Dinner Table Lessons from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Apr 30, 2010 by

“Have you seen Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution?” the moms I coach in getting their kids to eat have been asking me. I finally pulled it up on the web and watched every episode all at once this week.

If I were in Oliver’s place, there are a couple of things I would have done differently (and many not as well), but I admire what he’s done. The more this kind of thing is broadcast, the better, I figure. Oliver encourages us to provide kids with better food. He appeals to our emotions about its importance, and shows us how it’s possible and enjoyable to cook and eat better food. We also see kids perfectly able to enjoy real, from-scratch food.

One of the best moments of the show for us parents to see is when Oliver demonstrates the creation of chicken nuggets.  That process, which would turn the stoutest stomach, is not the most interesting thing about it. It’s when the kids say they’d still eat the nuggets, and especially, their reason: “Because we’re hungry!” Kids will eat even gross stuff, if that’s what they get, because they’re hungry.

Because they’re used to getting nothing better, those kids probably figured, “Yes, I eat whatever I’m given, because I’m hungry.” They probably thought, “I like those things, and I haven’t died eating them up to now, so I’ll probably be OK.” Poor things. They eat what we give them, for better or worse. They’ve just revealed their weak spot–hunger!– in this food war, which we adults are still losing to a great extent. And we’ve been following their lead when they’re counting on us to take care of them.

If kids eat junk because they’re hungry, why is it we assume they won’t eat the healthy food that their bodies are designed to eat, for the same reason? Why the fear that they won’t eat new foods or fresh foods?

This hunger of kids that drives them to eat seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle in many efforts to “get kids to eat.” So many strategies to get food in kids’ stomachs seem based on the assumption that it’s all up to adults to make sure kids eat, however we can. If we don’t give them what they want, kids will not eat and will starve and die.

So, to make sure they eat, we feed them the same old processed beige junk they’ve been willing to eat in the past, over and over.

As in the show, we give them strawberry or chocolate milk with “more sugar than pop,” according to Oliver. As Rhonda, the woman in charge of feeding all the kids at the 20-some schools in the district, tells Oliver, ”We think they’ll drink more if it’s flavored.”

It’s true that given the choice between plain and flavored, kids will often choose flavored. They don’t know any better or care at their age. But since they’re hungry and since we know best, we adults do get to decide what they’re going to get to eat. We just need to take hold of our power.

As Oliver says, “Give them what they should get and what we think they should have and they’ll get used to it.”

Related post:

How to get kids to eat at the dinner table

When the appetite goes, everything goes

Child Obesity Task Force: Stacking the Deck Against Parents & Children

©  Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 30 April 2010 / All rights reserved

Anna Migeon
Anna Migeon

And it seemed to me the school district lady, Rhonda, gave Oliver very little time to let the kids get used to it. It was like, "They better be eating it tomorrow or you're out." I was pleased to see how quickly the kids did kind of make the switch. They are hungry, after all, and they'll eat what they're given. The good thing is that with so many kids coming through, nobody had much time to bug them and push them to eat things. They did some of that, which I wouldn't have. I believe we need to give them only good choices, all healthy choices, and control what comes before them (which Oliver touched on in the shows), then, leave them completely alone to choose how much and what they eat of those options. thanks for your comment!


I laughed out loud when the lady in charge of the lunchrooms told Jamie Oliver that the kids have to like his meal plans. Does any adult in this country ever remember being consulted on school lunches when they went? Schools served one lunch and kids ate it or brought their lunch or starved. Nobody even bothered to ask if we liked it. I came away from that episode thinking that had to be just another contrived roadblock set up to keep the government subsidized GMO corn and soy crap flowing into the schools and protect the profits of the purveyors of poison that supply the schools with this garbage. It seems too ridiculous to be true to a logical, no-nonsense parent like me. Maybe it really is in the regulations for school lunch that the kids have to like it. That seems to go along with this new trend of allowing kids to decide what to eat and parents trying to disguise healthy food or entice kids to eat it. These same parents would never dream of allowing a 6yo to decide if they need a jacket or gloves in winter or to decide if they must take their medicine when they are sick. Why, oh why do they allow children to decide what fuels their bodies every day? When did it become the norm for parents to need the kids' agreement or approval for unpopular decisions? A parent's job is a difficult one, but it just isn't right to attempt to make it easier by allowing children to shoulder the burden of these important decisions.