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Michelle Obama loves fries. Says you can, too.

Michelle Obama hula hooped to prove exercise can be fun. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama instinctively knows it's only so often that parents and kids want to hear about a healthful lifestyle. So the first lady found a new way to get their attention. She hula-hooped. Really, really well.

On a brilliant autumn day on the White House's South Lawn, Obama also jumped rope (less successfully). She ran an obstacle course (shoeless). And she sampled good-for-you baked apples, zucchini quesadillas and a sweet and spicy popcorn snack, prepared by chefs with ingredients that are available to every public school in the country.

The only activity Obama turned down was the Moon Bounce (which, to be fair, was pretty crowded). But the message was clear: Eating well and exercising don't have to be punishing. They can be fun.

"We want our children to eat right, not just because it's the right thing to do but because, quite frankly, healthy, good food tastes good, and we want them to experience that," she told parents and children from seven local schools who were invited for a Healthy Kids Fair. "We don't just want our kids to exercise because we tell them to. 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."

Obama has made healthful eating one of her signature issues since arriving at the White House. In March, she became the first to plant a vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt, an effort that grabbed headlines around the world. Last month, she christened a new farmers market near the White House.

The event Wednesday focused on food and exercise – hence the hula hoops and Moon Bounce. Obama's expanded message also included new nuance. It takes more than a garden or access to a farmers market to get people to live well, she said. Parents, teachers, the government and children all have roles to play in making smart choices about food and exercise.

"Turn off the TV," Obama told students."Go outside if you can." (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

To make her point, Obama trotted out examples of her own efforts to eat well and teach her daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to do the same. Fast food was a treat when she was growing up, as was dessert, she said. And so in her home, if the girls say they are not hungry, they eat their vegetables and are excused -- but are not allowed to ask for anything else.

She also encouraged the children to turn off the television and move about. Malia and Sasha are not permitted to watch TV on school days and are allowed only several hours on weekends: "Because the TV is off, my girls get up and they move. Even if they're pushing each other down, they're running."

Obama empathized with parents about the struggle to put healthful food on the table. "When you come home from a long day at work and the refrigerator is empty and you know you don't feel like cooking," she said to appreciative laughter, "the easiest and sometimes the cheapest thing to do is to get in a fast-food drive-through. We've all done it."

But she said the key is to strike a balance.

"Look, my favorite food in the whole wide world are french fries. I love them. Dearly. Deeply. I have a good relationships with french fries and I would eat them every single day if I could," she said. "But I know that if I'm eating the right things, and I tell my girls this, if you get the right foods for most of the time, then when it's time to have cake and french fries on those special occasions, then you balance it out."

Obama was joined at the lectern by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He had just watched the president sign a new agriculture appropriations bill that grants $135 million in extra funding to expand summer feeding programs, increase access for low-income children to school lunch and buy kitchen equipment for schools. The USDA is responsible for regulating school lunches.

Both Vilsack and Obama encouraged schools to join the department's Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge, which recognizes schools that provide healthful meals, eliminate junk food and promote physical education. So far, 635 elementary schools, including the seven that were invited to the White House on Wednesday, have been recognized.

"We want to make it a little easier on you all," Obama said. "Not just tell you what to do and what you should look like, but help you with some resources so that it doesn't feel so impossible."

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  October 21, 2009; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Food Politics  | Tags: Jane Black, Michelle Obama, White House Garden  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Nosh rambler: The Deli Man returns to D.C.
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give me a break...:-s

Posted by: cristina1999us | October 21, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Good initiative! Kids need to eat better, families need to have meals together in peace and quiet, and exercise should be fun.

But, (I know it's off topic), what is it with the First Lady and that belt? She wears it with everything, either it fits or not, it's too broad and too high up, almost under her armpits. Makes her look expecting. Is it her lucky belt? Has she wowed to wear it always? Is it a bet...?

