Jamie Oliver Makes a Point

Why would someone want to dump 57 tons of white sand into an old school
bus? To make a point. The point being to demonstrate how much sugar schoolchildren in the
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest in the U.S., consume every
week just from flavored milk served in school meals. The sand in the school bus stunt was part
of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s attempt to confront LAUSD, which refuses to allow his ABC film
crew to shoot in public school cafeterias. As of this writing, Oliver, in his second season with the
U.S. broadcast of “Food Revolution” has taken to the streets of LA with outdoor student cookoffs
and cooking classes on wheels in an effort to teach kids about nutrition.
Better nutrition for school kids is also the aim of science-based Dietary Guidelines for
Americans, released January 31, 2011 by the Departments of Agriculture and of Health and
Human Services. (1)
But will kids eat healthier food, and what about drinking water in place of soft drinks? Louise
Esaian, who oversees the food service program for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) told Chicago
Tribune reporter Monica Eng that while 70 percent of students choose to eat lunch at school that
introducing new concepts is challenging, especially if healthful options don’t actually taste as
good as processed food. According to the Tribune report, CPS brought back a spicy chicken
patty sandwich in all district high schools during January 2011, because of sagging lunch sales.
Tribune reporters watched nine of 10 students in the lunch line at North-Grand H.S. chose the
less healthy, processed spicy chicken option with the addition of ketchup or barbecue sauce and
pickled jalapeno pepper rings containing more than 1,100 mg of sodium, or two-thirds the daily
recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most parents know that processed food with loads of salt tastes better compared to vegetables
with no salt. So chefs pushing a healthier way to eat conclude that because it takes far less
sodium to make dishes like rice and beans or broccoli palatable to students than what is used in
processed foods, that it’s okay to add a little salt to fresh veggies.
Nutrition expert Jane Brody of The New York Times advocates gradual adaptations. She wrote
recently that, “Moderation, rather than constant deprivation and denial, is the key to a
wholesome diet that you can stick with and enjoy. I say this with confidence because I’ve lived
this way for most of my adult life and I’ve watched my sons do the same for more than four
decades.” (3)
“We get so much health advice on how to eat 100 percent perfect,” Clint Carter, contributing
editor to the “Eat This, Not That,” published by Rodale Inc., recently told Barb Berggoetz in an
article published by The Indianapolis Star. Instead of approaching food as an all-or-nothing
transaction, Carter recommends making smarter decisions.
Eating at a restaurant, even at fast-food places, Carter said, doesn’t mean you have to load up
on high-calorie and high-fat food. “You can make smart decisions. It doesn’t have to completely
derail your diet. And if you want to eat a TV dinner, it isn’t dietary suicide.”
He says that making good food choices at grocery stores and restaurants, even, quick-service,
fast-food restaurants, can be agonizing; but that making simple swaps and watching a few key
nutrients — saturated fats, sodium, fiber and sugar — and cutting back on certain ingredients
and portion sizes can go a long way toward creating a good diet. “Even if you don’t make the
optimal choice every time, better options exist that aren’t gut-busting, high-sugar, high-fat and
low-fiber choices,” he told Berggoetz. (4)
In her column, Brody added that, “Among the guidelines, which combine the goals of fewer
calories — and especially nutrient-poor calories from sugars, fats and refined grains — with
more emphasis on nutrient-dense foods, is this beverage tip, ‘Drink water, calorie-free
beverages like coffee and tea, and 100 percent fruit juice instead of regular sodas, fruit drinks
and energy drinks; limit alcoholic drinks to one a day for women, two for men.”
(1) http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf
(2) “You can lead kids to broccoli, but you can’t make them eat,” February 20, 2011: http://
(3) “A Simple Map to the Land of Wholesome,” Jane. Brody, February 14, 2011: http://
(4) Simple food swaps can help you build a better body,” Barb Berggoetz in an article for The
Indianapolis Star February 14, 2011: http://www.indystar.com/article/20110218/

Photo Credit: Amy Scattergood, LA Weekly.

About Me

Jonathan Hall is a drinking water advocate. He blogs at hallwater.com and has worked as an independent strategy and social media content consultant.