Feeding Our Future: Family Nutrition and the Obesity Epidemic with Maya Adam
So I just wanna begin by telling
you that I’m also a Stanford alum.
And as was already mentioned by Harsha,
I came to Stanford after a ten year
career in this professional ballet.
I think my parents were
They’re both academics,
they could not understand what have gone
wrong that I had made this decision.
But then after 10 years of doing this,
I was admitted to Stanford.
Probably the oldest freshmen
in the history of Stanford.
I was 27 in my first year, and then I
got a chance to go to medical school and
really have a second dream come true.
And after that I came back to Stanford and
I’ve been teaching on this topics,
child health and child nutrition.
And people asked me,
what is the most pressing issue in your
mind with regard to our children’s health?
And I say to them, without a doubt for
me the most pressing issue is
this environment of eating.
This culture of eating in which
our children are growing up.
The typical supermarket, these
are the processed food aisles at one of
the most popular super stores in America.
And a typical supermarket has about
47,000 processed foods available.
They are for the most part,
rearrangements of corn and soy.
And they give us the impression that
we have a huge amount of choice.
But in general, these are the foods
that we’re feeding on children, and
our children’s health is at risk
because of this eating environments.
So when I first came to
Stanford at the age of 27.
I saw pictures like this and heard phrases
like sociocultural determinants of health.
And I thought wow,
if I just keep my mouth shut,
maybe no one will notice that I’m
not as smart as everybody else.
And I will somehow manage
get my degree anyway.
But what I realise over time
was that all this means and
this what I tell my students.
Is what is it about the enviroment
in which are children are growing up
that is ether protecting them or
increasing there risk of disease.
So that’s how I presented
to my students now.
And it becomes especially
personal when you are raising
children in an environment, as I am.
And you start to look around
at that environment and
say, what is it about this environment
that is either protecting them or
putting them at risk for
poor health outcomes?
So let me tell you a story, because
stories are always the best way, right?
So this is a story about my three boys and
the culture of eating in
which they’re growing up.
They’re growing up in something that
could be described as a giant food
fair where processed food options
are available on every corner.
And it’s socially acceptable to
eat them at any time of the day.
I, as a mother, I’m expected to have
a purse full of snacks in ziplock bags.
So that at any given moment,
if my child howls,
I can pull out a bag of something like
goldfish crackers or gummy bears.
And quickly feed it to my child
to calm down that moment,
that potential tantrum, right?
Avoid disaster, then if we keep going and
looking at this environment,
my children are spending seven hours
a day or more at school, right?
And at school, for the most part,
they are being offered processed foods.
And that is not only feeding
them less than ideal nutrition,
it is also teaching them that these
are appropriate choices to make.
Big changes are underway
thanks to Michelle Obama.
In 2012, regulations came down from
above about the number of times a week
our children can be served french fries
and tater tots in their school lunches.
So thank goodness that we’re
moving in the right direction, but
I think we still have a ways to go.
If I keep on this path of describing
the food environment that my children
are growing up in.
We see a place in time
where parents are stressed.
They’re at work, they need something for
the children to do after
school when they come home.
After school activities are expensive and
they require somebody to
transport the children there.
Grandparents often are not as close
as they once were to help look
after the children.
So what we end up doing often is just
putting them in front of a screen.
Because it’s safe and
it keeps them happy where we can see them.
Now this is concerning for two reasons
because firstly, obviously they’re not
being physically active during this
time that they’re in front of a screen.
they’re being exposed to pretty
aggressive advertising for
in general, the wrong kinds of food.
So approximately $2 billion a year are
spent marketing foods to our children and
nobody monitors the nutritional
content of the food.
The food companies are supposed
to police themselves.
Children, it’s very hard for
them to rationalize, I know this food is
not good for me, it’s not appealing to me.
These are pretty aggressive
And then what we do is we take everything,
and we basically super size it.
Because of the fact that we live in
a part of the world where we value size,
we wanna feel that we are getting bang for
And so unfortunately,
that’s translated into larger
portion sizes of pretty much all of
the foods that we are eating and
feeding our children, and that leaves
us with a public health crisis.
