USA Today -- Several top nutrition experts salute first lady Michelle Obama for enjoying a hamburger and fries occasionally as she did on Monday.
Obama, who has been pushing healthy eating with her national Let's Move campaign to fight childhood obesity, ordered a burger, fries, chocolate shake and a Diet Coke at lunch on Monday at the newly opened Washington Shake Shack diner, according to The Washington Post. If she ate the entire meal, she may have consumed 1,500 calories or more, which is the amount some women should eat for the entire day.
Obama has been very upfront about her enjoyment of food and her own eating habits. She told USA TODAY in a 2010 interview that she and her family try to eat healthfully most of the time, but they are not "100% perfect."
In fact, she admitted that she loves "burgers and fries, and I don't want to live a life where I can never have them again. And if we told families and children that that was the answer, we'd never get there" with Let's Move.
Her press office isn't commenting on the lunch, but several nutrition experts applaud Obama's example of balance and moderation.
"It's perfectly fine to indulge in your favorite foods every once in a while," says Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian in Boston, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. "A healthy lifestyle is all about balance and inclusion, not deprivation and misery. I would have preferred a cup of fat-free milk to the diet soda, though."
Milk shakes are a good source of calcium, but are loaded with fat and calories, Ward says. Burgers pack protein, iron and other nutrients, but tend to be high in fat, also.
Robyn Flipse, a registered dietitian in Bradley Beach, N.J., and author of Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, says, "Michelle Obama's openness about how she eats and exercises is the most valuable nutrition news that's been published in decades.
"The government's dietary guidelines are very clear on the need to establish eating patterns that are flexible and accommodate our personal preferences. Mrs. Obama provides a perfect example of just that when she enjoys the occasional burger and fries for lunch, while also demonstrating to her daughters the hard-to-grasp concept of moderation.
"Every meal does not have to be perfect, but the average of all your meals should meet your nutritional needs. I am confident that Mrs. Obama is eating plenty of fresh-picked vegetables from the White House gardens most days of the week, so she doesn't have anything to worry about."
Marlene Schwartz of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity says the thing that worries her about the story "is that people will focus on this one meal instead of her overall pattern of eating, which is obviously very healthy. People just need to be clear and honest about how many empty calories they can have, and then plan enjoyable meals that maximize both nutrition and taste."
Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University, says if you have a meal like this once in a while, you can enjoy it and be relaxed about it. "You should keep in mind you don't have to eat it all. You can share it, especially the fries. I bet the first lady didn't eat them all.
"But too often people approach meals like this as if it's their last. They eat it all, and they eat these types of meals frequently. If you do that, you're going to end up carrying around too many pounds."