Cooking Up Healthy, Kid-Friendly Foods the Jamie Oliver Way

April 21, 2010

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

Last week's episode of Jamie's Food Revolution addressed a question about getting kids to eat healthy food. Do you give them the best healthiest “adult” food possible — things that I would want to eat — or do we take kid-friendly food and make it as healthy possible? 

There are arguments for both sides. Entire books have been written about how to “hide” veggies inside kid- friendly foods. But advocates on the other side are quick to point out that kids can and do learn best about vegetables if healthy food simply tastes good — and how can you learn to love veggies if they are always hidden?

This is a passionate issue in schools. Walk into many schools and you see students eating french fries, nachos and pizza for lunch. But what if these items were baked sweet potato fries, nachos made with a healthy vegetable chili topping, and pizza with whole-grain crust, low-fat cheese and lots of healthy toppings? The healthy versions wouldn't look all that different from what's currently being served. So is this approach too “dumbed down”, or does it provide viable healthy options that appeal to kids and support their long-term nutritional health?

Jamie's answer was simple: Let's do both. And I agree. Jamie made spaghetti sauce loaded with veggies served with buckwheat noodles. His version of nachos was made with veggie chili topping. And it was all served with a side of a fresh salad and whole-grain rolls. In Chicago Public Schools next year, they will be serving baked sweet potato fries (but only once a week at most mistake: limits on starchy vegetables like potatoes don't apply to sweet potatoes) and their pizza will be made from healthy ingredients. I actually got a chance to taste this pizza last week; it was tasty and not greasy at all.

I try to practice making both kinds of meals at home for my family, and I think it makes sense to practice it at schools too. Give healthy options, but make them accessible to kids, all while giving opportunities to learn, stretch and grow kids' food experiences. Food should be fun; food should be tasty; food should be made from quality ingredients; food should make kids expand their experiences. But I don't think we have to get rid of the pizza. And I think Jamie agrees.

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Jamie's Nachos: Make with lots of love and lots of veggies.

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Jamie's veggie-filled spaghetti sauce.

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 My tomato sauce from last summer.