COVER STORY: Michelle Obama's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge!
The idea that healthy kids are happy kids has long been top of mind for First Lady Michelle Obama. Through efforts like the White House Kitchen Garden and this summer's fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge (which Rach joined her for), she's reminding us all what food should be—nutritious, delicious and always fun!
Here it is in her own words:
"We planted the White House Kitchen Garden seven years ago to kick off a national conversation about how we live and eat. Since then, we've used it as a teaching tool to show kids where their food comes from and to give them the chance to plant, harvest and taste some vegetables themselves. Despite all the hand-wringing when we first launched Let's Move!, about how kids are picky eaters and wouldn't like healthy food, kids are truly embracing these changes. I see it everywhere I go. Kids are harvesting school gardens and learning through first hand experience that healthy food can be fun and delicious, and can make them feel good.
I was passionate about this issue long before I became First Lady, and I plan to work on it long after I leave the White House. Back before we lived in the White House, we were busy working parents, raising two young girls, and we often went for convenience—takeout, microwave meals, fast food—rather than focusing on nutrition. It got to the point where our pediatrician pulled me aside and recommended that we make some changes in how we were eating. That was a real wake-up call for me, and we immediately started eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, watching our portion sizes and cooking more meals at home. We started to see a positive impact on our family's health pretty quickly. As a family, we've done our best to continue these healthy habits and to eat dinner together as many nights as possible. So encourage your kids to help pick out new fruits and vegetables at the store, make a game out of trying new healthy options each week or month, and take the time to cook meals together as a family." – Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States
Healthy lunches start here
Fifty-six kid cooks scored seats at Kids' "State Dinner" (actually a lunch, but with all the trappings of a state dinner!) at the White House. Check out how they got there!
The contest: More than 1,200 8- to 12-year olds across the country submitted lunch recipes they personally developed. Each dish had to be healthy, affordable to make and delicious.
The judging: The recipes and the kids' stories of how they created them were reviewed and narrowed down to two from each state, territory and the District of Columbia. Then more than a dozen judges, including reps from the White House and USDA; past Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners; Tanya Steel, Editorial Director of Clean Plates; and Lauren Purcell, editor-in-chief of Rachael Ray Every Day, tasted all 112 recipes—in one afternoon!
The winners: The honorees received an invitation for a trip (with one parent or guardian) to fly to D.C. to visit the White House and meet with the First Lady.
The big event: On July 14, the First Lady hosted the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Kids' "State Dinner." Mrs. Obama, along with supporters from PBS affiliate WGBH Boston, Newman's Own Foundation and Rachael's Yum-o! organization, dined on recipes developed by the kids.
Who's hungry? Check out six winning recipes below!
"Poke means to slice and cut into pieces, in Hawaiian. Traditional poke is made with raw fish, Hawaiian salt, limu (seaweed), inamona (roasted, ground kukui nut), chiles and onions. It is a favorite Hawaiian dish and my family loves making and sharing poke at gatherings. I named my dish 'Poke Me Ke Aloha,' which means poke with love, because I put all the things I love in it." – Kaira Grace Pan, age 9, Hawaii
"My family likes to go camping and hiking a lot. My mom and I were trying to think of some healthy choices for lunch instead of hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. So we came up with this one-bag bake that included seasonal veggies and local fish. We used an aluminum foil pouch and placed it in our campfire. It was hit with our whole family! All we needed was our one bag and a fork! Now we make it at home all the time! Super yummy!!!" – Will Bingham, age 10, Kentucky
"We used local ingredients in our recipe, plus what our state is known for. We created a healthy and balanced dish packed with protein and fresh ingredients that will bring the marathon spirit to lunchtime. Our town is still healing after the Boston Marathon Bombing, and this project gave us an opportunity to see the goodness and unity of our town." – Abby Newman, age 10, Massachusetts
"I was inspired to make Kickin' Cauliflower Shrimp & Grits because a lot of the people in Mississippi love shrimp and grits. Sadly, some of my fellow Mississippians add pounds of butter and salt to their shrimp and grits. So this is my version of healthy shrimp and grits, dedicated to the state of Mississippi." – Aniya Madkin, age 10, Mississippi
"I love to go hunting with my dad. One of my favorite melas to help make is mini meat loaves with ground bison. For this recipe, we decided to use ground bison, which is raised here in Montana and is healthy. I had an image of a mini bison in a field of green. If you don't have a bison cookie cutter like we do, you can use any shape—we also like to use heart shapes. I also used cherries, goat cheese, sage and whole wheat, which are all ingredients from Montana." – Brooke Du Charme, age 8, Montana
"Being raised by my mother, a health teacher, and my father, a disabled veteran, it is not new to me to have a healthy lifestyle. On a Saturday after a baseball game, the most convenient thing to have is a healthy lunch and I though to f making a pizza in a pan, like oregano and spinach. With my parents I learned to make a healthy pizza with a twist, one to which anyone can add the ingredients of their choice. I like the mix of flavors and the idea of me cooking it. I would like to motivate others to learn or keep up healthy food habits." – Victor Junniel Rivera, age 10, Puerto Rico