Tag Archive | white house nutrition initiatives

michelle, my first lady

Dear Michelle,

I have been worried about your husband Barack’s eating habits. From following him on the campaign trail during these very arduous times, it seems that news items abound about him chowing down on ribs, chili dogs, pizza and pastries. Yes, I know that he needs to go meet and greet his constituents and that he is eager to support small business owners around the country. This does mean that he must go and find where the people gather–and that is often in settings that involve the communal act of the serving and eating of food.

I deeply appreciate that he is of the people and can get down and chow down with the common folk. I also know he is a very generous guy and stories have reported that he is sometimes buying goodies to bring back to his hard-cranking campaign workers or public servants in the numerous locations where he has touched down.

Michelle Obama - white house kitchen garden

Michelle Obama’s White House Garden


I do not mean to undermine his profound need for nourishment to keep him going, but it seems that a lot of yellow and red light foods are speeding their way down his own gullet–with obvious gusto–and with no traffic infractions being incurred. Just for those of my readers who don’t live in the world of nutrition education, the traffic light metaphor refers to a system of identifying foods as either green, yellow or red light signifying always, sometimes or rarely ever to be eaten.

I am reminded that when Barack’s friend and mentor, former President Bill Clinton was in office, his legendary appetites were the subject of much attention and downright mockery. I remember hearing he lusted for Philly Cheese Steaks. So, why are your husband’s eating habits not garnering the same scrutiny? Unfortunately, unlike pudgy Bill, it is because he is thin–actually, it is worse than that. He is skinny. I say, unfortunately, because being skinny can sneak up and bite ya. I imagine it must have been a bit disconcerting for you when that burly pizza parlor owner, came right over and just picked poor Barack right up off the ground with that big bear hug.

With all the attention on obesity, we forget that the non-obese can suffer health consequences as well and are equally vulnerable to the effects of poor diet, smoking and stress–which I know are issues your husband contends with. These can be more detrimental than just extra pounds alone. I think I heard that he has quit smoking–so that is good.

I will assume that when at home, our dear President consumes lots of White House grown organic vegetables, and grass-fed, hormone-free animal products prepared by some of the best chefs in the land. And, that he plays basketball and does other activities to stay fit. Hopefully, he also has a team of massage therapists and other holistically-oriented practitioners to assist with his well-being. Maybe he just eats these ‘red light ‘ foods when he is on the road–like kids who go crazy for sweets at other people’s homes when such foods are forbidden in their own.

Believe you me, I do know that it is impossible to control our husbands’ behaviors. Here I am a nutritionist, and my own hubby has quite the pedestrian sweet tooth. No amount of my homemade kale chips can keep him from occasionally going out and finding a bag of Cheeze Doodles and the perfect dish of ice cream. I bet Hilary knows what I mean. Still, I am wondering, if given your highly touted platform and efforts regarding the urgency of improving nutritional status and decreasing the burden of illness on our nation, whether Barack could and should be modeling more healthful eating behaviors.

I was troubled by a story I heard on the radio just last week. NPR reported on what Obama and Romney were doing to sustain their non-stop high-energy requirements on the final leg of the campaign. This was right before Hurricane Sandy changed the agenda. They interviewed some campaign assistant who started out by saying that when Barack got off the plane that morning, he headed right over to get some Krispy Kreme doughnuts. You probably don’t know that I have a little, shall we say, vendetta against Krispy Kreme, so you may want to read my posts, Kicking Butt with Krispy Kreme and Magic Doughnuts–The Nutritionist’s Nemesis. So, upon hearing that, I was all ears.

It got worse. I was shocked to then hear Barack himself saying something to the effect that all that nutrition stuff is your thing, but he doesn’t care. It is an election year and the White House will be giving out lots of candy for Halloween. My, I don’t know how you felt about that, but I was disappointed to hear such an off the cuff remark that indicated to me a disregard of the real importance of proper nutrition in improving the health of our citizenry.

To really turn the tide on the dire consequences attributable to the Standard American Diet  (SAD) will take more than lip service. It will take courage to exhibit true leadership in this matter–and leading by example. Sugary sweets are not a substitute for the relief this electorate truly seeks, and perpetuating good-natured excuses and exceptions for our food behaviors will not reduce our massive health costs and its drain on our economy. That quick sugary fix will ultimately lead to a massive crash in mood and energy.

Never you mind. Your husband still has my vote. Yet, I am writing this with trepidation as the election is still a few days away. I do wish for him to have four more years–healthy years– in office. I hope it will not take a quadruple bypass surgery for him to appreciate and attend to the benefits of a healthful and vegan diet as it did his friend Bill. It would have been nice if while stumping in North Carolina he had stopped in at that wonderful restaurant, The Laughing Seed Cafe that I mentioned in Forks on the Road.

Though Barack might not need them, the future of health care, Medicare and Social Security are seriously on the line right now–and we need him to make sure that those programs are there for those of us who will. Perhaps too, with a second term, he can work to integrate some more holistic preventive health measures into Health Care reform. Please, keep up your good work and see if you can get Barack to eat his beets. I read that he does not like them. Do let him know that betalain-rich beets are blessed with many health benefits. Great for the cardiovascular system and the lowering of high blood pressure. And, that makes those beautiful red gems a nice little aphrodisiac food too–wink wink

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.


In health, Elyn

P.S. Congratulations on your beautiful new book, American Grown, The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.