It is a disease that really threatens
to leave our children with a shorter
life expectancy than their parents,
if we don’t turn things around soon.
Childhood obesity is associated with
a host of illnesses from high blood
pressure, high cholesterol,
heart disease, type two diabetes.
All of this diseases that we once
thought of as diseases of adult
hood that are now creeping into
younger and younger age groups.
The scary part of that as a parent is
that where gonna be seeing the side
effect of those diseases at a much
younger age than we would have
had these diseases started when a person
is in their older adulthood years.
And so that is very scary as a parent.
Here we are, this is where we are today.
We have an obesity rate in our children
of approximately 17% across all groups.
And this is how our obesity rates
look in terms of the adults.
This is us compared to
a few other countries.
We are now at 31.8% obesity
in the United States.
And then I ask myself,
how did we get here?
Because in the early 1900s, children of
America were actually underweight for
age, and I wonder how this happened to us.
So if you look back,
you will see in history that in the 1930s,
the government started
agricultural commodities to
schools that served hot lunches.
It was a way of addressing this
problem of underweight children,
of malnourished undernourished
children and it worked.
There was a wonderful sort of positive
image of this hot lunch program such that
the New Yorker called it the warm sun
around which American education revolves.
And to many, the school lunch program
maintained that positive image.
But what actually happened in the 80’s,
was that the fast-food
companies in the processed food companies
took over the school lunch program.
So that Monday was pizza hut day and pizza
hut would fund the new music program.
Friday’s was hamburger day.
Do you guys remember having hamburger day?
I remember it at my school.
And hamburger day would be
supplied by McDonald’s.
And McDonald’s would somehow get involved
in the school, build a new gymnasium.
And what happened in their
motivation was if we can get
these children to be brand loyal at
a young age, we’ve got them for life.
Because there’s a lot of research to show
that the foods that children learn to
prefer in childhood will be
the foods they prefer as adults.
And that that will be passed,
from one generation to the next.
There are actually animal models for this.
They took cats, and they train those cats
using stimulation of certain parts of
the brain, pleasure sensors in the brain.
They trained those cats to like
bananas over meat pellets.
So they train them to prefer
an inappropriate food.
And then what they found was when
those cats had kittens, the kittens,
without any intervention,
without any training or stimulation.
They went for the bananas as well.
Because they had tasted the bananas
presumably in the milk,
in the mother’s milk and
they had seen the behavior,
they had seen the mothers going crazy for
these bananas and they wanted to imitate.
So if we extrapolate that means that
we have powerful role models for
The foods that we choose will
likely be their choice as well and
the way in which we eat will likely be the
way in which they decide to eat as well.
So at present,
only about one third of American children
regularly sit down to a family meal.
And there’s a lot of data showing that
there are really protective factors and
benefits to sitting down together and
talking and sharing ideas.
So, I talk to hundreds of
families every year and
they tell me sometimes okay but
what am I gonna do.
My child will not eat
anything that’s not white.
If it’s not pasta, if it’s not white
bread, they just won’t eat it.
What am I supposed to do?
And that got me interested.
So, I started learning
everything I could about this
phenomenon called food neophobia.
And food neophobia is thought to
occur between the ages of two and
five when children hesitate or
refuse, flat out refuse,
to eat anything that they do not recognize
or that they have not tasted before.
It’s thought to be protective.
Because when a child is old enough
to toddle away from the mom,
you don’t want them to
go eat the wood chips.
You want them to eat something
that they know to be safe, right?
So, this brings with it,
of course, the responsibility
for us as parents to expose them to a
variety of things before this kicks in so
that they won’t be as phobic and
what of course we feed them.
What their pediatrician
recommended first food is this.
It’s big nutrition for
tiny tummies, apparently.
It’s got a happy baby on the front,
see there, a happy baby.
And what this is is actually
baby processed food, because it
converts into sugar very rapidly in In
the body of the child once they eaten it.
