On the day that should have been spent marking the first anniversary of Michelle Obama's "let's move" initiative to end childhood obesity, the first lady has been rigorously defending her Super Bowl party menu: cheeseburgers, deep-dish pizza, buffalo wings, and all.
"Life is about good food, at least in America," the first lady told NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday when asked about the eyebrow-raising menu. "I've always talked about balance in this campaign." But some Boston-area nutritionists are wondering why Obama didn't set a better example.
"She's a trendsetter. People like to go for what she recommends," says Mitali Shah, a research dietitian at Boston Medical Center. "She could have balanced this off in a trendy way. Added a new kind of salad that people could have tried."
Okay there was one salad on the menu (no mention of whether it had a high-fat dressing) along with a German potato salad bathed in mayonnaise. Oh, and did I mention the bratwurst, chips, and kielbasa -- and the ice cream for dessert? It sounds more like a binge eater's fantasy than a healthful food fest fit for the White House.
At a lunch with reporters yesterday, the first lady said, "I don't even know what you'd have other than some hot dogs and some burgers for a Super Bowl party. That's what Super Bowl is."
Apparently, she didn't see these three tasty and nutritious game day snacks that were developed by Boston University registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake. "I wish we'd sent them to her," she tells me.
But, Blake adds, "People need to remember that the Super Bowl comes once a year, so it's okay to indulge for that occasion." The health problems set in when we find a reason to splurge every day.
"If you eat well 90 percent of the time, it's okay to veer off 10 percent of the time," says Blake. Obama said she tells her daughters it's okay to have ice cream and pizza on the weekends as long as they're eating nutritiously and exercising the rest of the week.
The first lady's credo: It's all about balance and moderation and not denying yourself all your favorite foods to the point of feeling deprived.
Still, Shah points out that the White House Super Bowl menu could have been more balanced -- with say grilled vegetables, fresh fruit, and sorbet instead of ice cream for dessert.
Shah tells patients in her weight management class that it's okay to have that occasional candy bar or McDonald's burger. But she tells them to choose one particular splurge, one day a week, and only at one particular time.
The trim nutritionist watches her own eating habits carefully. She makes dips out of fat-free Greek yogurt when she entertains. Would she have had a hard time eating at the White House party?
"I would have definitely."
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