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Health & Parenting

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Michelle Obama Takes on Childhood Obesity

America's First Mom Talks With WebMD About How Families -- Including Hers -- Can Eat Healthfully and Be Active

What can an overextended mom do to help keep her children active when she might not have enough time to keep herself active? You've said you had those problems yourself -- how did you change that?

A couple of years ago, I got a tap on the shoulder from my pediatrician. We were always fairly active as a family, but I did get caught on the diet front. I was experiencing what most working mothers are: working full time, a husband that travels, taking kids to activities, and at the end of the day you find yourself too tired to make a full meal with baked chicken and vegetables. So I was doing what most parents were doing: calling the pizza guy too much and hitting the drive-through.

My pediatrician works in a predominantly African-American community and always checks a child's BMI. He told me that Malia and Sasha were heading in the wrong direction. I was surprised -- I thought I was doing everything right! So I made a few changes in our eating habits -- eliminating sugary juices, sending little water bottles in the girls' lunches, and cooking dinner at home at least one or two times a week. (I knew I wasn't going to cook every night!)

By the time we returned a few months later, the doctor was stunned at the turnaround. "What are you doing with them?" he asked. "You told me I had to make changes," I said. The simplicity of that solution was something I wanted to share.

What kinds of simple solutions are you talking about?

Turn off the TV and turn on the radio, and have a dance party in the living room with your kids. Walk them to school. Cook dinner at home just one or two nights a week. You don't have to do anything drastic to make a difference.

You planted a community garden at the White House. How can parents with a slightly smaller yard grow their own fresh veggies?

Sure, we have an 1,100-square-foot plot to work with -- but soil, seeds and all, it still cost only $200 to plant. You don't need a lot of money and a big plot of land. I've visited schools that are planting gardens in little boxes -- celery, lettuce, and so forth. You just need a box of dirt and some seeds. And kids love it. They embrace the entire process: planting, harvesting, cooking, and eating.

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