And so this is already sort
of less than ideal start, but
what is most interesting is that I
spent three months in South Africa in
2012 working with these children between
the ages of two and five years of age.
They interestingly and these were none
of these children were food insecure.
They all were eating five meals a day,
three meals and
two snacks, but
their meals at least two or
three of them were coming out of a single,
big, silver pot.
The pot of the school chef,
her name was Noyena, and she cooked for
those children sump and beans.
She sauteed spinach for them.
She cooked butternut squash for them.
Whatever came out of that pot,
t hese children would eat.
So I thought, wait a minute,
what if we take vegetables that they’ve
never seen before like broccoli and
bell peppers, because these children had
never eaten those vegetables before.
And guess what, if it came out of pot,
the plates came back clean.
So, this could mean a couple of things.
It could be the fact that these
are very polite children.
There were 95 of them.
Maybe, they had been trained.
This is a visitor, eat the food that
she cooks for six weeks, maybe.
It could also be the fact that in
an under resourced part of the world,
even though they weren’t food insecure,
they understood the value of food more.
But it could also be the fact that they
knew that anything that came out of
the trusted pot was safe to eat and would
be good for them and they would eat it.
Now, how do we get our children,
our preschoolers to eat?
Well, in 2007 Tom Robinson did
an experiment where he wrapped
foods in McDonald’s wrappers.
Or in unmarked wrappers and
guess what, our preschoolers
said across the board, that it tastes
better than McDonald’s wrapped food.
These were identical foods and
they ate more of the foods wrapped
in the McDonald’s wrapper.
So, have our processed food
marketing strategies works so
well that our children identify
foods wrapped in McDonald’s
wrappers as being safe and
desirable just as the South African kids
identified pot as being safe and
When I ask my students at Stanford,
smart Stanford students when I ask them,
You have a six month old I say And they
looked at me with terror in their eyes.
And I say, okay, now six month old,
this is their first solid food.
Are you going to feed them this or this?
And they are honest with me.
And all of the hands go up.
They will feed them this because,
I say, why?
Why will you feed them this?
Because it is safe, they say.
We don’t know if this
is safe to feed a baby.
This is baby food, right?
It’s got a baby on it.
It says baby food.
And so they’re gonna choose this.
Because we have been so
that we do not have the skills to create
our own food to feed our offspring,
that we need to rely on a processed
food industry to make that food.
Let me just tell you
these things scare me.
These are called toddler meat sticks.
On the front it says, turkey added
with canola oil packed in water.
So I’m thinking these are turkey sticks,
I look at the back,
the first ingredients are pork and beef.
Okay, so that’s strange.
These have a USDA stamp of approval on it,
there’s really a very happy and
healthy looking baby on here.
And these sticks which I bought, not
kidding you a year ago, I have been using
this jar as an example for one year,
and they’re still good and August 2014.
Now, from my students to
think that this is safer for
a child than something like this,
tells me that we’ve gone wrong.
Then I just wanna bring out again this
concept of portion distortion.
When we feed our children
bigger portions of everything
not only does it distort their idea of
what an appropriate portion size is,
it actually causes them to consume more.
In 1996 at Cornell University they did
a famous experiment where they took movie
goers and gave them popcorn either in
large buckets or in medium sized buckets.
The popcorn was stale,
purposefully it was state popcorn and
they asked people,
before hand how hungry they were.
They asked them to rate
their hunger level.
Now, regardless of how
hungry they were and
regardless of they were rated
the taste of the popcorn,
the people served in a larger
containers consumed more popcorn.
So we actually there’s good evidence to
suggest that we actually consumed more
when there’s more on our plate.
Just some little trivia for
you to get your minds working a bit,
cheeseburger 20 years
ago was 333 calories.
Just think in your mind what that might be
like today and I’ll give you the answer,
you don’t wanna take too long.
20 years ago,
a serving of spaghetti was 500 calories.
Now, 1025 calories,
a caloric difference of 525 calories.
