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Michelle Obama Is Wrong About Food

Photograph by Getty Images

Ugh, I’ve just fallen out of love with Michelle Obama. Up until now, I’ve thought she was fabulous. She’s smart, successful on her own and a seemingly good mom. And those arms, let’s not forget about those arms! To me, she’s the ultimate modern woman who gracefully balances a career and a family. And she’s the first lady of the United States!

But when I read her comments in a recent interview with Cooking Light, I couldn’t help but think Michelle Obama is wrong about food. Up until now, I’ve loved what she’s tried to do to give our children healthier school lunches. She’s taken on the epidemic of childhood obesity and received a ton of pushback, despite school districts seeing a rise in test scores and attendance since the healthier lunches have been served. As a kid, I remember my school lunches consisting of a corn dog, cheese bread that was covered in salt, butter and processed cheese, and some canned corn that had a questionable state of freshness. Needless to say, when I had hot lunch at school I never ate, so kudos to Michelle Obama for taking it on.

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But in the Cooking Light interview, she talks about her own nutrition wake-up call when former White House chef Sam Kass encouraged the Obamas to reduce all processed foods from their diet stating, “There’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese, but it’s got to be real food … cheese dust is not food.” He’s probably right and so is she, but it seems to me that she’s missing the point.

Because to some moms, boxed mac and cheese is the best they can do. Mrs. Obama had a successful and lucrative career, not to mention her own husband’s success. Her ability to buy and make better food for her children is probably a lot easier than it is for a single mom who barely has time to see her kids, much less make an elaborate healthy meal.

We really want to feed our kids well, but it’s time-consuming and expensive.

The truth of the matter is eating healthy requires two things: time and money. Very few moms have both, and most don’t have either. So to shame them for making what might not be “real food” seems like she’s missing the point. The point should be to do the best you can, not to feel like you’re failing because you simply don’t have the time or the budget to do better.

Personally, I’m always striving to feed my kids healthy meals while encouraging them to try different tastes and flavors. I want them to eat healthy but to also have a good time with food. But I can say honestly that I can’t always do it. I can’t always feed my kids well. In fact last night, I didn’t have time to go to the market so my kids had a hot dog for dinner and I had a yogurt. If I had had a box of mac and cheese in the house, I probably would have served it.

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I think most moms are like me. We really want to feed our kids well, but it’s time-consuming and expensive. So I wonder if some of the focus should be on how to make healthier food more affordable to normal people. Because to me, the real issue is the high cost of eating healthy. Maybe if an organic chicken were as cheap as a box of mac and cheese, less people would eat the latter. After all, it’s not even real food—at least that’s what someone told me.

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