Pennsylvania newspaper.   Kass reassured the paper that First Lady Michelle Obama practices what she preaches, and he also weighs in on obesity as a national security issue, a topic that routinely sends conservative critics into a lather of outrage.  (Above:  This 2009 White House photo of Kass in the kitchen with kids appears with the interview)

"The First Lady and family certainly live how she talks to the country," Kass said. "We balance healthy meals and approach it (mealtime) with moderation."

To combat childhood obesity and lose weight, "one of the greatest things we can do is cook," Kass said.  "We can make healthy meals at affordable prices."

Kass repeated what has become a mantra for Let's Move!:  Small dietary changes make a big difference. He suggested switching to low-fat milk and drinking water instead of sugary drinks,  and switching to whole-grain foods by choosing wheat bread and brown rice instead of white bread and rice.

"It doesn't cost any more," Kass said. "It's the simple things we can do."

Since 2009, the White House has issued many, many family-friendly recipes that are ostensibly healthy and affordable, which rely on whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and lean meats, such as Turkey Spinach Lasagna; Kitchen Garden Herb-Roasted Chicken; and Grilled Skirt Steak with Poblano Sauce.  Check the sidebar of the blog for the complete collection.

Kass also suggested taking a walk or turning on music and dancing in the living room after dinner, a piece of advice the First Lady has offered dozens of times as a "free" way for families to stay fit.

While attending the Clinton Global Initiative in New York last week, Kass unveiled a new report that warns that physically inactive parents transmit sedentary lifestyles to their children like a contagious disease as it described a "widespread physical inactivity epidemic" around the world.  The report laid out a plan engage children under ten years of age in sports and fitness activities to make them lifelong fitness enthusiasts.  The report was co-sponsored by Partnership for A Healthier America, the foundation that monitors private-sector commitments to Lets Move!.

Kass, of course, has a daily workout routine, as does the First Lady; she has described it in detail during appearances on talk shows.  Mrs. Obama often arises before dawn to hit the gym; Mrs. Obama told Ellen DeGeneres that she works out "every day," which includes cardio, weights, "biometric kind of stuff," and push ups. She runs about three miles, and also plays tennis and does kickboxing, Mrs. Obama told Jay Leno during an appearance on The Tonight Show to promote Let's Move!.

As for obesity as a national security issue?

"Military leaders report 27 percent of 17-to-24-year-old recruits are disqualified from serving because of obesity," Kass said.

In the interview, Kass was sanguine in response to another new report, this one from Trust for America's Health.  "F as in Fat 2012" maintains that by 2030, America's waistlines will have ballooned to epic proportions without major interventions.  The report was also co-sponsored by Partnership for A Healthier America, and predicted that the nation is on track for 13 states to have obesity rates of more than 60%, with 39 states having a 50% rate and all 50 states being above 44% by 2030.

"Despite this staggering data, Mr. Kass remains optimistic that individuals and communities can get control of the national weight problem," the Times-Tribune noted.  "He said it will require not only individuals taking responsibility for their own health but also communities providing more sidewalks, playground equipment, farmers markets and other tools to encourage exercise and healthy eating."

"Together, we can really change course," Kass said.

*Photo by Samantha Appleton/White House