French fries twenty
years ago 210 calories.
Today, almost three times 610 calories.
In a regular serving of french fries and
soda, of course.
We have to talk about soda.
85 calories 20 years ago and
the typical portion today is 250 calories.
And again, this is a big problem for
our children because the soda
industry is spending half a billion
dollars every year to market
directly to our children.
That’s just their budget for
marketing to our children.
Just to give you an idea,
the average American
consumes 130 pounds of sugar every year.
And preschoolers, just the preschoolers
are seeing about 213 ads
per year for sugar sweetened beverages.
So this is again one of the big
challenges we’re facing.
Now is it any wonder then that this
has led to a broken relationship
with our food?
I have a friend who moved here from China,
with her children and
our children became friends.
We went there for dinner one night.
She was mincing garlic while we stood
around and drink a glass of wine.
It was really lovely.
And she said to me in very simple english,
english is her second language,
she said to me, it’s strange.
In China we love food, food is part
of every celebration in every day.
She said to me, in America, people fear
food, they think food will make me fat.
And I thought to myself what
a powerful comment because
if we lose our relationship
with food we’re gonna pass on
that anxiety to our children and
that’s the last thing we wanna do.
We have to find a way to
make food celebratory
because it is one of
the great joys in life.
And so if we can find a way to go back
to basics this was the massive open
online course that we taught last spring.
And we basically encouraged parents to
celebrate food with their children.
It didn’t have to be high wire cooking.
It was simple.
Whatever you have in the kitchen, chop it
up, minimize the number of recipes and
ingredient lists you ever need to
deal with in your life but go for it.
Because this could be one of the most
powerful tools we have in the fight
against child obesity.
We can make this change happen because
we have an invested interest in the end
product when we get out our kitchen pots
and the processed food industry does not.
They have invested interest
in making a profit and
not in the long term
health of our children.
I wanted to just show you the trailer for
this course because we’re gonna be
offering it again in January
if any of you want to join.
Mix become socially acceptable to
eat it at any time of the day and
to feed it to our children
at any time of the day.
This is not a cosmetic problem
It’s not about teased at school.
This is a public health crisis.
You can protect your child’s health and
come together as a family.
Let me show you how.
Okay so we had really
a wonderful experience in fact
we have some people here
who are in the course.
We had more than 35,000 people’s sign
up to take the course from all around
And it’s funny because a lot of
the hesitancy to begin cooking at
home comes sometimes from a feeling
of firstly, I’m not trained.
I don’t have the training to make this
into something that’s better than this.
So that skill, that’s one barrier
that we need to overcome,
the perception that we
don’t have the skills.
People also think home cooking
is gonna be expensive.
I’m gonna have to buy a lot
of fancy ingredients.
And I don’t have necessarily
the financial backing to do that.
And thirdly, they think that somehow
this is gonna take a lot of time.
So I thought I would show you how
much time it takes to make baby food.
So what I did this morning when I woke up
is I took something that looked like this.
I wrapped in foil and
I put it in the oven.
That took maybe 15 seconds to do,
literally go squish,
oven, on, and walk away.
And then as I was leaving I picked it up.
And I put it in my bag.
Looks as though I wanna show you
how tricky it is to make baby food
So that the yam caught nicely caramelized.
I’m just going to pull the skin off here.
This actually smells really good.
Okay, so I’ve got my skin off
assuming I’m making this for
a six month old first solid foods.
Now I’m gonna take a fork and
mash that up.
Okay, guess what?
I’m done okay.
And this, I looked at my receipt.
This cost me $0.29.
This 129, and out of this I could make
at least two jars full of baby food.
So it is not time consuming, it is
not skill requiring and in many ways,
I think if people realized that it was
also economically a viable solution.
Now I’ve got sweet potato on my hands.
They would somehow make
the decision to try this at least.
It’s a powerful solution.
Now why are we doing this?
I think one of the most
powerful reasons for
considering a shift away
from processed food and
back into the kitchen is that,
these little people don’t have a choice.
