~Jillian Michaels Interviews…
Jamie Oliver on the Fight for Healthier Food
The British chef of 'Food Revolution' fame is out to change the way we cook, eat, and feed our kids. He tells Jillian Michaels about his efforts to get Americans thinking fresh.
By Jillian Michaels
Jamie Oliver — charming, witty, hyper, personable, emotional, talented are all words that come to mind at the mention of his name. I am a fan and have been for some time, so when tossing around names for my next celeb interview he was on the top of my list. I respect his dedication to health and his heartfelt attempts to improve the quality of our children's lives. So, I reached out to his "people" and requested an interview. Here's the conversation that transpired:
Jillian Michaels: First, I want you to know that I am a huge fan and have been for years! Literally since I discovered you while Bob and I were living in Australia — a mad fan.
Jamie Oliver: Thanks so much, it's still funny to think that I've been doing this now for 12 years. The Aussies have always been very good to me. I try and get there every other year.
JM: I really appreciate your taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions. I wish it was over cocktails. Not so sure what this is about, but I imagine you’d be a fun guy to grab a beer with — make that a light beer. All in moderation, right?
JO: I'm English, so we don't drink light beer — lagers, ales, stouts — and usually in moderation. It's a funny thing now that Americans put me with healthy food. I'm not the food police or a diet guy. I am trying to teach people about cooking skills and choosing fresh food over processed. Eat a wide variety of things, in reasonable portions. As a chef, it's the only way that makes sense.
JM: I appreciate your perspective as one of not only health, but common sense. So that said, let’s get down to business. I loved Food Revolution. How did you originally come up with this concept, and why are you so passionate about fighting childhood obesity? Is there a personal connection to this cause of any kind?
JO: Food is personal. What we choose to eat or feed our families every day is the most personal choice we can make. Next to the mortgage, the food bill is going to be a large investment. When I started looking at school lunches (what we call dinners in England) I was disgusted by what I saw: Turkey Twizzlers, no real food or cooking, just processed crap and reheating. And the more people I talked to — teachers, school cooks, students — I realized how much they wanted to change the system and return to cooking and eating real food. I also saw many studies that showed the correlation between the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes with the increase in processed food. So I wanted to try and figure it all out, and the best way I know how to do that is film it and give people watching TV more knowledge so they can make different choices. It's sort of grown from England to America and around the world.
Jillian Michaels: Your show, Jaime’s School Dinners, was a smash in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Your American show, Food Revolution, has been critically acclaimed and even won an Emmy, yet still Americans are slow on the uptake. Why do you think that Americans have been seemingly resistant while the concepts of these shows have deeply resonated with people in other countries?
Jamie Oliver: I don't think Americans are resistant to the concepts at all. We have an incredibly active Web site and Food Revolution Facebook communities in almost every state in America. Americans care about the issues, absolutely. I think it's more a choice in what kind of television they want to watch. Food Revolution was a serious show that illustrated painful issues. It was sometimes hard to watch. Sure, there were great emotional moments too, but a lot of it is hard and makes you think. Sometimes it's easier to just change the channel. ABC was really brave to air it, and try and compete with Glee and your show too on Tuesday nights.
JM: What would you consider your greatest victory during the entire process of making Food Revolution?
JO: The greatest victory? That's a hard one. There were many, many small victories, and each one sets us up for the next fight. I am really proud that LAUSD removed the flavored milk from their service. More than 680,000 kids now won't be victim to all of that unnecessary sugar.
JM: Admittedly, that is an incredibly impressive feat. What do you consider the greatest struggle throughout the entire process?
JO: Kind of like the victories, there were so many struggles. We were trying to tell stories, and every day some other group told us that the story we were planning to tell was not going to be televised. I didn't know what I was going to be able to do from one day to the next. It was tough, and really exhausting and defeating at times. But we kept on and made a series that I am really, really proud of.
JM: I can only imagine, and I must admit that I have personally found it incredibly frustrating that the American government, on every level, has yet to pass policy that is truly helpful in providing adequate physical education and making healthy food accessible to kids in our schools. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you, but with that said, what solutions or steps can you offer to parents so they can protect the health of their child?
JO: Parents need to get educated about the issues and get involved. They can start by learning to cook a few simple dishes at home, so their kids get familiar with real food made from scratch. They can teach the children to make better choices — don't pick the chocolate milk. It's white milk only. And then they can start hooking up with other people in their community who are care about the same things. The Food Revolution Facebook communities are incredible groups of local people sharing stories and working together to improve school food, and the health of their kids.
JM: As I am sure you are well aware, for many Americans times are extremely tough. Do you have any tips for eating healthfully on a budget?
JO: Absolutely. Some of the best food I have ever eaten comes from some of the poorest places I've visited. The difference is that in those communities, cooking skills are still passed down and everyone knows how to cook. So that's the first thing. Learn a few recipes for some inexpensive healthy dishes. Start with an omelette, it's a beautiful dish, and eggs are very cost-effective. Add salad greens into your life. Or a little spinach wilted in a hot pan with a little olive oil and garlic. These aren't hard things to do and don't cost a fortune. Try to buy only things where you can actually identify what the ingredients are — ingredients that might have been found in your grandma's cupboard. Big stores in America are trying to do the right thing, and bring more fresh food, to more people for a fair price. That's the only way we're going to be able to make change. Big business has to decide that it's good business to have healthy customers. And we can help them do that by making different choices. If you stop buying processed foods, they will stop selling them.
JM: If you could make over America’s kitchens, what three things would you immediately toss? What three would you add in?
JO: I'd toss everything that looks like it was made in science lab and add in salads.
JM: You’ve spoken out about how you’ve successfully managed your ADHD with a healthy diet. I’ve also struggled with ADHD since childhood, so I truly get how challenging it can make everyday life. What are some tips or rules of thumb you can give to parents of children with ADHD or adults with ADHD?
JO: I'm not a doctor, so I can't make recommendations. However, after we changed school lunch in England and took out the processed foods and the sugar, teachers reported that kids were calmer and more able to focus on their lessons. I've got to think that's connected.
JM: So in wrapping up, forgive me for being cliche but I think in fairness it's something we all want to know: What's next for Jamie Oliver?
JO: I'm planning on opening up Jamie's Italian Restaurant in L.A. in 2012, and my book Jamie's Meals in Minutes comes out this fall.
JM: Congratulations! That's exciting news. Now when I call in for a reservation and they turn me, away I'm going to be able to throw your name around?
JO: Absolutely, I’ve got you covered.
Follow Jillian Michaels, New York Times best-selling author of Unlimited, on Twitter and Facebook, or visit her Web site, JillianMichaels.com
Interview reprinted on Living in the Kitchen with Puppies at the request of Everyday Health
Original publishing here.