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Talking to First Lady Michelle Obama About the White House Garden

White House Garden

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a roundtable with online women’s outlets to discuss her book “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America,” in the White House Kitchen Garden, June 5, 2012.

Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

 

By Kristin Hammam
Vice President of Content, WebMD

First Lady Michelle Obama sat down with WebMD and a small group of online reporters at the White House Tuesday to talk about her new book, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.”

The conversation took place on the South Lawn, at a picnic table next to the garden, which was in full bloom with rows of green, leafy vegetables including broccoli, herbs, and peppers. “We had a lot of peas and snap peas, which Malia hates snap peas. So she was very happy to see all those vines gone,” the First Lady told us, laughing.

“American Grown” chronicles four seasons of the White House garden and includes tips for starting your own, even if it’s just a pot on a windowsill. Mrs. Obama also writes about her own personal history as well as the history of gardens at the White House. (Thomas Jefferson was apparently obsessed with growing four-foot long cucumbers).

Mrs. Obama says that planting a garden is a way to start a national conversation about the health of our children. She wants the book to be just that – a conversation starter – and doesn’t want gardening to be one more worrisome thing to pressure overworked moms. If “it’s not fun, then it’s a headache and if it’s a headache for you, then your kids are going to feel that and vegetables will be a horrible concept in your household. And that’s what we don’t want,” she says.

What about parents who don’t have time tend to a garden? Think about Farmer’s Markets as your garden, she says, or “maybe you don’t start your own garden, but you start working with your school and their garden; or your community center, and you do it that way.”

The First Lady and “Mom-in-Chief” also shared some of her healthy eating tips:

Start healthy eating early. Your homemade mac & cheese with whole wheat pasta and cauliflower tastes different from the store-bought kind. Kids get used to sodium in processed food so when they have your healthier version their first reaction will be “this isn’t mac & cheese.”

Wean them off of store bought juices. “Juices are fresh juices. And they have trouble going back to the store-bought juice because it’s too sweet, so they have to water it down,” says Mrs. Obama. “And that kind of transition can happen in a matter of weeks, but you’ve got to go through that period of, I hate this, I can’t eat, I won’t eat, I hate you mom, you’re horrible.”

Treats are ok, as long as they’re in the minority. Her philosophy is to eat what you’re supposed to eat 80 or 90% of the time. “I don’t want my kids to have to worry about food,” she says. “If we have a birthday party, if we’re going out or if they’re going out with friends, I don’t want them counting calories and looking at anything.  But I do encourage them — they’re going to camp this summer — and I do say, think about how you should feed yourself. “

Author proceeds from “American Grown” will go to the National Park Foundation.

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