We are making decisions for
them that will affect their health for
the rest of their lives.
And I know every parent I’ve ever met
has said to me, my children are the most
important thing in my life, I would
do anything to protect their health.
So, as a final word,
I would like to say that,
I respect that love that parents have for
And I think that can be harnessed
to really make subtle changes
that will support
the health of our children.
Cooking and eating at home
adds value to our lives, and
we can really take the power that
we have in that kitchen pot and
use it to protect our children.
So I wish for you all,
that you cook and eat and
enjoy together, and
thank you very much for listening.
I’ll take questions if you have any.
>>Yeah, its so frustrating when you read
books like WHOLE and China Study, and
you mentioned Cornell, Doctor Campbell.
I know he struggled for years,
he’s such a prominent scientist
at the public policy level trying
to take a top-down approach.
I totally agree, that’s only way to
change America is one person at a time.
As a physician,
I talk about my patients who wanna
know about what good nutrition is.
And they’re just starting with the nation,
I just applaud you in putting
this sort of thing together and
just would really like to emphasize,
is there a way that
medical systems and
universities can some how get together and
try to get the message out,
get the education to the people?
Because you’re just fighting against
the youths today, even the organizations,
it sounds like they should be
protecting our health, right?
Why the USDA and the National Cancer
Institute just can’t do it, or
just won’t do it.
There’s too much money at stake
that the meat and dairy industry,
the processed food industry,
like you say, is all profit driven.
So do you see a way through with your
educational efforts to get the word out,
not just to the students in the schools,
or the people who are interested?
Because this is probably
the choir you’re preaching to.
And just look at how many people are here,
it can get us down a little bit.
But everyday I’m motivated,
because I see it making a difference to my
patients when they
actually start cooking for
themselves, when they start moving
more towards a plant-based diet.
And they just say, wow, this is so easy,
how come nobody’s told me about this?
>>Yeah, and I think, for example,
the online learning platforms
that we now see emerging,
like Coursera and Open edX,
these platforms allow us to reach out.
If we do it in the right way,
in the right language,
we can actually reach the people
that need this message the most.
I think, the biggest challenge for us, as
educators, is to really make the message,
deliver it in a digestible form
that really is appropriate for
the broadest variety of viewer,
and not just for
people who are already highly
motivated and highly educated,
and are taking this because it’s
sort of validating for them.
And I think, so
we need to simplify things.
We need to make things accessible, and
enjoyable, and fun, and things that maybe
are, in terms of their time commitment,
realistic for working busy parents.
So I see great hope in online education
as a public health outreach tool, and
I think that we can make a difference.
And there are many organizations
now trying to encourage
people to cook at home.
There’s a magazine that I’m sure
you’ve heard of called ChopChop.
It’s all about how do we get children
engaged in cooking from an early age,
and there’s a lot of
creative stuff going on.
I think, we just need to be
the people who spread the word and
keep moving in this direction in
a positive way, and not in a punitive way,
because whenever you bring stress
into the equation with food,
it’s not a good combination.
So if we can keep things positive,
we have a better chance.
>>I just wanna say, I live in Portland,
Oregon, and what a lot of people in
Oregon are doing is they’re bringing
into the classroom in the elementary
schools and teaching the kids how to cook.
So that they’ll go home and
teach their parents how to cook.
And I’m a massage therapist,
and my platform,
because I do believe it takes each person
to change, is that I’m pregnant right now.
And when I have the baby, there’s
a program at the Natural Health Clinic and
it’s a Masters of Science in Nutrition.
And I feel like through my massage
clients, that are asking me,
because I have three major food allergies,
and they hear me talk about it.
I’m there resource to
try to help teach them.
And there’s a small group of people,
well a large group of people,
in Portland that are putting on classes
and making it very affordable, like $10,
and teaching people how to cook.
And it’s really amazing, and
I know that a big part of Portland is very
different from the rest of the country.
But I feel like anytime we can get out
there, and a lot of health coaches
are coming out, and it’s just, I’m also
gonna open a wellness center that’s
centered around food, and
lots of different other practitioners.