Posted by: asoders22 | October 21, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

So now they are going to tell us what we should feed our children? 1.First they tell us we should bail out companies too big to fail
2. Then they tell us to buy cars with free money they are giving us
3. they then declare a whole week of "volunteerism" by television networks telling us to work for free
4. he keeps signing those checks spending our money: millions for Pakistan, millions for free meal programs, millions for this&that
5.and now they are going to tell us which doctor to see, how often, and who we should choose to insure us
If this isn't beginning to sound like a totalitarian government, I don't know what is. I remember thinking when I read George Orwell's 1984 that it was pure fiction & fantasy. America will never become a totalitarian government created by a capitalistic society that is influenced by socialistic ideas...hey, wait a minute...???

Posted by: american17 | October 21, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Its about time they started talking about health and nutrition. The entire health-care debate has moved away from health put the emphasis purely on politics. We need to reignite the debate on health and the benefits of preventative health-care like exercise and a balanced diet. Luckily, there are several online tools that can help in America's quest to be fit. Online websites, like, can help you get in shape, stay in shape, and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by: gstallkamp | October 21, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

"But, (I know it's off topic), what is it with the First Lady and that belt? She wears it with everything, either it fits or not, it's too broad and too high up, almost under her armpits. Makes her look expecting. Is it her lucky belt? Has she wowed to wear it always? Is it a bet...?"

Yes, you read my mind.
The belt is distracting.

Posted by: Chatelaine | October 21, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Somebody dress a Bigfoot in a blue dress?

Posted by: Etek | October 21, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

The first lady looks great in the belts. It's sort of her signature style. Plus it accentuates her great figure. As far as encouraging kids and families to eat health, who would complain about that?? The first lady has a lot of influence, and she's using it in a positive way. It's not just for show, as I've seen with first ladies past.

Posted by: alexmcattack | October 21, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Its geat initiative , hats off to Mrs. O'bama.

Posted by: smart_sha | October 21, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

With the size of that butt there's no way the hula hoop could fall to the ground.

Posted by: fenoy | October 21, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank you First Lady for demonstrating a concern for children and healthy living.

Posted by: flyingbird | October 21, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

You have to be an idiot if you need this ho to tell you its better to eat vegetables and exercise then to watch tv, go figure?

Posted by: goziner | October 21, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

That's great she's telling kids they should get out more. She could have worn workout gear.

But that belt.....

Somebody must have told her once that she's tall and should wear a belt to break up her torse and not look like an amazon. It's great when you're 16 and 100 pounds. When you're middle-aged it isn't quite as effective!

Posted by: RedBird27 | October 21, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

WOW - No matter what people complain.

I think our First Lady has done a lot of positive things. How many local children have been invited to the White House - not many. Pres. & Mrs. Obama have really embraced the local children - which I think is a great thing.

Posted by: rlj611 | October 21, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I am not too crazy about him but boy I sure like her. She makes a lot of sense. That lucky son-of-gun. What a great lady!!!

Posted by: hschmitter | October 21, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse


I don't mind people expressing their political opinions or other issues but when you use the word "ho" so easily to refer to a female never mind the president's wife, you show nothing but ignorance!

Posted by: american17 | October 21, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

She wears the belt because it accentuates her narrow waist and hides her gargantuan hips and thighs.

Posted by: arlingtonresident | October 21, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

The bitterness of some people. Everyone cannot be straight with flat butt. Some of us are very proud of our NATURAL curves.

The ignorant fool who called Mrs. Obama a "ho", are you sleeping with your mother?

Get a life, look at yourself in the mirror, and appreciate that we are all in sizes, shapes, and colors.

Posted by: hadelaide | October 21, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

american17, I take it you didn't vote for Obama. Is it any surprise to you that he wants to spend money on things you don't like, or that he is pushing an agenda you don't agree with? And your rant about the call for volunteerism, and the First Lady urging kids to eat better, is bizarre. Are you new to the concept of the presidency.

You may have read 1984, but I'm pretty sure you didn't understand it.

And to all you other sore losers: Obama is president, get over it. I don't particularly adore him, but I think he's a vast improvement over that idiot Bush. And Michelle Obama is classy.

