Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama's Healthy Eating Advice For Families

First Daughters Malia and Sasha "make dinnertime miserable," admits First Lady...
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have both spoken about the importance of family meals, and have said they sit down for a family dinner in the White House each night.  But Mrs. Obama admitted in an interview published on Tuesday that daughters Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, "make dinnertime miserable."  That's "because they like three things: "Pasta, pasta with cheese and pizza," Mrs. Obama told Food Network's Healthy Eats blog, as she discussed the new "MyPlate Recipe Partnership"  for her Let's Move! campaign.  (Above, a White House photo of Mrs. Obama during the interview in the China Room; Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass is at left) 

Mrs. Obama embarks on a three-state tour on Wednesday to celebrate the third anniversary of Let's Move!, and the recipe project is her first new announcement.  Food Network is one of the partners.

The First Lady said she sympathizes with all parents who have kids like the First Daughters, and noted that it's important to cook at home as she discussed what she used to make for meals before she moved into the White House where professional chefs do the cooking.  She gave tips on how to get youngsters interested in eating fruits and vegetables, shared her own easy recipe for baked chicken, and described a family game of "Food Bracketoloy," created by the President.

"We’re all busy parents," Mrs. Obama said. "I’m busy in a different way, but before being a First Lady, I was one of those moms out there trying to figure out how to feed my kids, hold down a job, get to the grocery store, then what to buy, how to cook it, how to get through a week and how to make lunch that the kids won’t whine about."* 

Introduce healthy foods to children early...
"The sooner you start this stuff, the more it will be their norm," Mrs. Obama said.

"They just won’t know any different. So if you start out by making your macaroni and cheese with a little cauliflower puree, so they get the taste of the cauliflower, the taste of too much cheese will be too much for them. If you start out diluting their juices so that they’re never getting that 100 percent concentrated stuff, then once you put it in, it will be too sweet for them. Kids’ palates are just so adaptable, and I think that’s the point we’re trying to make to parents — it just doesn’t take much, and the sooner you start, the easier it will be to transition. You can still transition. I mean, my kids were 10 and 8 when I started making the changes, and then complained for a while; they still do. But they make the changes themselves now because they can’t drink purely concentrated juices, and it’s too sweet. It doesn’t taste good to them.

Why parents should cook...
"You do want to cook, because it’s affordable, and it’s healthier, and it gives you more control, and you can control portion sizes," Mrs. Obama said.

"It’s a good way to bond. It’s a good way to have those conversations with your family. It’s a good way to teach rules and lessons. I mean, all of our major conversations in our family about rules and life, and ups and downs, happen at dinner. It happens at mealtime. It’s the only time we’re all together where the kids — if they’re slow over their vegetables, they’ll find a way to get into a good conversation about school, hoping that you won’t notice that they haven’t eaten the snap peas.” 

Make changes to foods your family likes...
"Take the things you like and figure out how to tweak them.," Mrs. Obama advised.

"Oven-fried chicken is just as good as fried chicken; it really is. Whole-wheat pasta in a good sauce, a fresh tomato sauce, is better than the canned stuff. Fresh salsa — chop up some tomatoes — it actually is really good. It’s just the same stuff.  Just try this." 

Plan, plan plan...
 Mrs. Obama said the best way to eat healthier foods is to plan ahead, and added that she didn't always do it.

"I thought that my weekly schedule of eating was right — I had it planned out — I’d cook a dinner on Sunday that would last through Monday," Mrs. Obama said

"By Tuesday, we were eating out. Then Wednesday, you would cobble together the eat-out food. And then that would get you to Friday, where you’d eat out again. So you looked up and you found yourself eating out a lot simply because just figuring out how to make that meal was a challenge, and how to do the shopping, and what actually works and tastes good." 

Keep things simple...and a recipe...
"The other day they were reminiscing about one of the meals I used to make all the time, which was this baked chicken," Mrs.  Obama said.

"And I actually had this conversation with my sister-in-law, who’s Barack’s youngest sister who has two little girls, and she doesn’t cook. She is a teacher and doesn’t have much time to cook. I was trying to tell her that you can cook a simple meal. Well, what she’s trying to cook is these complicated Asian dishes that require many pans and chopping. And I was like, no, no, you only do that if you have a sous chef. And we don’t have any of that."*

"My simple meal was taking some chicken legs, seasoning them in the morning, coming back, popping them in the broiler or the oven to let them cook and get a little crispy outside because it made it seem like fried chicken. It was tasty because the seasoning flavored the skin of the leg, and the legs are good — kids like legs. They’re easy and they’re controllable. Serve it with couscous or rice. And broccoli, steamed broccoli. I could do that in 15 minutes, and then we’d have leftovers. Now my family is sick of that meal!"

The importance of vegetables...
"I think as parents we have to realize, as I tell my kids, vegetables are something that has to be a part of your diet so we’ll find a few that you like, but there has to be a vegetable, and you have to finish it," Mrs. Obama said.  "You can skip the pasta, but you’ve got to eat the vegetables."

Still, kids don't have to love every vegetable, Mrs. Obama said.

"In my household, when it comes to vegetables — and I encourage this with kids that I meet because I always say, do you eat your vegetables? They say no. So I say, just pick one, find one you like and own it. Broccoli is a winner in our household. So we do a lot of broccoli. And it works. Malia doesn’t like snowpeas, but they will appear because I like them."

Discover healthy side dishes...
"One option is the baked sweet potato, because you can do a sweet potato in a microwave; my kids like sweet potatoes, too," Mrs. Obama said.

"So that’s another quick side, with the broccoli. Or frozen peas — frozen peas were big in my house. The kids were talking about, hey, remember how you’d make those frozen peas? Frozen peas were great because you get them and you cut the bag open, dump them in. In seconds, they’re done. So peas, broccoli — I had two vegetables."

The President invents "Food Bracketology"...
"Over Christmas we did a bracketing of foods — ‘food bracketology.’ This was the President’s idea, and he’s quite pleased with it — like March Madness," Mrs. Obama said.

"We were with a bunch of other families, and this was an evening activity where the fathers bracketed foods — like what would be the winner. And you’d have the top brackets — so you had your pizza and your fried chicken, but you had sushi and you had vegetables — broccoli, kale, salads. And everybody got to vote. The foods would go head to head. Bacon against pie, right? Everybody had to vote, and the kids could make an argument. You could make one argument per category when they got down to the final eight. This was an intense conversation. We were surprised at many of the kids, how many vegetables stayed in for a long time. They got to the top eight — beyond the Sweet 16."


CLICK HERE for all posts about the third anniversary of Let's Move!.  CLICK HERE for all Let's Move! posts.

*Mrs. Obama in the transcript didn't mention that Sam Kass, now her Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives and the mastermind behind the Let's Move! campaign, was the Obama family's private chef in Chicago before they moved into the White House.  Kass has served as the President and Mrs. Obama's White House advisor since January of 2009.
*White House photo