So that people come in on different
modalities, they have a place to go, and
there’s gonna be a kitchen in there,
and it’s just like, for me,
that’s how I’m gonna change
my small group of people.
>>And it’s actually interesting hearing
about what you’ve done on the web, because
also I’ve been hearing about being here.
And so now,
I’m gonna start looking into that,
is how can I get stuff on the web
to outreach other people.
>>So probably for you just networking
with other people that specialize in it,
and referring your clients to it.
>>I don’t know,
I guess maybe I’m a little more cynical,
in terms of, I work in public health.
>>So I feel like it’s very complex.
>>And every family is different,
and even from a parent perspective,
I have one child who is always
a little bit overweight,
now having to say as a teenager
you need to trim down.
And then, my daughters, same house,
same food, same school,
same every environment,one was
a little heavy, one was normal weight.
So it’s very complex, but
what do you think about the kids?
Cuz I feel like most people know
what’s healthy and what’s not,
maybe I’m naive, but people know,
except your students who picked the-
>>[LAUGH] The jar of baby
food over the yam.
[LAUGH] But, I think,
a lot of people know what’s healthy, but
it’s habits, it’s environment.
Like the pediatrician every year,
mom is she gonna tell me I’m fat again?
Every year it was the same thing,
they know, but it’s hard.
>>Right, absolutely and-
>>And how do you get to the kids?
>>Yes, and I think the key
here is to remain supportive,
nobody is being chastised.
The enviroment is an enviroment
that is obesogenic,
that is unhealthy for our children.
But, for example, if we can encourage
parents that even if their children
don’t want to eat the foods
that they know to be healthy.
If the parents eat those foods,
if the children are just visually exposed
to adults that they trust eating certain
foods, one day when they’re in college
making their own decisions, they will,
hopefully, make the right choices.
Even seeing foods,
there’s a lot of research that’s been
done at Stanford about reading books
about vegetables to children, and
how that can make them more adventurous.
So, I think also telling parents,
if you don’t get it right every time.
It’s okay if you only have
time to cook once a week.
That’s better than not cooking at all.
Freeze that soup in three
Tupperwares in the freezer, and
take it out on a couple
of nights of the week, so
that you can just make small
changes in the right direction.
None of us are perfect,
we are all struggling.
I know on my way home after a long
day at work when I’m tired,
I think, should I just stop and
pick something up?
I know that feeling and so,
I think just having that moment where you
think do I have the strength
today on this day to go home and
peel a carrot and
boil it and make some pasta.
Simple, do I have the energy in me?
And some days you’ll say no,
I just don’t have it in me.
And then go for it, choose try and choose
something that’s a little bit healthier,
if you’re gonna bring food in from home.
As choose the best food
that you can afford.
But I think,
it’s always kind of a balance.
People need to be aware
that every time they go for
that other option of going home and
just whipping up something simple,
they are making a difference that will add
up over time in their children’s lives.
That’s what I’m thinking.
It’s never gonna be perfect, and
I think we need to support parents.
Let them know that we understand
the pressures on them.
And that, they are doing a great job.
When I worked in South Africa,
the mothers would look at each other.
These were poor mothers,
they slept some of them five on
a mattress in a shack, in a township.
And those mothers would
look at each other and
they would say, you are doing a wonderful
job of raising these children.
And it touched me because, all I remember
from raising children at that young age
was other mothers saying,
can you believe she lets him eat that?
I can’t believe, and the kind of
judgment that we put on each other
because of the fact that we have so
much choice, and we’re insecure.
Are we making the right choice?
If I can put down somebody else’s choice,
then I’ll feel more secure
about the choice I’ve made.
And I think that, that does us no good.
We need to come together as a society,
a society of parents,
support one another, and say, you are
doing a great job in raising this child.
Let me help you.
How can we work together
to make this happen?
One, two, and three.
Can we take three more?
Can we do three more?