Posted by: oxhead1 | October 21, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

What is really wrong with people, i'm not trying and will never tried to stiffle anybody's opinion, but i thought the person that called the first lady a ho, went to the extremes. You have no respect and regard for yourself when you call a woman a ho, no matter who she is.
I think you have no first rate training and you must be self-read to used demoralizing,and degrading comment like that.
Do you ever called your mom a ho, what a pathetic and horrible person you are.
And for your information Mrs. Obama looks so good for her age jumping hulla hoops.
And the clothes look stunning.
If you have nothing to say, don't jump in an intellectual arena, because you have no place here.

Posted by: Muyenneh | October 21, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Obama is so hot. She's, like, crazy hot.

Posted by: BMACattack | October 21, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

And yay! kids too.

Posted by: BMACattack | October 21, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

I just find it truly disgusting that people sit at home and call the 1st Lady of this great country a "ho". Has any previous 1st ladies been called this. And what is it with people who are unable to see beauty in all its complexities always calling this faboulous lady (mother of 2)fat. Is it that you hate her shape because it means something deeper for you? Sometimes I get so sad reading this stuff. I try no to read it but its just sad.

Posted by: esqcass | October 22, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

dashriprock, take off that white sheet and crawl back under the rock you call home.

The problem with people like you is that you have to wear the sheet because you're ugly and you don't want everyone to know that the First Lady makes you look like the stupid A$$
you really are.

Posted by: mickle1 | October 22, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

I love this woman! Smart, beautiful, confident and comfortable in her skin. What a role model.

Posted by: yeswecan3 | October 22, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

I think what Michelle Obama is doing in the White House is great! She has accomplished so much in this short time that President Obama has been in office. From what it seems to me that majority of the things she talks about and works on is stuff for the children which are the future of this great country. With Mrs. Obamas initiative in getting kids to eat healthier and exercise kids will be less likely to have diabetes, be overweight, have heart problems. And to american17 Mrs. Obama is not coming to your house and saying you eat this this and this. Like your parents never told you what to do in your life...get real. And to get upset at such a little thing as eating healthy...come on.

Posted by: Razorbackdude999 | October 22, 2009 2:29 AM | Report abuse

I applaud the 1st lady. Fat or thin, how many older people can still hula hoop? I was in top shape at 30 and couldn't pull it off. For the negative people out there: You do need someone to encourage you to get you kids active and step away from the junk. Just look at all the fat kids lying around.

Posted by: rcvinson64 | October 22, 2009 4:37 AM | Report abuse

Such activities would,surely,continue on the safe protected lawns of White house before the eyes of world media, throughout the tenure of Mr.Obama...a successful old tactic to win the hearts.....!!
Ms.Rukhsana Maroof Khan
22 Oct,09.

Posted by: rukhsana_maroof | October 22, 2009 5:29 AM | Report abuse

Those who loves this ugly woman will ever see any wrong. She should ask her husband to keep his promise and do something to give dads work wo the kids can eat. There are kids that do not eat well so they can not exercise. They are already looking like kids fron Africa.

Posted by: rosalynneus | October 22, 2009 6:03 AM | Report abuse

The health and life of the American children is as important as is health n life of Palestinian Iraqi Afghani and Pakistani children who are falling victim to brutal shelling bombing and suicide and drone attacks.Today Pakistan's education has come to grinding HALT..all educational institutions closed....Why are our innocent souls...children and women along with their bread earners PAYING?? Mrs.Obama...would you like to answer it?? The war on terror was originally the America's war....has been turned into OUR war by America itself...and it is not going to end..remember....until and unless USA revise its strategy towards this uesless and extremely costly exercise.
Ms.Rukhsana Maroof Khan
22 Oct,09
04.06 pm

Posted by: rukhsana_maroof | October 22, 2009 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Remember that part in George Orwell's 1984 where Big Brother made everyone exercise and eat fresh vegetables?



Good God Almighty, people like American17 have gone completely bat%^&$ crazy. THAT, not socialism, is what's hurting America. Stop already with the crazy. Please.

Posted by: Sam888 | October 23, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

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