Michelle Obama Talks French Fries, Chocolate & Healthy Eating With Kid Reporters

michelle obama kid reporters

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Kid Reporter gaggle in the White House Library during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, April 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) 

More than 30,000 people showed up at the White House yesterday for the 2014 "Hop Into Healthy, Swing Into Shape" Easter Egg Roll, but 7 kid reporters (including my daughter) were lucky enough to have a more intimate meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama on the floor of the White House Library.

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The topic? Let's Move.

The First Lady launched the initiative to encourage fitness and healthful eating among children on February 25, 2010, and four years later, it's still going strong. With recent statistics from federal health authorities showing a 43 percent decrease in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-olds in the past decade, one could say that the Let's Move campaign has been a success. But the First Lady doesn't take the credit -- nor does she think it's time for parents (and most definitely our kids) to sit back and relax.

"It’s a sign of hopefulness, but we can't get too excited because it could be a blip," she told the group of kids. "You know we have to see over time, but it gives a sense that the new norm in the country is having an effect."

Mrs. Obama recalled a time when naysayers to Let's Move (and there are still some) refused to acknowledge that childhood obesity was even a serious problem. "But now it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that obesity is an epidemic and now we’re not questioning whether it is a problem, but how do we solve it," she told the young reporters. "And I think that families are having different conversations about what they eat and what’s in their food. Kids are asking different questions. You know, even if you don’t always do the right thing, if you know what the right thing is, you’ll have the tools that you need when you get older. And you start recognizing that you just can’t eat potato chips and ice cream every day. You’ll at least know what you’re supposed to eat and that's what the decreases that we’re seeing among the youngest kids, that’s why it’s giving us hope."

Since launching the initiative in 2010, the Obamas have incorporated the Let's Move philosophy into every Easter Egg Roll they've hosted at the White House. "We’ve tried to make every Easter Egg Roll active and fun, you know, with obstacle courses and games and hula hooping," said the First Lady.

This year's event was no exception. There was yoga, basketball, tennis, and more. Clara Tripp, the kid reporter representing CafeMom/The Stir, asked Mrs. Obama if yoga "counted" as exercise. "Absolutely," she said. "Yoga is an essential part of the health tree because in addition to keeping you moving, depending on the type of yoga, it helps you with flexibility, which is as important in health as strength and cardio -- especially as you get older. Being able to touch your toes helps to keep you from injuring yourself. I’m doing yoga just to keep my flexibility."

After a mini yoga session or other activity on the South Lawn, Easter Egg Roll revelers could fuel up on apples and oranges at snack stations and get bottles of water at hydration stations. No sugary snacks or soda in sight. No surprise there, as Mrs. Obama recently launched a Drink Up campaign to encourage kids to drink more water. As she explained to the children: "The more water you drink, the less room you’ll have for the junk and water is a better source of hydration for you guys. We’re hoping by encouraging kids how important it is to drink water, you won't want as much soda."

But don't be fooled into thinking that the First Lady is all health, all the time. "Splurging is the key to life. How would you appreciate vegetables if you never had chocolate?" And the lady likes her french fries. "I had like a bowl yesterday," she said. "It got ugly." She preaches moderation to daughters Sasha and Malia as well. "What I try to teach my girls is balance," she explained. "I encourage them to eat right when they are at home and they have access to good, healthy food. When they go out and they're at lunch or they’re with their friends, they don’t want to have to worry if they have an ice cream cone or a piece of cake because they’re at a birthday party."

Mrs. Obama stresses that like eating right, exercise needn't feel like drudgery. "The thing we want kids to know is that exercise isn’t just hard work, it’s play," she said. "I mean, if you're running around with your dog, you’re getting exercise. If you're getting up and sitting down a lot really fast because it’s a game, that’s exercise, if you walk up the stairs, it’s exercise."

In addition to doing yoga, the First Lady plays tennis -- her favorite sport she told one kid reporter. Her daughters stay active too. "My oldest daughter Malia is on the tennis team at her school. Sasha doesn’t play tennis. She’s my youngest daughter. She likes basketball and she likes to dance." (Both Sasha and Malia missed this year's Easter event because they were in school.)

There was a lot of dancing going on out on the South Lawn with live musical performances by Ariana Grande and rapper Big Sean. This year's celebrity guests also included actor Jim Carrey, professional football player Dwight Freeney of the San Diego Chargers (whom the kid reporters got to meet), and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. Asked by one of the children what celebrity she'd like to see endorse the Let's Move campaign, Mrs. Obama said she'd love to see more professional athletes get involved. "I think a lot of kids look up to athletes. I don’t know many kids who don’t have an athlete that they are in awe of. And I think it’s important for athletes to share their routines, you know, because kids think that they can wake up and be LeBron James, but he’s practicing and he’s eating right, and he’s training. We had all of these Olympians here from the Winter Olympics. They’re all in great shape, but their diet is really important. They know that when they’re training, they’re not going to put junk food in their body. It affects their performance. It could be the difference between a medal or not winning."

When one of the children asked how we can maintain healthy diets and stay active in our own lives, the First Lady suggested starting with small changes. "It doesn’t work for people to make big changes all at once so we encourage people to do little things like try to drink a little more water, try to go outside, try to watch a little less TV, and .... don’t sit down -- ever!" she joked.

This was the first "Kid Reporter Gaggle" at the event, and it makes sense that Mrs. Obama would meet with kids to talk about an initiative that's really focused on reaching them. "That’s who we’re really targeting. It's hard to change habits of people when they’re older, which is why we work with kids, right? Because if we help you develop your habits at a young age, then you won’t have anything to fix, it will just be the way you live your life. You’ll be used to eating vegetables and fruits and getting active. It will just be the way it is. It will be normal."

The First Lady will be happy to know that her message was heard loud and clear. As my daughter climbed the stairs to go to bed after a long day at the White House, she said, "Mom, I'm exercising!"

 

To hear about our CafeMom Kid Reporter's experience, read:

3 Reasons Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign Is Good for Kids

A Day at the White House With a Kid Reporter

 

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kid health kids nutrition michelle obama

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