Chuck Hughes – Nutrition Mission

Chuck Hughes may be a lot of things, but today he’s only interested in being a big kid. The Food Network star, Iron Chef America titleholder, restaurateur and author is kicking back to basics with the help of mini sous chefs outside Our Lady of Sorrows Elementary School in Etobicoke, Ont. Towering over the diminutive kindergarteners, he’s showing them just how fun veggies and fruits can be. And everyone’s asking for seconds. “Hey, hey, no double-dipping!” chides Hughes as he passes around sweet pepper sticks and a bowl of mayo topped with cucumber and chives. An advocate of Hellmann’s Real Food Movement, Hughes is in town to help launch Real Food Trips, a new initiative that encourages children to adopt healthy eating habits. And he couldn’t be more at home. City Life Magazine sits down with the tattooed chef to talk life, food and whether or not he’s still a bad boy.

ON WHY REAL FOOD MATTERS
“The real honest answer is that I’m kind of a product of the Real Food Movement, even though it didn’t exist back then. My real food movement was my mom, and you know, I’m lucky and blessed that I was raised in simpler times. I grew up in a small town about 45 minutes to an hour outside of Montreal. Back then, we didn’t have ready foods and all that stuff.”

ON THE GUILTY PLEASURES OF LIFE

“I had sweets like everybody else. They’re OK to have once in a while — I’m not completely lost — but I think kids deserve the chance to learn a little bit more about where foods, like vegetables and fruits, come from. The Canadian Food Guide can teach them about that. I think it’s about giving kids options and it’s about teaching them the beauty of food and how much fun it actually can be. If we can instill that into a kid at a young age, we’re doing it for the big picture: you’re doing your part for cancer, you’re doing your part for malnutrition, for diabetes. So you know, on a Saturday, when you’re watching a movie and want to eat chips, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, you know, not every day.”

ON ENCOURAGING HEALTHY LIFESTYLES
“Most of our problems come from not having a healthy lifestyle, not exercising, not eating properly. I’m not asking anybody to go above and beyond, I’m just saying take simple steps. How do you get kids to eat healthy snacks? If you cut that vegetable with your kid in the morning for his lunch, you make him wash the pepper, you make him clean it, cut it, guarantee you he’s going eat it and guarantee you he goes to school and talks about it; and it’s that kind of spark I want to provide for kids. I’m a big kid myself and that’s why I’m looking forward to having my own children because eventually, you know, this is something that I want to preach to my own children. It’s really about connecting kids with food that hasn’t been processed, and food that’s real. Hellmann’s is giving me the opportunity to do that. You know, Hellmann’s is a condiment. It’s been made the same way for a hundred years, and when you make a dip and you choose to dip vegetables in there, that’s a great choice. The dip we made today, I made it with a four-year-old. We can make healthy, great decisions and realize that it’s not complicated. Anybody can do it.”

ON SEVEN YEARS OF SOBRIETY
“I’m lucky that I had family and friends that supported me and that were able to help me along the way. Ultimately, you make your own decisions in life and you have to carve your own path. I think I’m probably even crazier now that I don’t drink because I actually know what I’m doing. Life has its ups and downs, whether you’re drinking or not, so you have to be able to deal with it. And it’s been an amazing, positive experience. I’m still bad in my own way, and you know what? Good is thenew bad.”

www.chuckhughes.ca

The Real Food Trips program, which provides grocery store tours led by registered dieticians, will be offered in select Ontario communities. To register, schools can visit www.fieldtripfactory.ca

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Amanda Storey

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