Shortly after school started last year, Harlan came home to tell me that she wanted to start buying her lunch at school. She’d seen the kids in her class do it and the other kids as well and she wanted to join in on the fun. My first reaction was to tell her no. I remembered what was offered to me for lunch when I was in school and there was absolutely no way that I’d let my child eat any of that. I wanted to be able to have some say in what she ate. She’s generally a really healthy eater (my best out of all three kids) and I didn’t want to spoil that.
But she kept pressing.
So finally, trusting her judgement in her food choices, I gave in. With one condition. At the beginning of each week, we’d look at the school lunch menu and decide together what she would choose for lunch each day. This way she was getting to eat like she wanted, but I could help her choose healthier options.
The first time that we looked at the school lunch menu, I was blown away with the choices that were offered. All of the entrees include whole wheat and whole grain. The snacks included fresh fruit and vegetables. Many of the foods were locally sourced as well. Everything that I’d known about school lunch menus was no more. These were things that I am making for my kids at home and some of the school offerings were even healthier.
She’s eaten lunch at school every day since then and I’ve gladly obliged.
I was speaking with my dad a couple of weeks ago and he made a comment that I only keep water and milk in the house. It’s a far cry from what was in our refrigerator when I grew up. We had access to nearly everything and I almost always chose soda or juice. I told my dad that I think my generation is a bit more aware of the things that we put into our body and what we put into our children’s bodies as well. We don’t have anything other than water or milk in the house because those are the healthiest options and my kids know nothing else (other than the occasional juice when we go out to eat.)
This is not to say that I an a super health freak when it comes to by kids food choices, I’m just very conscious about the decisions I make. I want only the best for them and so I do my best to make it happen. The health of my family is and has always been one of my top priorities.
A couple of weeks ago I received an invite from my editor at Babble asking me if I wanted to go to the White House to take part in a discussion about the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. The conversation was going to be around the health of our nation’s children, which was right up my alley. Not only was this a once in a lifetime experience, but it was also a great way to learn more about a topic I am very passionate about.
Prior to the event, we arrived at the White House and got to explore some of the rooms. I felt like I was in a dream the entire time.
We saw portraits of past Presidents and First Ladies.
Sipped coffee from White House china.
Had the chance to meet some of my Babble collegues that I’ve known in the online space for years, but just had the chance to meet for the first time.
Stand below the Presidential Seal.
And see some of the most exquisite and stunning rooms that I’d ever seen.
Once we were in the room, it was time to get started about the importance of our children’s health. We were greeted by many women from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, and the Partnership for Healthier America.
It was shocking to learn that over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. If this problem isn’t solved, more than one third of our nation’s children will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives.
That’s why the First Lady started her healthy eating and physical activity initiative Let’s Move! The initiative was built to inspire action. Let’s Move! is America’s move to raise a healthier generation. It takes all of us.
There are things we can do at home, in our communities in our schools to help promote a healthier lifestyle with our children. Let’s Move! wants to put a salad bar in every school in the country and wants to make physical education mandatory (which I was surprised that it was not anymore.) They want to make sure that your town has sidewalks for walking and jogging, and youth sports leagues. They want to simplfy food labels so that we don’t have to spend hours in the grovery store deciding on what to buy. You can learn about how you can take action from the Let’s Move! website. While we still have a lot to accomplish, the Let’s Move initiative has already done so much.
The First Lady closed our discussion for the day. Not only was I completely blown away from just being in the same room with her, but also listening to her passion for this topic. She spoke from the heart. She spoke to us as a parent to other parents.
She shared with us that it was a simple change that her family made well before they stepped foot in the White House that helped her family go towards a healthier lifestyle.
“For starters, I tried to cook more -– nothing crazy, just a few more home-cooked dinners each week. Maybe baked chicken on Monday, pasta and a salad on Wednesday. And I always tried to make a nice Sunday dinner that would provide leftovers for the week. Instead of cookies and chips for snacks and sugary drinks, we switched to fruit and string cheese and lots of water. And dessert in our household went from being a basic human right every night — (laughter) — to being a special treat for weekends.”
I’m a sucker for desserts, so that change is hard for me, but I’ve been wanting to kick the habit for a long time, so if the First Lady is telling me to do it, I’ll happily comply.
And then she said something powerful. Something that stuck. Something that pushes me to do more for my family’s health.
“We as parents need to be leading this conversation about kids’ health in this country. So when naysayers claim that we just can’t afford to serve our kids healthy food, it’s up to us as parents to push back and say, “We can’t afford not to give our kids nutritious food.” Because when we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars treating obesity-related diseases, we simply don’t have the luxury to ignore this issue.
And when folks mock our efforts, it’s parents who need to be out there saying, “Excuse me, but our children’s health isn’t a joke. One third of kids being overweight or obese isn’t funny. Kids being diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure at young ages is just not a laughing matter.” This is a serious issue, and we need to be doing something about it.”
So let’s do something. Let’s Move!
Thank you to Ahna Tessler for providing me with photos when I didn’t even think to bring my real camera. Check out her work. It’s amazing.