Michelle Obama, the First Person to Cover Cooking Light in Its 28-Year History, Reflects on Let’s Move! Campaign

Michelle Obama, Cooking LightCooking Light

Michelle Obama has made history yet again!

The First Lady of the United States is the first person to cover Cooking Light in the publication’s 28-year history. Michelle, 51, appears in the March issue, where she reflects on the five-year anniversary of her Let’s Move! campaign, shares her hopes for the future and opens up about life inside the White House.

“We’re really proud of the changes we’ve seen across the country—most proud of the fact that it feels like there’s a new norm in how families think about food and what’s healthy,” Michelle says. Still, the Princeton University alum admits that there have been challenges along the way. “Change is hard for anybody. And when you’re talking about food, food is really personal. So when you’re telling people to rethink their dietary habits that they’ve lived with all their lives, it’s really personal,” FLOTUS explains.

How does Michelle measure the success of the Let’s Move! campaign? “We measure this in terms of a generation,” she explains. “So we’re looking at those kids who are coming into kindergarten right now, who are coming out of preschools who have now adopted new standards, and they’re serving different snacks…We’re looking at that kid going through high school and then entering college with a whole new set of habits and taste buds.” Since its launch in February 2010, Michelle says that the most “impactful things” the campaign did are reflected in “changes in the school lunch program. I mean, millions and millions of children rely on the school lunch program for the vast majority of their nutritional calories.”

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Let’s Move! is aimed at ending childhood obesity, but Michelle hopes people of all ages will consider their food options more critically. “The most powerful thing that [people] can do for their overall health is feed their bodies good nutritious food. If you don’t like the doctor, if you don’t like government, if you don’t like folks messing with your life, the best thing to do is make sure you’re healthy,” she explains.

“We have to be deliberate about [getting back to home cooking traditions],” she says. “It won’t happen by accident. People are busier today. Life is different…but we have to find those new healthier norms.”

Michelle hopes Let’s Move! will endure for years to come. “Because our goals are generational, clearly we won’t be done by the time we leave the White House. So we’re going to be thinking hard about ways that I can use my next platform as a way to keep shining a light on the things that we’re doing,” FLOTUS shares. “If there’s one word that I could say about what we do in the future, it’s ‘more.’ It’s more of this.

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Michelle makes sure her family follows a healthy eating plan, courtesy of Sam Kass, President Barack Obama‘s senior policy advisor for nutrition policy and Let’s Move!’s executive director. “He was a core of our processed-food elimination—and my kids loved the macaroni and cheese in a box. He said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese, but it’s got to be real food.’ So my oldest daughter [Malia Obama], who was probably 8 at the time, he took a block of cheese and he said, ‘If you can cut this cheese up into the powder that is the cheese of the boxed macaroni and cheese, then we’ll use it.’ She sat there for 30 minutes trying to pulverize a block of cheese into dust. And from then on, we stopped eating macaroni and cheese out of a box, because cheese dust is not food, as was the moral of that story,” Michelle recalls.

For the Obamas, dinnertime is family time. “We’ve found that we’ve been able to have dinner almost every night together, between 6:30 and 7,” the First Lady says. “We have a bigger table and somebody else is doing the cooking, but the conversation and the mood and the tone are still the same.”

“It’s our most important time of the day,” Michelle adds.

Cooking Light‘s March 2015 issue is on newsstands nationwide this Friday.

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