I like to think that my husband and I eat rather healthily. There are almost no commercial cans in my house (maybe three or four times a year we break down and buy a can of tomatoes, since this year we didn’t can enough of them), and other than restaurant food, which we can’t be 100% sure of, I don’t think I’ve had any HFCS all year. Without even trying, we follow Michael Pollan’s food rules pretty much to the letter. The foods we buy are whole foods. The foods we buy don’t contain ingredients that our seven year old niece can’t pronounce. We eat a wide variety of foods, a lot of greens, some fruits, and try to minimize our consumption of things like white flour, white rice, and white breads (basically those things made with simple carbohydrates).
But we’ve come to this way of eating gradually. We didn’t wake up one morning and say “we’re going to become locavores” or “we’re going to eliminate all preservatives” or “we’re going to eat healthy from now on”. We took some small steps, then some big ones, and then some small ones again. We had a few stumbles (sorry folks, but I love Cadbury Eggs and I’m not ashamed to admit it). In short, our journey to a way of eating that we feel good about and that helps us feel good was a long road and we’re still on it. We are constantly making small adjustments based on seasonality, discovering new ways to prepare foods, and changing tastes.
Today it seems half of my Twitter feed is talking about Jamie Oliver. Jamie, known as the Naked Chef for his love of simple ingredients and pure flavors, has become quite the activist for eating healthy. He even won a TED award for his wish “… for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” I’m completely on board with his TED wish. I think all children should be educated about where food comes from and what types of foods are healthiest. Obesity is a disease that is almost completely preventable. We should teach our children that food is best when it is fresh, seasonal, and not highly processed. We should help our kids understand proper portion sizes and how to balance a meal. We should practice what we preach too.
So I was sort of excited to hear about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, where he would try to “start a revolution” and change one town’s approach to food and eating. I figure just about anything that helps people learn about fresh, local, healthy food is a step in the right direction. I didn’t figure that his show would result in an overnight change in attitude, but I did figure that it would be a few steps in the right direction. Jamie’s got his passion going for him, the ability to cook delicious, fresh food, and he’s quite good looking to boot. Plus, he’s taking on one of the areas where I think we could make the most impact and improvement – school lunches. I think some of the examples of school lunch programs that I’ve seen and read about lately are absolutely atrocious. Chicken nuggets? Pizza and pretzels? I don’t consider processed chicken nuggets food. At best they are little pucks of preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, and fillers. And pepperoni pizza, while delicious, does not make for a healthy child’s lunch.
Unfortunately though, from the preview episode that was shown earlier in the week, I’m not sure Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is going to be successful as anything other than a reality show. I’ll cross my fingers and hope that things improve, but so far, he’s thrown out all of the food in one family’s house and tried to get young children to switch from pizza to roasted chicken with brown rice in one meal and he seemed hurt that the kids didn’t pick the chicken but preferred to stay with the pizza. He’s managed to make enemies of half of the town with some poorly quoted press and he’s got the school cafeteria workers up in arms because he’s basically telling them that they’re “doin’ it wrong” when they’re cooking from USDA approved menus.
Jamie, if you want to be successful, it’s fine to dream big, but you’ve got to start a little smaller. The family who let you bury their deep fryer? They want to change. I know they do. But if you expect them to go from frying every meal to cooking every meal fresh and healthy in one week AND STICK TO THIS WAY OF EATING once the show is done and gone, you’re likely going to be disappointed. And if you’re expecting children to all of a sudden prefer brown rice over pizza, you’ve lost it completely. Many of these kids have probably never even seen brown rice.
Here’s what I hope for the rest of the episodes of the show. I hope that there’s more focus on education. I hope that there’s less scoffing in disbelief that the cafeteria workers think that sodium steroyl-2-lactylate is good for you. I’d love it if the kids were introduced to how much better a fresh carrot tastes over a frozen one, or how homemade pizza, with some veggies on top, can taste as good as the highly processed pizza they’re eating now. For the family who fried everything, I’d hope that Jamie realizes that their lifestyle (Dad is on the road for weeks at a time and Mom’s got 3 kids to raise, largely by herself) probably doesn’t allow them to cook every meal from scratch and introduces them to organic frozen vegetables, and helps them educate themselves so when they can’t cook from scratch, they can choose a frozen meal with good quality ingredients and healthy dose of vegetables instead of frozen processed pizza.
I’m sorry if this post sounds like I’m ragging on Jamie Oliver and his message. I’m really not. If anything I’m ragging a little on the turning of his message into a reality show. I live this life of local, sustainable, healthy food every day. I preach it every day. There are days it’s not easy. I can’t tell you how much I occasionally miss a Big Mac or a slice of greasy, crappy, CAFO meat laden pizza. Processed foods (for the most part) taste good. They are engineered that way. They might not make you feel good, but taste? Yeah, they are quite often very tasty. I understand how hard it can be to change because I’ve done it. I’ve changed. But I didn’t change overnight.
Be patient, Jamie. Start slow, realize the change you’re asking for us HUGE for many of these folks, and most of all, be understanding! I really hope you succeed. I do.
Good luck with your revolution, Jamie. You’re going to need it.
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