>>So my question is, what are you
thoughts about the standards that
are using nutrition’s office,
the BMI chart, the height chart.
We have five kids, and
they’re all different shapes and sizes,
we’re not big people.
But, our kids differ and we have a lot of,
there’s a lot of different genes coming.
>>So what are your thoughts on
the standards in the pediatrician’s office
that they use?
And then they see and
they’re like, I’m fat.
>>What are your thoughts?
>>Look, I think it’s never good for
a child to feel bad about the way they
look or that again, taking stress out
of the equation is always the preference
when we are talking about food.
And I think we need to emphasis health
at any size as long as a child is
offered a variety of nutritious foods,
it is up to that child to decide how much,
and which of those nutritious
options they wanna eat.
And then, as long as they’re
being physically active,
the recommendations are approximately
an hour a day, but that can be cumulative,
that can be ten minutes riding to school.
With another half an hour of PE,
it can be a sum total of 60 minutes a day.
If all of these things are in place and
we’ve eliminated the kind of 2 liters soda
and the potato chips then, you celebrate
the health of a healthy child and
that should be the emphasis,
in this family, we eat in a certain way.
We use moderation in all that we do.
And, we are healthy because
of the way in which we live.
I think that should be our emphasis.
Did you have one?
>>Well, that’s really specific.
We have a child who’s
genetically related to and
then one who’s adopted who comes
from a really heavy family.
>>And, so we’re dealing with,
we are trying to do keep a lot of
fruits and vegetables available, but
this specific question
has to do with bananas.
Because it fits into that.
[INAUDIBLE] Twelve bananas a day.
What is the nutritional, how does that
affect obesity with that particular food?
>>So in general,
I would say, there are no inherently
healthy or unhealthy foods.
The question is always, what would
you be eating instead of that food?
So for example,
if I deep fry potatoes in my home,
that is probably not as healthy as
a quinoa and cucumber salad, right?
But, if the alternative is
going to McDonald’s and
getting a Happy Meal, those home fried
potatoes are looking pretty good.
So, I think it’s about making
the better choice, and
children go through phases
when they crave certain food.
Maybe they actually need a nutrient in
that food, and if it’s bananas, if bananas
are the biggest problem you have,
>>I would say count yourself lucky.
[LAUGH] I got to go with the bananas.
But then, I also think children
should learn about moderation, and
how you know our bodies need some of
the certain thing, maybe have two bananas.
Maybe 12 might be a bit much for
Let’s try and moderate.
I think that’ the missing link in many of
our discussions around food is getting
back a culture that emphasizes moderation
over accessing any one direction.
Was there a question up there, yeah?
>>So public schools in this
country are providing breakfast and
lunch at a free or
reduced price to varying numbers or
percentage of children in their reg.
And, what I’ve seen is they’re
mostly giving them calories,
and not necessarily meeting,
really providing truly
nutritious high value food
that you’ve discussed here.
I’m curious, have you had the opportunity
to have conversations with decision
makers, who decide school lunch programs
about moving more in this direction?
I mean, I think certainly in Oregon,
full disclosure, I’m living there now.
I see a lot of schools
have little gardens.
And, the children in the lower grades
get excited when they’re eating
the vegetables that they saw in
the garden and they contributed to.
And that partly helps,
but I don’t everywhere.
I mean, have you had any success
in managing everyone who’s there?
>>Right, we have made as a nation, we’ve
made progress in the past couple of years.
In 2012, finally, the changes were finally
instituted in the school lunch act where
there were limits placed on, for example,
the number of French fries as I mentioned,
vegetables, there had to be certain
number of servings of vegetables.
And processed food was minimized by law
from the beginning of 2012 to some extent.
But as you’re saying,
it’s such a battle because, for example,
you heard the debate about,
does tomato paste constitute of vegetable
if it’s placed on pizza and it did.
And so, I mean, there are ways in
which these are powerful forces,
these processed food lobbyist.
And, because of the nature of that food,
because it’s heavily subsidized
food in terms of the raw material, the
corn and the soy, these foods are cheap.
