Healthy Kids Day at the White House
First Lady demonstrates good food and fun exercise
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Simplicity, convenience, and flavor are the three key ingredients to eating healthy, said First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Healthy Kids Fair on Wednesday. Adding exercise is the key to a healthy, happy life.
It was the perfect Autumn Washington day—cloudless and cool—as a group of about 100 kids and parents from area D.C. public schools gathered on the South Lawn of the White House to learn about healthy eating.
This reporter joined the group as part of the press, reporting for the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. In the press pen with CNN News, Fox News, NBC, CBS, as well as other media, I worked hard to write notes as camera crews, photographers, and the other reporters rallied for a good position.
As the First Lady stepped up to the podium, everyone fell silent. Mrs. Obama spoke about how requiring schools to provide nutritious meals will help create healthy kids.
"Kids are spending a third of their time at school," she said. "So if they go to school and eat a lunch that's loaded with calories and fat, then all the efforts that we [parents] try to instill at home, gets knocked off a little bit."
One in three children are obese or severely overweight, which can lead to serious health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer, she noted. Mrs. Obama said her goal as First Lady is to take the junk food out of schools and replace it with good choices that include lots of fruits and vegetables.
Exercise, gym class, and recess are also a high priority. Mrs. Obama believes the country's future depends on healthy kids. She wants schools to educate kids on how to stay healthy with nutritious food and provide fun and interesting opportunities for exercise.
"We don't just want our kids to exercise because we tell them to," she said. "We want them to exercise because it's fun and they enjoy it. And we want them to learn now how to lead good, healthy lifestyles so that they're not struggling to figure out how to do that when they're older."
Food and easy-to-prepare healthy recipes were also part of the Healthy Kids event. Everyone, including the press, was escorted to an area where a vast array of food was on display waiting to be tasted. I could hardly wait to sample the flavors and interview the chefs and nutrition experts.
My first visit was to the White House Chef's station where I tasted a baked apple. My mouth was watering as I sunk my teeth into a sweet tasty apple prepared by pastry chefs Bill Yosses and Susan Morrison.
"We wanted to make something people can do at home easily, something kids can do themselves," Bill Yosses told me about the food choices available at the event. "We want it to be simple, with ingredients they already have in their house so they don't have to go out shopping at the last minute."
The other chefs agreed with Yosses that "simplicity, convenience, and flavor were the most important criteria" for picking recipes for the fair.
The definition of "treats" is also an important part of learning to eat healthy.
"When I was growing up, we didn't have dessert every single night," Mrs. Obama said. "My mother would tell us, 'Dessert is not a right, it's a treat.' So we had it on special occasions. I have to tell my kids this: you don't get dessert every night of the week, otherwise it's not a treat, it's just something that you do."
Executive White House Chef Christeta Comerford agreed with the First Lady, adding her own tricky thoughts about treats.
"Do not go for the treats before you eat the real food," she said. "It's not for every day eating."
Good health is about cooking all the different color vegetables, she continued. "You need to have a good, balanced meal," she told me.
The next stop on my tasty trip was at Chef Koren Grieveson's station. Grieveson was named one of Food and Wine magazine’s 2008 Best New Chefs. I tried her zucchini quesadillas, one of my favorites at this event. It is a quick and easy nutritious snack that I think most kids will love.
Todd Gray, owner of D.C. Equinox restaurant, said his recipes support healthy eating AND local farmers. He was serving "sweet and zesty popcorn."
"Rather than fly produce all the way across the U.S. and use all that jet fuel or trucks to truck it, doesn't make that much sense," he said. "[At my restaurant] we prefer supporting small family farms."
I finished up my taste testing with registered dietitian and best-selling author Ellie Krieger. Using all the "colors of the rainbow," she presented a lively assortment of flavorful fruit. So does Ellie Krieger ever get junk food cravings?
"Yes! I think if you eat healthy most of the time, there's always room for some junk food or things that are not healthy," she said. "Just eat them sometimes. And the really healthy foods, you should eat most of the time."
Time to Work it Off!
Jumping rope, Hula Hooping, and obstacle and relay courses were no problem for healthy and fit Michelle Obama—or at least almost no problem. The Moon Bounce is the only area the First Lady ran past, but she was definitely running. She tried her hand at Double-Dutch jump roping, but that didn’t do so well. She even kicked off her shoes to try again. She then ran barefoot through the obstacle course, showing how much fun getting healthy can be.
Make a Pledge
The First Lady asked the kids and parents attending the event to pledge to live a healthier lifestyle. I decided to join in.
My plan tonight is to core and slice apples for another taste of the now famous "Baked Sliced Apples.' You can give them a try, too. Here’s the recipe!
Baked Sliced Apples
6 apples (cored and sliced)
½ oz. butter
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup maple syrup, honey or brown sugar
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
½ cup rolled oats
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup raisins or any dried fruit
¼ c. apple juice
Combine all ingredients. Place in a buttered baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 45 minutes (or until golden brown crust appears). You can also add a cup of your favorite nuts for added protein and flavor.
Enjoy!Click here for the rest of the White House Healthy Kids Event recipes.