Television Worth Watching: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

From the annals of “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry” comes a new TV series on ABC, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. If you haven’t heard of Jamie Oliver before, you are behind the times.

Jaime Oliver is the British chef who was instrumental in leading the reform of the Brit’s school lunch program and now he is attempting to do the same thing in the US. His new show takes place in Huntington, West Virginia, a city recently named America’s unhealthiest.

If you haven’t caught the show yet or seen a promo, here’s a short clip:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGYs4KS_djg[/youtube]

Amazing, isn’t it? Out of an entire class of 25 kids, not one of them could recognize a tomato. This is obviously quite sad, but what is more depressing are the attitudes of the “powers that be” that have allowed this to happen. Considering the town in question boasts an obesity rate of over 50%, a perverse attitude towards food is clearly not the exception, but the norm.

This backassward relationship with food is really highlighted in another preview clip where Jamie is seen asking a group of lunch ladies if they have a problem with serving pizza to the kids for breakfast; they don’t. Or if they can even recognize half the ingredients found on a box of chicken nuggets; they can’t. Needless to say these lunch ladies are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are interested, here’s the clip in question.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X-5mk3BcfM[/youtube]

Until we as consumers or food providers start demanding higher quality food, there won’t be any long-lasting or meaningful change. How can we expect children to develop good eating habits if most adults themselves have no concept about makes “good nutrition”?

Obviously the show sensationalizes the situation a little, but it does highlight a situation that is becoming far too commonplace. We have increasingly moved away from real food, and the widespread incidence of chronic diseases (ie. cancers, obesity, diabetes, depression) are just some of the horrible side effects.

What I love about Jaime Oliver is that he’s trying to make a difference on the food preparation and supply side. I think we can agree that the simple “knowledge is power” approach hasn’t yielded the kind of results we are looking for.

Far too many health experts have spent years debating what is “best”. Although I’m all for discovering the optimal ways to do something, the reality is we are still failing with convincing the masses to do even the bare minimum.

Take for instance our vegetable and fruit consumption. How long have we had ad campaigns preaching the virtues of “5-10 servings per day” or “eat the rainbow”? And how successful have those campaigns been? At last check, a good 55% of adult Canadians still don’t even consume 5 servings of vegetables and fruit… combined!

Starkey et al. (2001). Can J Diet Pract Res.62(2):61-9

Now I don’t think people avoid eating vegetables and fruit because they haven’t heard about the importance of at least 5 servings a day. Rather, the situation is grim because we (the health industry) haven’t made eating vegetables and fruits an attractive option.

Instead of clinging to our self-righteous ideals and continuing to harp on people that they should eat vegetables, “because it’s the right thing to do”, we need to accept that most people will only eat vegetables when vegetables are more convenient and tastier than the alternatives.

Enter one solution: better tasting vegetable recipes.

If, when someone mentions “vegetables”, you instantly think of iceburg lettuce or carrots boiled into oblivion, you need to expand your palate. One great way is to get started with more vegetables is with a couple of recipes I posted earlier:

  1. Peanut butter stir fry
  2. Spinach berry smoothies

As an added bonus, I’ll be back later on this week and next with even more unique ways to sneak more veggies into your diet.

Till next time, train hard and eat clean!