Most Important Dads in the Food World

DadA list of the 15 Most Important Moms in the Food Industry has generated quite a bit of discussion in my Twitter and Facebook feeds.  One of the moms recognized, Bettina Siegel of The Lunch Tray, described it this way:

On a related note, throughout the day yesterday I was engaged in an interesting discussion on Twitter with colleagues Casey Hinds, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, Michele Simon, Andy Bellatti and Nancy Huehnergarth regarding this very notion of “mom activists,” as well as whether it’s OK to call someone a “mommy blogger,” whether women activists are marginalized when they highlight their personal motivations, what motivates each of us to do what we do, and more.

As Christina Le Beau of the Spoonfed put it:

It’s too easy for food manufacturers and marketers to ascribe a mother’s activism to emotion, to marginalize a woman’s concerns as the issue du jour, lasting only so long as her own kid is in diapers, in school, in sports, whatever. Language matters. Label a kid a “picky eater” or reduce a female activist to “mom,” and you diminish the complexity of who these people are.

I understand how the mom label can be used against us but would hate to see people underestimate our power as advocates.  The food movement will need lots of foot soldiers who will do the uncomfortable things like speaking up at PTA meetings, question serving soda at school parties, advocate to end junk food marketing to kids, etc. The food industry recognizes the relevance of the role of parents as nutritional gatekeepers and works hard to circumvent us.  We must empower more parents to maximize our influence in this role, not just for the good of our own children but others as well.
Does the food movement need to starkly divide the work of professional advocates/activists and non-professionals?  Society values the work of professionals like doctors and lawyers much more than the work of parents, but having been a parent and a professional, I value them both.  Each role brings strengths to the movement and some people serve dual roles.  Neither of those roles should be diminished but both should be celebrated.  Let’s also celebrate the important work of those advocates who are not parents (Michele Simon and Andy Bellatti come to mind).
Personally, I would love to see framing a man’s activism as part of “the dad sector” and we should be elevating the importance of the hard work of parenting.  It’s a crucial piece to the growing food movement and I’d like to recognize some of those dads who are passionate about creating a healthier food environment for kids.

Peter Attia: Nutrition enthusiast, president of NuSI ( ), author of blog, self-experimenter, cyclist, swimmer, tire-flipper, obsessed with OMA

How do two genetic outliers treat their genetic hybrid (i.e., our daughter)? I’ve written about this previously.  In short, we limit the sugar she eats in our house, but not so much outside of the house (e.g., birthday parties).  I estimate she eats about 25% of the sugar a “normal” kid does.  There is no doubt she loves it, and even a week ago when we went on a daddy-daughter date, I got her ice cream with sprinkles for dessert (the irony of me carrying a bowl of sprinkle- and Oreo-covered ice cream through a crowded restaurant was not lost on me).

What does amaze me is how it seems to override her senses…This does not seem “normal” to me, and for this reason I guess I refuse to accept, personally, that sugar is just a benign empty calorie.  But, one day our daughter will have to decide for herself where she lies on the distribution and how much she cares to do anything about it. Until then, we’ll save the chocolate broth for special (and not too common) treats.

Robert Lustig: Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology and a member of the Institute of Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).


You have two children at home. Do you let them eat sweets?


So, first of all, my wife is Norwegian. She bakes for therapy. When she’s mad at me, she bakes. That’s how she gets her aggression out. But she only bakes once a week, and the kids only get fresh cookies. We never buy store-bought. Ever. And when my wife bakes five-dozen cookies, she gives them out to the rest of the block. We keep about a dozen cookies for ourselves and for the kids.

My wife has learned by experimenting that she can take any cookie recipe, any cake recipe, and reduce the amount of sugar by one third, and it actually tastes better, and it doesn’t ruin the texture. If you go down by a half, then it does. But if you go down by a third, the cookies still come out just as good. And you can taste the chocolate, the nuts, the oatmeal, the macadamia – whatever is in it. So it’s actually better, and the kids get it as a treat. On weekdays, when they want something sweet, it’s fruit. On the weekends, they’re allowed cookies. So we’re not militant. We’re toeing the line.

