April 16th, 2010
05:49 PM ET

3 questions with Jamie Oliver

If you still think of Jamie Oliver as The Naked Chef, you have some catching up to do.

That show gave Oliver his start, but he has since become a crusader for healthy food for schoolchildren. Starting in a school cafeteria in the Greenwich section of London, Jamie’s campaign to change the way British schoolchildren eat took him all the way to the halls of Parliament, resulting in the British government committing 650 million pounds to improving the school food program.

Now, Oliver has turned his attention to the United States – and in particular, the town of Huntington, West Virginia, deemed the most unhealthy community in the country.

A series of six shows detailing his work in Huntington titled “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” is airing now on ABC. Sitting down with Oliver, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta had a chance ask him about his goals:

Gupta: The average person comes into a grocery store here in the states to buy food. Are we doing something wrong?

Oliver: I think one of the problems that we've got is, generally speaking soft drinks, in my experience are being consumed instead of any form of water. Snacking is just an unpoliceable meal – it's just whenever they want, and rarely has that much food nutrition. Really, it normally is largely based on sugar. And the meals, when you get around to them, will either be a [take-out], delivery, or processed boxed foods. There's nothing wrong with nugget per se, there's nothing wrong with a burger per se, it's normally when you get the cheaper versions, they've got all the other bits in them as well. I mean, something like a burger can be four ingredients but why is there 40?

Gupta: The thing I keep coming back to is that nobody wants to do wrong by their kids I don't think, so where is the problem here? Is there someone who wears a black hat in this whole thing?

Oliver: No I think the black hat to be worn is in education. We haven't done enough in England or America about food education for 30 or 40 years. If you understand the basics of food from an early age – if you have an open-mindedness about food because you've been exposed to a lot from an early age, then it allows you to make different decisions as you grow older and have your own kids. The families I've worked with that have massive problems – they don't not love their kids – they love their kids – they know they're all obese including themselves and they know all the problems – they've seen all the statistics, but they haven't got the tools to sort of shop or cook their way out of it really.

Gupta: People say they don't have time, people say they don't have money to eat well.

Oliver: Shopping is where you're going to spend the second-largest amount of money in your own life – other than your own house and your kids- but shopping is a massive bill in your annual spend. The families I worked with [spend] $150 a week. That's eight grand a year, and that's proper money. That is buying versions of all of these things- buying cucumbers, we're buying lettuce, leeks, potatoes. There are little tricks you can do in supermarkets: The minute they bag it up and grate it, they're gonna charge you for it. The minute you take erratic sizes, it'll be much cheaper. Whatever's in season and local will be cheaper and of course when they're doing deals and bargains – buy one, get this free – you might not want free. What's the point in buying them if you don't want free in the first place?

To see more of Dr. Gupta’s conversation with Jamie Oliver, tune in to “Sanjay Gupta M.D.” on CNN at 7:30 a.m. ET, Saturday-Sunday.

Filed under: Body Image • Children's Health • Weight loss

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.