Jamie Oliver: Cooking for Your Life

Jamie Oliver (photo courtesy of ABC)

Could 10 recipes save your life? Jamie Oliver thinks so. The famed British chef, and star of the new ABC reality series, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, says a few simply made meals are all it takes for your family to start living a healthy life. "If you've got the knowledge of a small amount of recipes, you've got what you need to make healthy choices."

In his new series, airing Fridays at 9|8 pm through April, Oliver takes on the city of Huntington, W.Va., and tries to convince its residents that there is a better way to eat. For Oliver, it's less about how much people eat, and more about the nutritional value of what they put in their mouths. "I've never written a diet book in my life. And the show is about a million miles away from a diet show. It's about health and awareness."

Sounds simple enough, right? Not exactly. He says the problem is that many Americans lack basic cooking knowledge. "We now have three generations of parents who haven't had cooking passed down to them. They can't cook and don't know how to shop."

Daunted by the idea of making a home-cooked meal, we often turn to packaged, processed foods -- the kinds of products Oliver says are directly responsible for the obesity epidemic in this country. "If you look at processed food, it's all pre-made, pre-shaped, pre-processed. You don't know where it's come from."

Healthy eating starts with raw ingredients, Oliver explains. "Look, there's nothing wrong with chicken nuggets. You've just got to be clever about how you make them. It's about ingredients you turn into something, rather than a box you read."

Although some fresh and organic ingredients can be costly, Oliver says there are tricks to help you spend less. "It's about shopping in a cunning way -- knowing how to stretch meat and fish so it goes further." Done right, Oliver maintains that families can actually save money at the register. "Any family I've worked with who has gone from processed food to fresh food has saved $100-$200 a week. For a family of four, it's easy to save that much."

And once you get all that fresh food home, start with the basics. "Very simple, principle recipes: a stew, a roast, pasta sauces, a stir-fry, good salads." These recipes are the foundation of the home-cooked meal, and they don't have to take hours to prepare. "If you can cook," Oliver says, "there are 10-minute meals."

In teaching people these basic recipes, Oliver hopes to spread this fundamental cooking knowledge through a grassroots, people-centered movement he believes will lead us toward a healthier America. "Information is great, but it's really skin-on-skin, and people-on-people, and friend-on-friend; it's that that really makes a difference."

Kids have always been at the center of Oliver's campaign to encourage people to eat healthy food. It began in his native England when, appalled by the food British schoolchildren were being served, he set out to transform the school lunch system in the UK. He succeeded. Now he hopes to do the same here in the U.S.

His ally in this fight? Parents. "All I want is for parents to expect more and want more, because they deserve more. Parents really have to understand that their opinion and the things they say really do count. I've seen it happen in England. When parents get together and start asking principals what's happening and what's in the school food, extra funds do appear out of nowhere."

And it's not just in schools that Jamie says parents can, and should, have a voice. "Even fast food companies and big brands do start to change, because ultimately the most important power is people and the dollar. And if parents are even thinking about spending that dollar elsewhere because they care about food, these baddies will have to reformulate and re-think things."

The stakes are high. This is the first generation of kids predicted to have a lower life expectancy than their parents, Oliver says. But the steps are simple. It starts with basic knowledge and higher standards. "All you've got to do is open your mouth and have an opinion, and expect more, really."

Click here to join Jamie's Food Revolution and demand fresh food in schools.

Text "Jamie" to 22288 to sign the petition from your mobile.

Click here to see Jamie's healthy recipes.

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