Parenting demands something from every part of us—our bodies, our minds, our souls. And yes, our schedules. In between work and school, between soccer practice and dance lessons, we have to squeeze in snacks and dinner before the bedtime routine begins. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we find a few quiet moments for ourselves. Then, it starts all over again the next day. It’s beautiful, sometimes-controlled chaos. And if we’re being honest, it can be really exhausting.
All those pressures mean that convenience and ease often take priority over everything else, especially when it comes to what our kids are eating and drinking. Grabbing prepared foods becomes simpler than cutting up carrots. Ordering delivery is sometimes all you have energy for.
But all of that can add up. I still remember taking one of my girls for a well-child visit and having the doctor tell me that all those simple choices I was making were negatively impacting her health. It was one of the worst feelings I’ve had as a parent—and one of the biggest wake-up calls of my life. I was a little scared, and also a little exasperated.
Why weren’t there better options for my kids? Why was it so hard to find out if a product was actually healthy? Why did I feel like I was fighting this battle all alone?
Back then, all I wanted were good products, good information, and good partners who actually wanted to do right by my kids. It felt like everywhere I looked, companies viewed kids as profit generators for their bottom lines. I just wanted an ally, and I couldn’t find one anywhere.
So when Barack and I got to the White House, I saw it as a chance to support parents as they’re trying to raise healthy families. We made some incredible progress—improving school nutrition standards, encouraging companies to lower sugar and salt in their products, and so much more.
But today studies show that many kids still aren’t getting enough nutrients. And too many children are at risk in the years ahead for serious health complications like diabetes, heart disease, and more.
Believe me, I know that this is a complicated issue. There’s no perfect solution that will work for every single kid, let alone millions of them.
But my time as First Lady taught me that the food industry plays an outsize role in the fate of children’s health.
And that’s why, after many years of trying to move the needle on this issue from the outside, I’m now working from the inside.
I’m proud to be a cofounder and strategic partner of PLEZi Nutrition, a public benefit company designed to make healthier drinks and snacks that taste really good. But we’re not just making products. We’re hoping to spur change throughout the entire food industry.
Sugary drinks are a big part of the health crisis kids are facing. That’s why we’re starting with a drink formulated for kids 6 and older. Now, the best options for kids will always be water and milk. But the truth is, on any given day, nearly two in three children drink a sugary beverage, like a soda or sports drink, and we need healthier alternatives kids will be willing to drink.
We’ve got to meet kids—and their parents—where they are. That’s why PLEZi has a familiar taste that kids love but contains less sugar, less sweetness, and more nutrients than many other drinks out there. It’s all part of an effort to help wean kids off their reliance on sugar and gradually adjust their palates to crave less sweetness overall.
It’s a small change, but we think it can have a big effect. And really, that’s what creating this company is all about for me. It’s why we’re working with a team of public health and parenting experts to keep us on the right track and help us educate parents about healthy eating. And it’s why we’re investing 10 percent of our profits right back into the broader movement to promote children’s health.
I know that none of this will be easy. But nothing worth doing ever is. For me, doing our part to build a world that’s worthy of our children—even if it’s just one kid at a time—is the most meaningful work of all.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than putting your kid to bed, watching them doze off, and realizing you’ve tried to do everything you can to keep them happy and healthy. In this exhausting, overwhelming world of parenting, that is what is truly beautiful. And it’s also what can help us get some sleep for ourselves, too.