And so the school lunch programs can
balance their budgets much more easily if
they’re focusing on processed foods.
And they’re saying,
this is all the kids will eat, well,
that’s a very hard cycle to break.
And I think, we’re moving in
the right directions slowly.
But I think in the interim, there is
a lot to be said for a home-packed lunch.
If you suspect that your
children are not being exposed to
the right choices at school, a home cooked
lunch is a way of sending a little package
of love into that seven-hour day of
stress and sitting and listening.
And I think that if we can do that
maybe even three times a week and
let them have the other food on the other
two days a week, that’s already better.
So I think the answer is,
it’s gonna take time and
we are moving in the right direction.
Michelle Obama has been extremely active
in trying to change these things, but
I think even her hands
are tied to some extent.
I mean, there was Michael Pollan’s book,
In Defense of Food.
In that book, he describes how
the medical recommendations,
we were not even allowed to
say cut back on red meat.
Instead, we had to say cut back on
saturated fat, which led to this
whole nutritionist mentality where
everything is now nutrients.
We can only talk about nutrients.
So that gives the processed food
manufacturers an even better chance.
Because what they can now do is strip
their foods of all the nutrients and
add back extra iron, extra B12.
Nobody knows what B12 does,
but guess what?
It’s posted big and bright on the cereal,
this now has added B vitamins.
And so parents think okay, well,
this must be good because it
has a nutrition claim on it.
So I think that we are fighting
a very big battle,
and I think we’re starting to
make progress but it is a fight.
And in the interim we need to protect
our children, because we can’t wait.
And the way in which we do that,
I think, is we go home and
we get those pots out and
we start using them.
Because that is a readily available
solution that’s also sustainable and
it’s sort of the best thing we can do for
I wish I had a better answer for you.
>>Okay, just to clarify,
I’m not worried about my child cuz
she’s not doing the school lunch.
She asked last week,
when can I do [INAUDIBLE]?
Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,
and we’re just ignoring it.
But I do worry, we have 47% of our student
population in her school gets free or
reduced price lunch, and
a number of kids getting served breakfast.
And the principal is very aware of
the gap that they’re trying to meet.
And I do live in a nice area,
which is funny [LAUGH].
>>So I worry so much about how
the people who can’t take the time or
think they can’t take the time, who
aren’t in the room here listening to you.
And their children are getting so
much of their food from the school,
and so okay, yeah, there’s no easy answer.
I wish I had a better answer for that.
I think also we have to remember that our
children are growing up in a culture,
it is their culture, right?
And we cannot isolate
them from their culture.
So some parents tell me,
when my children go to birthday parties,
they bring a watermelon with them.
And when the other kids eat the cake,
they have to cut the watermelon open and
eat the watermelon,
that’s all they’re allowed to eat.
I’m not sure that that’s right,
because I think our children need to
feel that they can fit in, it is
the culture in which they are growing up.
And I think if we teach them,
it’s okay when you’re at a birthday party
to have the cake, as long as you don’t
have a dietary restriction that
limits you from having the cake.
I mean, I have a real limitation, I have a
child with celiac disease, my middle one.
And so when he goes to birthday parties,
he really can’t have the cake.
And what I have started doing
is baking like two dozen really
nice homemade chocolate cupcakes, and I
send them with him to the birthday party.
So he can be like, I brought chocolate
cupcakes and they’re good, they’re
good chocolate cupcakes, but they’re
all made with homemade ingredients.
And then all the children can share and
he gets to feel like he’s having
something that all the kids are eating.
So I artificially create a situation
in which he’s not the pariah
getting the yucky food and not allowed
to have what everybody else is having.
And I think it is a balance
between allowing our children to
fit into the world that they live in and
educating them about moderation.
And about how these are the choices
that we make most of the time
because this is how our family does it.
And I’m getting a sign that
I think we have to wrap up.
It has been such a pleasure
to talk with all of you and
I hope I will get a chance to
correspond with you more in the future.
Thank you very much and
enjoy the rest of your weekend.