David Katz: Director, Yale Prevention Research Center; Principal Inventor, NuVal; Editor-in-Chief, Childhood Obesity

I suppose it’s only fitting that I am writing this on Father’s Day. My wife, Catherine, and I have five kids. And while, for them, Father’s Day is presumably about me; for me, it’s all about them. I am a father because of them…We shouldn’t regulate “kids'” food; we should eradicate it. Food is food, and the kids of every species learn to eat the food on which lifelong vitality depends. We make an exception of ourselves at our all-too-evident peril.

Jamie Oliver: A British chef known for his television series The Naked Chef and for campaigning for healthier diets in school children.

You have three daughters under the age of 9. Is there a food you won’t feed them? I am not the food police. I grew up eating everything from fresh veg and fish to ice cream and cheap chocolate bars, and my girls are the same. They’ll try pretty much everything that my wife, Jools, or I cook for them. As parents, we can encourage our kids to try many different things and to help choose and prepare food. Hopefully they’ll build up their knowledge of flavors and grow up able to make better choices.

Yoni Freedhoff: Obesity MD/Ottawa U. Prof./Dad//Speaker/Author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work (On Shelves March 4, 2014)

I have three lovely little girls who range in age from 3 to 8. All three go to school, participate in organized, after-school activities, enjoy birthday parties and play dates, and have a cadre of friends. And everywhere they go, they’re being smothered with junk…There’s simply no occasion too small to not warrant a junk food accompaniment. But for me, the strangest part of all is the outcry that occurs if and when I point it out. My experiences have taught me that junk food as part of children’s’ activities has become so normalized that my questioning this sugary status quo genuinely offends people’s sensitivities and sometimes even generates frank anger.

Aaron Flores: Registered dietitian and foodie who believes in Intuitive Eating and #HAES, helping you make peace with food with a little balance variety and moderation.

My wife and I share a lot of responsibility with our twins…I’m doing my best to raise my kids as intuitive eaters and I believe in the principles I’ve learned from Ellyn Satter.  My kids have eating habits that I’m proud of and I do not deny them any shortage of play foods inside and outside of our house but in the end the issue is this: when I see bright blue faces when I pick my kids up from school, a part of me feels like the hard work I’m putting in is being unintentionally undermined.

Michael Pollan: Author of Cooked; Food Rules; In Defense of Food; The Omnivore’s Dilemma; The Botany of Desire; A Place of My Own and Second Nature.

Pollan also encourages Isaac to cook and experiment with new tastes in the process. As part of earning his allowance, Isaac cooks one meal a week, with his father’s assistance. “Cooking is a great way for people to learn an appreciation for food,” says Pollan. Complicated dishes can be mysterious to kids. “They think, ‘What is this stuff?’ But if they actually prepare it themselves, they know exactly what it is.”

Daniel Flanders: Dad. Husband. Pediatrician w/special interest in primary care, nutrition, obesity, feeding problems & eating disorders. Discovering that I like to write.

This past Saturday, my wife, two kids and I woke up to a beautiful warm sunny morning and decided to spend the day at Canada’s Wonderland (CW)…So why this rant?  To confiscate outside food but prominently offer healthy food choices – even at inflated prices – would be justifiable. Alternatively, offering crap at outrageous prices could be justified if, as an alternative, families were allowed to bring food from home.  But to combine ‘no outside food’ with ‘outrageously unhealthy options’, at ‘criminally high prices’ is a triple-foul that, in my opinion, crosses a threshold of acceptability. CW can always say that they’re not in the health food business.  Fair enough.  But I suspect they don’t consider themselves to be in the ‘Slowly Killing Children‘ business either.

I’m sure I have left many others off this list and please post your suggestions in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Most Important Dads in the Food World

  1. Another great post, Casey. Regarding feeling undervalued by the term ‘mom activist’; not on your life. Being a mom is the best gig I’ve ever had and I am proud and grateful to be in the camp. If those we’re pushing back on want to interpret it as somehow demeaning, let them. It doesn’t change what we do. Haven’t they heard one should never underestimate an enemy?

  2. Good list! And this topic of labels is clearly an important conversation we need to be having more frequently (as the twitter convos and posts on Bettina’s page can attest!). I’d think of adding Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) – he’s a father, and that book played a pivotal role getting the ball rolling for the current food movement.

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