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Why celebrity chef Jamie Oliver doesn't mind if his kids eat at McDonald's

What is the best policy when it comes to teaching kids about healthy eating?
/ Source: TODAY

The man who once referred to fast food hamburger meat as “pink slime” seems to have had a change of heart about processed foods.

Jamie Oliver, a British restaurateur, cooking show host and healthy-eating advocate, recently admitted that he wouldn't mind if his own kids ate at McDonald's.

Yes, this is the same man who once criticized school bake sales for sending confusing messages to children about food consumption habits.

According to the The London Daily Mail, the popular chef said he wouldn’t stop his kids, who range in age from 1 to 16, if they wanted to eat at the fast food chain.

“Honestly? If they wanted to go, I'd let them," Oliver said. "Because they get really well fed 95 percent of the time from us. If they want to go out and have a fizzy drink, I don't care, because we have none in the house.

"My wife's probably stricter. She'd say, ‘Oh please, don't.’ But they'd only end up doing it in some other place."

He rationalized his stance by adding, “Come down too hard and they’ll be sneaking around to a mate’s house to guzzle a liter of Coke, won’t they?”

So what is the best policy when it comes to teaching kids about healthy eating?

Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, NBC News health and nutrition editor, agrees with Oliver. “If your child is a healthy eater most of the time, an occasional soda or burger and fries won’t impact that,” she told TODAY Food. “Deprivation, or forbidding foods, is the perfect set-up for overeating and sneaking foods without the parents knowing.”

For example, Tom Brady’s super strict diet of no dairy, gluten or sugar (including many fruits) is probably not an ideal set up for keeping kids from sneaking around with foods that are always off limits.

Oliver recently launched a new program against advertising junk food and drinks to kids. As part of the #AdEnough campaign, he’s enlisted celebrities to join in calling for the removal of junk food ads on TV after 9 p.m., as well as on public transport and banning energy drink sales to kids younger than 16, among related objectives aimed at getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies.

So how do you encourage kids to make healthy choices when they’re not at home or out with a parent?

“Educate your children about treat foods and their place in overall eating. You want to teach your child balance, that no foods are off limits, but choosing the right balance and making smart and healthy choices most of the time is the goal,” said Fernstrom.

Jamie Oliver says he'd let his kids eat at McDonald's if they wanted.Steve Parsons / PA via AP

If you find yourself at a fast food restaurant with your kids, Fernstrom recommends the following tactics:

  • Downsize meals and avoid supersizing: "When it comes to fast food, there are no bad foods, just bad portions,” Fernstrom said.

  • Choose a kids' meal and add a healthy item like a salad, yogurt or milk for bigger kids who may need more food. She even advises parents pick a kid-size meal, too! You'll save money and calories.

Oliver may have an unlikely advocate in his quest to get kids to eat a little healthier. In the U.S., McDonald's has cut the cheeseburger from the Happy Meal menu in order to keep every main item under a certain calorie count.