By Sharon Tanenbaum
British chef Jamie Oliver is out to revolutionize school lunches once again. After taking over the school cafeterias in Huntington, W.Va., last year in the first season of his Emmy award-winning reality show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," now he's knocking on the doors of the Los Angeles school district for the second season, which premieres April 12 on ABC at 8 pm ET.
Last year, Oliver stormed the schools of Huntington, which was named the unhealthiest city in 2008 based on statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). He overhauled school menus, convinced children to eat (and enjoy) more vegetables, and opened a community kitchen to serve healthy meals to families. More than a year later, Oliver's nutrition lessons have had a lasting effect. "Everything that we set up and everything that we did is still running there," he said in a telephone news conference. What's more, the Naked Chef author has gotten the whole community - including neighboring towns - on board: "Even the next district over has started to roll out fresh food in the schools," he said.
After setting healthier nutrition standards for the schools in Huntington, Oliver set his eyes on Los Angeles, which feeds more than 500,000 children, most of whom are from low-income families and are at a higher risk for obesity. "Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second biggest school system in the country, so if we can do a tiny change here for the better good, that's big," said Oliver. Making improvements in Los Angeles schools has the potential to inspire the rest of the state and the world, he added.
As Oliver struggles to get LAUSD officials on board with his food revolution in the premiere episode, he insists that every family is capable of overhauling its own eating habits, beginning with your next grocery store trip. Here's how:
3 Ways to Start Your Own Food Revolution
- Know what you're eating. In addition to making school lunches healthier, Oliver wants to help Americans become savvier about food - including where it comes from and how it affects your body. He emphasizes fresh, locally grown foods instead of packaged, processed ones that may contain filler ingredients with no nutritional value. Although it may be cheaper or easier to load your freezer with ready-to-serve foods, Oliver encourages families to invest in their health and take the time to cook fresh meals as often as possible. If frozen chicken nuggets are one of your grocery-list staples, for example, consider making your own with fresh chicken cutlets. Offer the kids oatmeal for breakfast instead of pop-in-the-toaster pastries.
- Don't obsess over fancy food labels. Sustainable, organic, free range: While these are all hot trends now in the food world, Oliver would rather see families just focus on buying more fresh foods than get caught up in deciphering such "healthy" labels.
- Cook with your kids. Eating meals as a family has proven benefits (studies have shown kids who eat with their families get better grades and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol than those who don't), but preparing meals together may be even better. Cooking can encourage kids to try healthy ingredients they otherwise wouldn't touch and teach them about proper portion sizes. It's also a fun way for you to bond. And you'll arm teens with skills they can use to prepare healthy meals after they've flown the coop for college or to live on their own. Give each kid their own age-appropriate job: For example, little ones can rinse vegetables while older kids saute them.
For more visit the Everyday Health Kids' Health Center.MORE FROM EVERYDAY HEALTH:
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