Now, I’ve not been one to jump on the foodie train. I don’t believe in a vegetarian diet because I know the nutritious benefits of meat and animal products. I don’t believe in a vegan lifestyle because I raise livestock and know my animals are cared for well and in return they will provide many products for my daily life. I support local food, but believe in producing in large quantities to provide for a global market. But knowing how to make better food choices and the origins of my food is certainly something I can encourage.  Jamie Oliver is promoting similar ideas on his ABC show Food Revolution. As he puts it our eating habits need to retain as “sense of balance.”

Not sure if you’ve seen the show, and I certainly would not have looked it up. But I turned on the tv one Friday night, Jamie’s show was on, and could not change the channel once I started watching. Jamie (British Chef) is in Las Angeles for the seconds season of the show, working to fight obesity, heart disease, and diabetes in Americans. Using the fact that today’s school-age children will be the first generation to not outlive their parents, Jamie is working to change the meals served in public schools. But the Las Angeles school district will not even let him or his cameras in the kitchen or even let him ask about the meals served because the meals “meet all nutritional guidelines” and the district claims there is nothing wrong with the meals served. So Jamie asks, why can’t we serve better food?

Jamie’s efforts to make Americans more aware of their food is a great thing. Any effort that makes consumers examine their eating habits is a good thing, but are the fear tactics and demonstrations he uses really necessary? What are his positions on food production practices? Maybe these tactics are what we need because there are millions out there that are far removed from food production, farming, and ranching.

At first I thought Jamie was all about the whole foods movement and I hesitated at the idea. A large part of his show is about food education and knowing what we eat. Something farmers and ranchers are working to do, right? What I found most interesting was the 17-year-old students thinking that Butter came from sweet corn, Cheese from macaroni, Cocoa from a cocoa lake, and guacamole from an apple. Last season Jamie showed how elementary students could not identify a fry as coming from a potato and even mistaking a tomato for a potato. It strikes me as out-of-this world, but I did not grow up in an urban environment.

Here is what Jamie shares as his “Food Philosophy”

My philosophy to food and healthy eating has always been about enjoying everything in a balanced, and sane way. Food is one of life’s greatest joys yet we’ve reached this really sad point where we’re turning food into the enemy, and something to be afraid of. I believe that when you use good ingredients to make pasta dishes, salads, stews, burgers, grilled vegetables, fruit salads, and even outrageous cakes, they all have a place in our diets. We just need to rediscover our common sense: if you want to curl up and eat macaroni and cheese every once in a while – that’s alright! Just have a sensible portion next to a fresh salad, and don’t eat a big old helping of chocolate cake afterwards.

Knowing how to cook means you’ll be able to turn all sorts of fresh ingredients into meals when they’re in season, at their best, and cheapest! Cooking this way will always be cheaper than buying processed food, not to mention better for you. And because you’ll be cooking a variety of lovely things, you’ll naturally start to find a sensible balance. Some days you’ll feel like making something light, and fresh, other days you’ll want something warming and hearty. If you’ve got to snack between meals, try to go for something healthy rather than loading up on chocolate or potato crisps. Basically, as long as we all recognize that treats should be treats, not a daily occurrence, we’ll be in a good place. So when I talk about having a ‘healthy’ approach to food, and eating better I’m talking about achieving that sense of balance: lots of the good stuff, loads of variety, and the odd indulgence every now and then.

Watch the video clip above and let me know what you think of Jamie’s work. What’s wrong with a little more food education in our schools? Maybe it’s not the right approach to raising food awareness, but are other methods working?