Table Talk: Michelle Obama And The White House Garden

What Kids Can Learn From Michelle Obama's New Book

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

“There was a time when I had no idea that tomatoes didn’t come in green plastic trays, covered by cellophane, and that they could be any color other than pale red,” Michelle Obama writes in her new book, “American Grown.”

The First Lady certainly knows better now. She’s spent a great deal of time and energy over the past several years teaching kids (and adults) around the country how to eat healthily and get more exercise -- and a big part of her initiative is the garden she planted on the White House grounds in 2009.

Her new book offers practical advice and recipes as well as stories about different people and their gardens across the nation. Among other things, "American Grown" shows that you don’t need to live in the countryside to have a garden. For example, two Brooklyn schools, profiled in the book, successfully converted urban areas into thriving, green spaces.

The First Lady also makes a point of talking about our nation’s obesity problem, demonstrating its implications in terms of the economy and, “believe it or not,” national security, too (“more than one-quarter of our nation’s seventeen- to –twenty-four-year-olds are actually too overweight to serve in our military,” she reports).

When she puts it that way, fixing America’s health issues might sound like a daunting, painful process. But if you take a moment to consider the many simple things you can do to improve your and your family’s health, today and in the future, the path forward may seem as easy as it is important.

Finally, as Obama writes in her conclusion, healthy living isn’t just about growing food –- it’s also about how you eat and whom you eat with: "Barack, Malia, Sasha, and I eat dinner together pretty much every night at 6:30 p.m.; even if Barack is traveling, he always tries to make it back home in time for dinner. … [W]e talk with our daughters about what’s going on in their lives, and in ours."

By bringing natural food into our homes, we can improve our health and quality of life; by sharing family meals, we can support and learn about each other and keep important conversations -– about nature, health and every other subject under the sun –- going.

Questions for discussion:
  • How often do you have family dinner? Which night during the week can you add a dinner ritual to?
  • What are your favorite fruits and vegetables? Could you grow them in a garden at your house?
  • Why is eating natural foods important?
  • How often do you exercise? What are your favorite things to do outside?
  • Aside from eating well, what are the other parts of a healthy lifestyle?

In her new cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.