Michelle Bridges: "They don’t call it 'spring' for nothing. It’s the season to propel yourself headlong into physical activity."

"Unless parents lead by example and eat vegetables themselves, it won't work" … Michelle Bridges. Photo: Ellis Parrinder

Okay, so let me get this straight. Kevin Volpp, a visiting professor from the US (Utah, to be precise), reckons that if you pay kids 25¢ each school day to eat a serve of fruit and vegetables, they will significantly increase their consumption of both. And he says we should have a crack at it here in Australia because in Utah, where this experiment was conducted, when they stopped coughing up $1.25 a week to their little darlings, a full 60 to 65 per cent of them carried on hooking into the fruit and veg.

The idea, pitched at governments, has received a mixed response, with dietitian Dr Rosemary Stanton throwing her support behind it but other health authorities not so keen. Personally, I'm with the National Heart Foundation's Dr Rob Grenfell, who says that unless parents lead by example and eat vegetables themselves, it probably won't work.

In fact, I'd go one step further and say it definitely won't work.

Choy sum with chicken and soba noodles.

Choy sum with chicken and soba noodles. Photo: Lisa Cohen

Picture this: "Dad, can I have one of your chicken nuggets?"

"No, son - how's your vegetable frittata and side of beans going?"

My mum would routinely strike down upon me with great vengeance and furious anger (to paraphrase Pulp Fiction hit man Jules Winnfield) if I didn't eat my vegetables (to the extent that now I enjoy them daily), and she never gave me a cent, dammit.

So it raises the question: when should governments get involved in what we eat? And should they be taking money from us for making bad food choices, or giving it to us for making good ones?

I may not have any qualifications in political science but, as a responsible Gen X girl, I would think that a principal role of government is to provide the community with services it can't provide for itself. In that basket I'd put providing resources to support people to make healthy food choices.

Another role, I would imagine, is to raise money through taxes to pay for the expense of running the place and looking after the well-being of the electorate. If you subscribe to a user-pays system, this would entail taxing unhealthy food to offset the hospital bills that follow.

But here's where it gets blurred. The distinction between guidance and support, and teaching people by example the benefits of healthy food choices, is a significant one. That's where personal responsibility comes in, or, in the case of our children, parental responsibility.

Michelle's tip
The inside of your fridge should be filled with things that look like they did when they were pulled out of the ground, off a tree or slaughtered. Throw out anything that doesn't!



Choy sum with chicken and soba noodles.

Stir-fries are a staple on my dinner table – by using interesting ingredients you can create something very special. Soba noodles will have you feeling full and they have a great "chew" factor.


750g choy sum

100g dried soba noodles

cooking oil spray

80g chicken breast fillet, sliced into thin strips

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp ginger, finely grated

1 long red chilli, thinly sliced

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp fish sauce


Slice choy sum stems and set aside. Coarsely chop leaves and set aside.

Cook noodles in a small saucepan of boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again.

Spray a wok with oil and heat on high. Stir-fry chicken until browned and cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

Respray wok with oil. Stir-fry choy sum stems, garlic, ginger and chilli until just tender. Return chicken to wok with noodles and gently stir-fry until heated through. Add choy sum leaves, lime juice and fish sauce, and stir-fry until leaves are just wilted.

Serve immediately.

Cooking tips
Grit is often lodged between choy sum leaves, so take some time to soak and rinse bulbs.
You can steam the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes instead of pan-frying, if desired.

Recipe from Losing the Last 5 Kilos (Viking) by Michelle Bridges.