Related Recipe: Minted Spring Pea Salad from American Grown courtesy of Eating Well Magazine

American Grown (Michelle Obama book).jpg

Michelle’s My Plate

My Plate Grace

We hope we live long and strong.

by Obama Family

dietary linfluences

Linsanity. I am all over it. Jeremy Lin–Harvard graduate, undrafted player, turned New York Knicks phenomenon. Like I just learned that he’s a point guard. And, no, I haven’t seen him play yet–but that’s due to us not having much accessible TV in my home and something about a broadcasting contract between MSG Sports and the local cable company. So then, what do I know? I know he grew up playing basketball at his local YMCA; his other favorite sport was soccer; he does yoga; he has a charitable foundation; and, most importantly–what he eats per day to meet his protein requirements. Oh, and that he has a weakness for In-N-Out Burgers.

English: Turnips (Brassica rapa) Français : Na...

This 6-foot-3 and 205-lb rookie player has come charging onto the scene fueled with 205 grams of protein per day–as recommended by his personal trainer. Regular humans need about .4 to .7 grams of protein per pound depending on a variety of factors which include activity, age, state of health and a degree of imprecision in calculating optimal protein requirements. However, superlative athletes can extend their intake higher, and Lin’s 1.0 gram of protein per pound is probably both generous and acceptable. Sports that involve a lot of impact and pounding necessitate a large degree of repair nutrients which protein delivers–and with the compacted NBA season this year resulting in less rest between games, it seems like the players are taking quite a beating.

This means that to start him on his way each day, Lin aims for 50 grams of protein at breakfast. To reach this amount, he eats five eggs along with a serving of another protein like ham or turkey. The rest of his daily diet includes lean proteins from chicken, fish and milk-based protein powder, lots and lots of vegetables which he derives often from big salads, and a modicum of starchy carbohydrates. I was surprised at the lack of more carbs but I think they were just not clearly described in the plan that I saw.

I did not really intend to write about what Mr. Lin is chowing down–despite my being very interested in athletes’ diets. I enjoy hearing about those who credit their success or long, injury-free careers to their attention to nutrition–and will gladly delve into any Sports Illustrated Magazine that makes me privy to some piece of information about a sports celebrity’s care and feeding of their body. And, with professional sports’  fierce competition, more athletes are turning to such measures to improve their edge. I am also a champion of such stars who use their celebrity to promote healthy behaviors and give back to their communities such as Celtic’s Paul Pierce’s Truth on Health Fund.

I would love to be a sports nutritionist for a professional organization. I did once serve in that role for a college women’s basketball team. When I joined them for a team-building day–which included games and a high ropes course–my life felt a bit endangered. These tall amazon women felt entitled to some payback for my moderating their carefree college eating experiences. They were only Division 3.  Maybe, if they were more assured of a high paying basketball contract they would have better appreciated my input and might have caught me in that game where you stand in the middle of a circle, lean back with your eyes closed and trust that the others will gently receive and carry your weight.

I digress. Anyway, since I am not a highly paid sports nutritionist, my attentions go to the more pedestrian aspects of how the mere mortals are eating. The little tidbit that really led me into this Linsanity was a NY Times article this week about Jeremy’s grandmother, 85-year old Lin Chu A Muen. Though she lives in Taiwan, when Jeremy was a baby and young child, she came here and cared for him in the California home where he was raised. Apparently, one of the budding basketball star’s favorite dishes that she prepared for him was fried rice with egg and dried turnip. For me, right there was the story.

I extrapolated from this one sentence mention a whole message about childhood feeding–and grandmothers. I thought I would just use it to advance my personal theory that the whole ruckus about feeding kids is overblown and that kids will just eat good healthy food if that is what is presented to them–without a myriad of choice and being catered to and if served with love–just as Lin Chu did for little Jeremy–dried turnip and all.

This seemed like a good way to present my adopt a grandmother feeding initiative. I have long observed that there are many from the older generations who really know how to cook–but no longer have anyone to cook for. Connecting these grandmothers (and grandfathers) with households that lack such important know-how would be a brilliant solution to the current childhood culinary and nutritional crisis.

My thesis was advanced when quick research revealed that Lin’s family doesn’t cook much and so he eats out for most of his meals. I assume that this describes the situation when living at home with his parents–after Grandma returned to Taiwan. It seems like once Lin Chu left,  this family of ninth-generation descendants of immigrants from the Fujian province in southeast China, like many other American families, became clueless in the kitchen and In-N-Out Burger replaced the dried turnip dish.

One could probably argue that little Jeremy might not have grown so tall without the addition of such burgers to his diet and that a continued dietary of dried root vegetables, starch and a touch of egg protein could have deprived the New York Knicks of the divine lintervention he seems to be providing. His current protein intake far exceeds that of his ancestors. However, that raises other philosophical, ecological and nutritional issues.

I suppose he is living on his own now somewhere in the vicinity of New York City. Though he can probably afford it, his new-found fame probably makes it difficult for him to frequent the local burger joint, and besides, I don’t think we have In-N-Out Burgers here in New York. Jeremy might just have to take his eating back into the home and to find a grandmother who can prepare for him the sustenance he requires. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s too late for him to draft his own grandma for the program. Apparently, Lin Chu is too busy hanging out in sports bars in Taipei watching her grandson play basketball.

Knicks fans and Michelle Obama, what do you think?

Sunday’s stats: Knicks 104–Mavericks 97; Jeremy Lin 28 points and 14 assists  (7 turnovers–and that doesn’t mean apple)

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health,  Elyn

(Update 2020–The Real-Life Diet of Jeremy Lin 2017)