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