DWTS’ Nancy O’Dell’s healthy message – and moves – come to Chicago

Nancy O’Dell has been a familiar face and consistent red-carpet presence on television for years. Last month, she took over as co-anchor of “Entertainment Tonight” and has also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and OWN network’s “Your Own Show.”

But beyond her celebrity-savvy, Nancy is an entrepreneur who has scrapbooking product lines with Creative Memories and an author of two books for moms, “Full of Life” and “Full of Love.”

Most importantly, she’s a busy mom herself to Ashby, 4, and stepmom to Tyler, 15, and Carson, 12, and she wants to pass along her interest in health and fitness to her kids. She’s recently teamed up with the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition to get people moving through an activity called Moderation Nation Batuka Dance.

Nancy helped teach the South American-inspired dance at the campaign’s kickoff in April, and Chicagoans will get their own look at the Hershey Track& Field Games at St. Rita of Cascia High School on June 25. Nancy took some time to talk to Chicago Parent about being a mom, staying healthy and what she wants to pass along to her kids.

Why did you decide to team up with Hershey for Moderation Nation Batuka Dance?

It’s so on point with what I believe as a mom, [how] important it is to get 150 minutes of exercise in a week. There are these fun things you can do as a family. That’s what the Moderation Nation Batuka Dance is about. I taught my daughter, and we were having so much fun doing it together. You’re burning all these calories, [but] we would just laugh and have such a good time.

After “Dancing with the Stars,” I saw how fit you can get quickly [through dance]. For the three-and-a-half weeks, I literally started seeing muscles I’d never seen before. And I was having fun! People should definitely go and learn Batuka. It’s something that everybody can do; it’s fun. There are some moves that are naturally funny moves so it doesn’t matter that you look funny doing it. It’s relatively easy. That’s the great thing about dance; it’s not like playing the piano.

Do you have any tips for moms on how to keep families healthy?

I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where [moms] don’t have a little guilt. It’s tough trying to balance everything and trying to fit it in. We try and incorporate activities in spending family time. We play dodge ball and tag nearly every weekend. The Moderation Nation website gives you those ideas, snack activities you can do with your kids, yoga, stuff you can do in your yard with your kids. It’s really making it fun, finding ways to incorporate it [into life]. I try and make everything fun. Ashby loves strawberries, [and] she also loves dark chocolate. She’ll dip strawberries in dark chocolate and we’ll make faces on them with light whipped cream. I’m teaching her you don’t have to deprive yourself. Growing up, I would always have my vegetables and stuff and then I could have my treat. I carry around a Hershey’s Bliss dark chocolate in my purse and it’s like my little treat because I’ve eaten healthy during the day.

You just took over as co-anchor of “Entertainment Tonight.” Congratulations! What does that mean to you?

At this point in my career, it feels right because I’ve worked for a long time and I’ve worked hard. “Entertainment Tonight” is the crème de la crème of the entertainment shows. It feels very apropos. It’s such a classy show. The great thing about “Entertainment Tonight” is they’re so great about letting you incorporate your family. I went to the “Kung Fu Panda” premiere with Ashby. She had the best time, and she was coloring with Dustin Hoffman on the platform.

What life lessons do you want to pass along to your daughter and stepsons?

We just want to make them feel so loved, which is what my parents did for me. I never doubted for a minute that they wouldn’t be there for me. I did an album for [Ashby] of my hopes and dreams for her. The one page says, “I hope you know your mom and dad will always be there for her no matter what.” I’m constantly saying that to her.

You’re doing a lot of things with your life right now. What do you most want to be known and remembered for?

Being a good mom is the most important. I have a lot to live up to because I had this amazing, amazing mom. I have this precious little person I’m molding and shaping and teaching beliefs and morals. If I’m a good mom, I don’t need any other accolades.

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