She has tried to lead by example by planting a kitchen garden at the White House, regularly visiting schools to highlight good practices and even talking publicly about her efforts to change her two daughters’ eating and activity patterns.
That’s left them open to scrutiny of their own eating habits — including Mr. Obama’s penchant for cheeseburgers.
On Wednesday night, just before the Thursday morning Wal-Mart announcement, the Obamas faced another such moment when they greeted the Chinese president and more than 200 other state dinner guests with a multicourse extravaganza: pear salad with goat cheese; lobster with glazed carrots and mushrooms; lemon sorbet; rib-eye beef and a double-stuffed potato; and apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert. The dinner courses were paired with three wines.
Mrs. Obama’s press office didn’t respond to a message seeking comment on the health value, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the meal clocked in at 1,500 calories, or 75% of a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
One nutritionist said if diners sampled each item, it could have topped 2,000 calories.
Mitzi Dulan, co-author of the book “The All-Pro Diet,” said it’s OK to splurge on an occasional indulgence as long as it’s balanced out with exercise and other diet choices. Still, she said, there were some options the White House could have chosen to make the menu more healthful.
“It would have been nice to have fresh berries with the ice cream or an apple crumble made with whole-wheat flour. I would have preferred sweet potatoes and steamed spinach vs. creamed,” she said. “The salad sounds fabulous, as does the lobster. The dessert would be better if in a mini portion.”
In announcing the dinner, the White House said the meal reflected a commitment to “sustainability, affordability and healthy, delicious foods.” The meal’s food was taken from across the country — Idaho trout, Massachusetts shrimp, and thyme, rosemary and sage from the White House’s own kitchen garden, which Mrs. Obama started two years ago.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, said the menu looked “absolutely delicious.”
“Every course includes a fruit or vegetable, and the menu looks like it is constructed from fresh, typically American ingredients,” she said. “The main health issue here is portion size. Is that rib-eye 2 to 3 ounces or 23? There’s nothing wrong with steak if the portions are small. And this is a state dinner, not everyday fare.”
She said the Obamas showed leadership with the menu by emphasizing fruits and vegetables, and American products.