Michelle Obama is officially the first person to ever grace the cover of Cooking Light magazine. In the March 2015 “Family Dinner” issue, FLOTUS gave an exclusive interview on her favorite topics: food, family, and the Let’s Move program. She detailed some reasons why eating right and cooking at home are integral to transforming the health of our country, and how she learned from her own mistakes to get to this point.
Here, the most interesting things she shared about the Obamas’ dining habits (they weren’t always as admirable) and what’s making Americans obese, according to Mobama herself.
On growing up with family dinners:
“It’s that tradition that Barack and I really try to incorporate in our lives, even though we’re extremely busy in the White House. We’ve found that we’ve been able to have dinner every — almost every night together, between 6:30 and 7:00. We have a bigger table and somebody else is doing the cooking, but the conversation and the mood and the tone are still the same. It’s our most important time of the day.”
On realizing she was approaching food wrong:
“We came from the generation where my mom wanted me to go to college and law school, and she always said, ‘You’ll learn how to cook,’ but that’s not something she pressed … By the time my kids were born, that’s when I started focusing on, How do I feed them? With those sort of limited skills, sometimes I would use processed food a little bit more. I relied on takeout probably more than I should’ve … There was one [pediatrician] appointment where he looked at the numbers and he said, ‘Something is a little off.’ And that was the first time I even thought that I might be doing something wrong. I thought I had it all together.”
On how she made healthy changes for her family:
“I cooked probably one or two more meals, and it was something simple — maybe a baked chicken, couscous, steamed broccoli. I kept it simple but made sure there was always a vegetable and always a good grain on the plate … But more importantly, we just eliminated all the processed foods, all those packaged lunches, all of the canned juices. We started using fresh-squeezed juice and added more water into [the girls’] diet.”
On Americans’ poor eating habits:
“It’s a little bit of everything. Folks don’t cook as much. There’s more processed foods. People are eating out … Kids have too many options for sedentary activity. We have hundreds of television channels, whereas when I was growing up you had seven. On Saturday, kids’ programming stopped at noon, and once that was done you had nothing else to do on a Saturday but go out and play. That’s not the case now; kids can watch cartoons 24 hours a day, seven days a week … Recess has been taken away from the school day. PE is becoming less and less of a sort of reality in many schools who are dealing with funding issues.”
On how to fix the obesity epidemic:
“We have to educate families a bit more about how to think about eating and cooking and shopping and budgeting. But communities have to find ways to incorporate activity into folks’ lives … It’s going to take a lot of creativity and ingenuity to sort of push past the kind of societal changes that have led us to this place.”
On why kids are important players in changing the health game:
“Starting with kids has been an important first step because, as I’ve always said, parents will do for their kids what they won’t do for themselves. And kids are leaders in that way … I’m confident that the school lunch changes will eventually be embraced by kids. Because we’re really thinking about the kids who are kindergartners today. If all they know are whole grains and vegetables, by the time they’re graduating from high school, this will be their norm; they won’t know anything different.”