3 questions with Sam Kass

sam kass talking menu directions

Sam Kass, former White House senior policy advisor for nutrition policy and executive director of the Let’s Move campaign, spoke at FSD’s MenuDirections conference in February.

Q: What’s one of the biggest food-related problems facing our country?

A: Obesity is the No. 1 threat to national security—20% of what we’re spending on healthcare is due to obesity. This isn’t a policy problem. The root of our challenge is culture, and what we value in our food. The healthy choice needs to be the easy choice.

Q: What are some important steps to modeling healthy eating and creating change?

A: Every time you serve a plate, you’re teaching [diners]. You’re shaping tastes and preferences. I ask questions like, am I doing everything I can to give people healthy choices? Are there enough of those offerings? Can the dishes I’m serving right now be improved by a single ingredient switch? Is the signage promoting healthy foods?

Q: What are some healthy eating tips that busy chefs can apply to their own lives?

A: It takes conscious effort, and comes with a plan. I never go anywhere without two types of food bars; if I don’t, I make bad choices. My own strategy is a routine. Breakfast for me is the same thing every day—in the White House, it was a banana, coffee and oatmeal. If you’re cooking at home, I try to make leftovers and bring that with me [for lunch]. I eat what I see, so I try to make sure I’m surrounding myself with healthy choices. 

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