Let’s Move! Campaign – My Phone Call with the White House

In honor of the 4th Anniversary of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with Sam Kass, Executive Director of the program to discuss the progress they’ve made and plans for the future. 
Let's Move Campaign - The Lemon BowlIt’s not every day you get the opportunity to call the White House but yesterday I got to do just that! Sam Kass, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, hosted a call to discuss the 4th Anniversary of the program.White House GardenOne of the First Lady’s longest advisors, Sam started out as an Assistant Chef in the White House Kitchen and also helped create the first major vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden! In his current role, he leads the First Lady’s mission to help America raise a healthier generation of children and help them live the long, healthy lives they deserve.

Sam kicked off the call by giving a quick recap of the last few years and shared a few exciting updates:

  • Obesity rates among children 2 to 5 years old have dropped 43% in recent years.
  • 90% of schools have met the new school lunch standards.
  • New restrictions have been set prohibiting the advertisement of junk foods and drinks inside schools (such as on score boards or on drink cups.) As Sam stated on our call, “If you can’t sell it in our schools then you can’t market it there. Now that our vending machines, snack bars and school lunch lines require healthy foods we must only promote healthy foods elsewhere.”

Sam also made the point that the hours of 3pm – 6pm in a child’s day is the most vital time frame with regards to health and nutrition. This is the time when bad habits form. For example, if a kid isn’t involved in sports, they often go home, grab chips or a soda and veg in front of the television. As a result, they aren’t hungry for a healthy dinner because they ate too much junk food after school. 3pm to 6pm. Just three hours can truly shape the future of a child’s life.

Lets Move Kids - The Lemon BowlAs someone who struggled with childhood obesity, this statement really hit home. Despite my love of dance and softball, I ended up not able to participate because I either wasn’t athletic enough to make the team or the costumes were too tight for me to wear on stage without embarrassment. I can only hope that my children will never have to feel the pain and disappointment that comes from missing out on life due to size.

Speaking of size, the First Lady has made it very clear that Let’s Move! has nothing to do with looks or appearance. It is simply a matter of health. I have said from the beginning that being a size 2 was never a weight loss motivator for me. My goal is to lead a healthy, active lifestyle so that I am around to see my grand children, plain and simple.

My Plate Graphic - The Lemon BowlWondering what you can do now to shape tomorrow? Sam gave us 4 easy tips for helping ensure the our kids get the best nutrition and live long, healthy lives:

  1. Youngest Parents: If possible, breast feed your baby. Sam said that the simple act of breastfeeding your newborn is one of the best things you can do to ensure proper nutrition from a very early age. (Of course, I was happy to hear this since I’m currently nursing my 3 month old.)
  2. Parents of Older Children: Focus on filling their plate half way with fruits and vegetables. For a handy visual, be sure to check out ChooseMyPlate.gov
  3. Don’t Drink Your Calories: Water is the best refreshment for your children, bottom line. The next best bet is low fat dairy. Try to limit sugary drinks like soda and juice as much as possible.
  4. 60 Minutes of Active Play Every Day: I love this because the emphasis is on PLAY! It’s not about getting inside the workout room. When kids enjoy being active they learn to relish exercise as a fun activity that they look forward too, not something they dread.

At the end of the call, Sam opened it up to Q&A and I was lucky enough to be chosen to ask a question. Long story short, I asked what we were doing to help people learn how to cook. We are doing a great job of encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables, grow gardens and shop at farm stands but if people don’t know how to cook, they will become frustrated and end up at the drive-thru. So often I hear of people buying take out because they think it’s cheaper than cooking at home or they buy processed foods because they think it’s easier to make a meal out of a box than from scratch.

While Sam didn’t have a definitive answer, he wholeheartedly agreed that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Sam said, “Cooking is our most effective weapon for putting healthy meals out that are also more affordable.” I couldn’t agree more and I was thrilled to hear that Sam agreed and look forward to seeing the next chapter of Let’s Move! unfold.

And with that…I’m off to the gym. I have a group exercise class that I look forward to every week!

Let’s Move, friends!
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  1. says

    Fantastic! The call sounds like it was amazing. And all the info and advice is so true. To be honest, we often veg and relax between 3-6pm. Not eating chips and soda, but having a healthy snack and sticking close to home or even watching a bit of tv. The kids have baseball and karate some days and we go to the park on others. But it does happen and probably more than it should. This reminded me that I should be trying to do something active with them during that time everyday. Thanks Liz!

  2. Angela Pelc says

    Your question raises an important issue which hinders many families. What I love about your recipes is that they are easy and accessible. And friends of mine who don’t cook much from scratch have raved about your food! You’re changing the world Liz!

  3. says

    What a wonderful opportunity Liz! You should be very proud. My husband and I were happy to hear these recent statistics as well. We strive to do the best for our kids (ages 4.5, 3 and another on the way). I sometimes “cringe” at what I see other kids eating….our house is kept full of pretty clean foods, minus my love for baking! But I do love the point about only letting them have water or milk to drink. We do not buy soda or juice in our house, and only occasionally we’ll give them a “treat” of it, if we are out to eat (which is also rare!). Great post!

  4. Vicki says

    Your last comment should have been, “And with that…I’m off to play. I have a group exercise class at the gym that I look forward to every week!” LOL
    Great article, btw! You’re the best.

  5. says

    I can attest to that being a crucial time, my kids come home starving. If I don’t have healthy snacks set out for them or stocked in the fridge they go right for the carbs! Love this post. So much great information!

  6. Cassidy Stockton says

    How amazing! This is so inspiring and such good news for those of us trying to shape a healthy path for our little ones. I also love the reminder that it’s not about shape, but about being healthy! Thanks for representing healthy minded folks, Liz!

  7. says

    Wonderful! How exciting that you are apart of such an amazing program. I love that you asked about teaching people to cook. As funny as the show, Worst Cooks in America is on Food Network, it’s really sad that many Americans can’t cook themselves a meal. I really hope they look more in depth into that issue….maybe everyone in high school is required to take Food & Nutrition/Home Economics?

  8. says

    How very cool of an opportunity for you, and well done asking a terrific, thought-provoking question once given the platform!
    I admit I’m delighted to see my son’s after school snack of choice–carrot slices and hummus–since I’ve been pushing him more and more to choose something for himself out of the fridge/pantry and not expect mom to wait on him all the time.

    Of course, as in the way with offspring, he’s come back from a week at Disney with his high school marching band with the extreme hatred of wheat bread and keeps asking me to buy white. Ha! Not bloody likely! (Insert evil mom giggle here)

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