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
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
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,
What are your family's favorite vegetables?
Pulling stuff up out of the dirt is our girls' favorite thing. Anything
that you can pull out of the dirt is great for them, so they love things like
carrots. And taking a delicious snap pea off the vine and being able to eat it
right there, that's cool.
Barack is all broccoli, all the time. He and Sasha are big broccoli fans.
Me, I'm pretty flexible, but fresh peas are always a favorite.