“The key to getting kids moving is to find something they enjoy, and join in!” stated First Lady Michelle Obama in a recent interview with Eileen Ogintz of Taking the Kids.com. “I’d encourage families to pick activities—no matter where you’re visiting—that involve getting active, whether it’s walking, biking or anything else you find fun,” she told Ogintz.
Mrs. Obama has made combating childhood obesity and encouraging families to eat healthier and get more active one of her signature White House initiatives by way of her Let’s Move! campaign.
The fact that her daughters, Sasha and Malia, weren’t eating enough vegetables was the impetus for the now-famous White House garden, the largest ever planted there. The garden has even encouraged families around the country to plant their own.
Last summer, Mrs. Obama told Ogintz that one way to encourage kids to eat healthier on vacation is to visit farmer’s markets. “Get them involved in buying the food your family eats. At a farmer’s market you can let them pick out any three vegetables they want, and then plan dinner around those,” she said.
At the start of the summer family travel season this year, Ogintz asked Mrs. Obama how we can all vacation healthier. Some of the questions and Mrs. Obama’s responses are below.
Q: How can families be more active on vacation this summer, whether they’re touring a city like Washington, D.C. or heading to the beach?
A: One of my favorite activities in the summer is biking. Barack and I love to bike with the girls when we can, and it’s a great way to explore a new place. And many cities now have affordable ways of renting bikes for a few hours or a few days. Going on a long walk is also a great way to explore a new city or new neighborhoods. You can also choose a vacation spot that will get you active without even thinking about it, like visiting one of our nation’s many beautiful national parks.
Q: How can you encourage kids to move on vacation, if they’d rather play video games or text?
A: We as parents are our kids’ first and best role models, so if we’re getting active, they will too. Also, set limits on screen time during vacation. If they aren’t moving, they should be reading.
Q: We know the Junior Ranger program that engages and enables kids to get a kids-eye-view of the national parks has incorporated some Let’s Move! activities. Should families include a national park in their vacation plans?
A: Yes! Our national parks are so beautiful and offer an amazing diversity of experiences, and Junior Rangers makes it even more fun for kids to visit them. From hiking to biking to swimming and canoeing, they offer a wide variety of terrific family-friendly activities. If you’re a military family, you can get free passes to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands. Plus, you don’t have to go far to find a national park. They are all around the country—some maybe even in your own backyard!
Q: We all think vacation is a time to kick back, relax and indulge, especially when it comes to food. How can we do that and still eat healthier on vacation?
A: It’s OK to indulge. I do it myself. The key is balance. I’ve always told my girls that if you’re eating healthy 90% of the time, then you don’t have to worry about watching what you eat on special occasions. I would also say that vacations are a great time to try something that you haven’t before. Expand your kids’ food horizons! Maybe a local dish with ingredients from the town you’re staying in, such as locally grown fruits or vegetables, or the “catch of the day.”