This post is inspired by the TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I get lots of questions from people about how to eat healthy when their kids don’t like vegetables and other healthy things. As I was thinking about what I wanted to write, it occurred to me that it was becoming a thank you to my mother so I thought I’d wait until Mother’s Day to post it.
If you didn’t watch the series of 6 shows, I highly recommend you watch the episodes online at ABC.com. Jamie is trying to change the school food system in America (after having done so in much of England) and he started in Huntington, W. Va which was labeled the most unhealthy city in America. The first thing he said that had me sitting there shaking my head in disbelief was that this is the first generation of children that is expected to live a shorter life than their parents! It was shocking, yet very inspiring to me as a trainer and healthy eating coach.
He showed some of the packed lunches these kids brought to school and again, it was shocking. Very little in the way of homemade meals or sandwiches, mostly processed junk with little to no nutritional value. One little girl had 3 baggies of food as her lunch; chips, crackers and candy. That’s it! Jamie said, “That is not a lunch…If she had that lunch every school day of her life that is child abuse.”
One of the many things Jamie had been trying to change was the milk supply. They offered regular milk and then chocolate and strawberry milk. He said that the flavored milks have more sugar in volume than soda! He had gotten the flavored milks removed from the elementary school, but after he left for just 2 days, the flavored milk was back. The woman in charge told him that the Office of Child Nutrition in Charleston said that it was more important that the children get calcium than it is to look at the sugar in the product. His response was, “Clever. Well done. ‘Cause I never thought that if you put sugar over everything that they’d eat it more. Why not put toffee on the apples?” They then showed a group of kids choosing the regular milk over the flavored stuff. He asked them why they were choosing it and they said their teacher told them it was what they should take. His next comment was the thing that made me throw my hands up as if to say “thank you, this is what I’ve been trying to tell people!”, and it was the actual inspiration for this post.
He said, “We should give the kids what they should get and what we think they should have and if they don’t like it, they’ll get used to it.” I’m never a popular person when I suggest this to parents, but there it was on national television and I was so glad to hear it.
It was then that I realized that’s exactly what my mom did when I was growing up. She fed us healthy, whole food and limited our intake of sugary and processed junk. Not to say we didn’t fight her on it when we could. I clearly remember smothering my Rice Krispies with Nestle Quick to make Cocoa Puffs and other over-indulgences involving chocolate that now makes me cringe. I don’t recall knowing about the diabetes risk back then, I just remember knowing that it wasn’t good for me because Mom said so. And I remember trying to hide those things from her because I knew she would get mad and tell me it wasn’t good for me. But when it came to her doing the food shopping and cooking, she didn’t buy sugary cereals or lots of junk food. She looked at the ingredients and nutrition labels and would just tell us no.
When it came to our meals, she was never one to force us to eat something we really didn’t like, but we were required to try things before deciding that we didn’t like it. She was smart about it too. The first time she made ground turkey, she said that we had to try it first and then she would tell us why the meatloaf looked a little different. And guess what? We liked it better! When we were old enough, if we didn’t want to eat what she made then we had to make our own meal. Both of my parents worked full time and there wasn’t enough time in the day to make separate meals for each of us.
It makes me wonder why so many parents do that today. Why do they look at me like I’m purple when I tell them that their kids will just get used to eating healthy meals? How did we, as a society, get so incredibly processed and unhealthy to the point where kids don’t like the taste of whole, real food? But point blank, if you don’t give your kids a choice, they won’t know any different. I am living, breathing proof that it can work and I’m certainly not the only one who can say that.
I’m unsure if she realized it back then, but Jamie Oliver’s show made me realize that by feeding me real, healthy food my mom gave me the foundation for the healthy life I live now. Eating healthy is second nature for me because it’s just what we did.
I remember asking once, if May is Mother’s Day and June is Father’s day, when is kid’s day? My mom said every day is kid’s day. So every day for kid’s day, give your kids the gift of good food, good health and a longer life. They may not know it now, but they’ll thank you for it later!