Eating farther down the food chain

Friday, March 26, 2010

Good luck, Jamie.

British reality chef Jamie Oliver stars in his new "Food Revolution" show on ABC Friday nights, aiming to change the way America eats.

Like we said, good luck.

We admire his effort, but we also have sympathy for the jaded lunch ladies in Huntington, W. Va. -- once called the "unhealthiest" city in America -- who watched him struggle to prepare acres of fresh food on budget only to see the vast majority of it dumped into the garbage after the lunch hour.

Like so many other efforts at social reform, Oliver's ambitious project attempts to use schools to achieve its goals. In reality, the American diet is defective from BPA-contaminated baby bottles to the trans-fats in the doughnuts retirees enjoy with their artificially-sweetened morning coffee. School lunches are an easy target, but they're far from alone when it comes to providing heavily processed food.

Institutional dietitians know how hard it is to meet federal guidelines while coming on budget for both food and the labor it takes to prepare it.

Add to that the struggle to provide something diners will enjoy, and you see the problem.

But there's no doubt the American diet is too high in fat, sugar, salt and processed food, as evidenced by the number of us who are overweight and who suffer from diet-related illnesses like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

All of us would do better to eat farther down the food chain, dining on fresh fruits and vegetables and home-cooked meals from raw ingredients. One simple yardstick is to look at your plate: half of it should be covered with vegetables, a fourth of it bread or pasta, and a fourth of it meat.

First lady Michelle Obama's emphasis on healthy eating is something we can all get behind, including her planting of a vegetable garden on the South Lawn and her "Let's Move" campaign aimed at school children.

March is a good time to think about planting a garden of your own, providing a chance to introduce fresh produce into your menu at a bargain price.

If Jamie Oliver, Michelle Obama and others like them are successful, perhaps it won't be impossible to persuade the next generation of school children to choose health fresh fruits and vegetables instead of the salty, fatty, fare they now prefer.

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