Simple Secrets to Eating Well: 9 Questions for Jamie Oliver
Host of the Emmy Award-winning Jamie’s Food Revolution and one of the world’s best-loved TV chefs and food author, Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” restaurant group provides training for young people in locations around the world. Here he reveals the first step in helping kids grow up healthier.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I wasn’t very academic in school, but luckily I loved cooking and was good at it so I decided to go down that road. I was also lucky to have a brilliant mentor like Gennaro Contaldo to inspire me.
What gives you a sense of purpose?
Having kids definitely focuses you, as does working with an amazing team of people.
Do you have a favorite plant-based meal?
Spring minestrone with homemade pesto.
What’s your best advice for people trying to eat a more plant-based diet?
Eat the rainbow. Mix up your choices as much as you can, eating veggies and fruits of all different colors because they all contain their own cocktail of wonderful vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. And eat seasonal foods if you can because they will probably be cheaper, and definitely at their best.
Which public health policy do you think will have the biggest impact on childhood obesity and why?
There isn’t really one magic fix. You have to have several interventions in order to make a big difference. But a great start would be a tax on soft drinks with added sugar, just like they’ve done in Mexico, with all the funds ring-fenced for food education and health initiatives in schools and the health system.
What do you suggest parents should do to get their children to eat better?
There are loads of things you can do. First of all, start them early. When you’re weaning, make sure you’re exposing your kids to different veggies and encouraging them to experience different tastes and textures. Always lead by example – this is really important. If kids see their parents eating and enjoying salads, fruits, and healthier choices, then they’re more likely to copy them. Also, get your kids involved in the cooking and preparing meals early, so long as it’s safe. I started my kids tearing up herbs as soon as they could understand what they were supposed to do. Nowadays, Buddy – who just turned five – is a little ninja when it comes to herbs. He knows them all by taste, smell, and look. I bet there are not that many adults that can say that!
A lot of your efforts are revolved around getting people into the kitchen. How do you suggest busy families with limited free time start making home cooked meals?
One of the things that I hear a lot is “ I don’t have time to cook”. To be honest, that’s why I wrote a book called 30-Minute Meals. After that was published, I had loads of people on my social media saying, “Thanks, Jamie, that’s great, but can you make it even quicker?” That’s when 15-Minute Meals was born, and what’s great is that all the recipes in there are super-nutritious too. There’s no time limit on the recipes in my latest book, Everyday Super Food, but I have tried to make everything as simple and easy to cook as possible, so a lot of them have ended up quite quick too. You really can rattle out a delicious, nutritious meal without too much time and effort, just keep it simple. There’s lots of quick recipes on my website too, which you can get for free.
If you could change one thing about the school food environment, what would it be and why?
I would remove all sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks from schools – and that includes banning them from lunch boxes brought in from home. I would ensure that every schoolchild had access to fresh water fountains at school. Kids should be hydrating with water, not sugar. It’s mad that we’ve got to a place where sugary drinks are causing so many problems.
If you could give one piece of advice to people, what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.