In a country where fast food reigns and video games trump family dinnertime, it often seems there’s no stopping Americans’ waistlines. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and nearly 32 percent of children ages two to 19 are considered overweight or obese. Sadly enough, massive portions, increased snacking, and dependability on convenient, processed foods have all been attributed to an unhealthy populationCauses of increased energy intake among children in the U.S., 1977-2010. Duffey, K.J., Popkin, B.M. Carolina Population Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2013 Feb;44(2):e1-8.Differences in dietary patterns between overweight and normal-weight adolescents. Jodkowska, M., Oblaxinska, A., Tabak, I., et al. Department of Child and Adolescent Health, Institute of Mother and Child, Warsaw, Poland. Medycyna Wieku Rozwojowego, 2011 Jul-Sep;15(3):266-73..

Amongst all the junk food commercials and donut sandwiches, there are a handful of health heroes. These aren’t just people who eat organic greens for lunch and free-range eggs for dinner; they’re moving and shaking the way we think about our food, including where it comes from, the implications it has on our environment, and what our meals mean for our bodies. Here, we recognize 15 superstars (in no particular order) that have devoted themselves to improving American’s relationship with food.

1. Marion Nestle

Nestle has got her hand in nearly every facet of America’s food industry. Her blog, Food Politics, covers topics from nutrition and biology to health policy and food marketing. She’s been teaching nutrition for nearly four decades and currently teaches sociology, food studies, and public health at NYU. Nestle is the author of many books, but her latest — “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics” — is all about understanding the intersection of health and food amidst all the mass marketing and misinformation put forth by major food manufacturers. Currently, Nestle updates her blog regularly and presents at universities and conferences on topics such as genetically modified foods and the role food companies play in our food system. (Photo:

2. Michael Pollan

As one of the foremost activists for change in the overwrought food industry, Pollan is an outspoken and often controversial figure in the food and farming space. Though probably best known for his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (which hung out on The New York Times Bestseller list for more than three years), Pollan has continued to write. In his most recent book, “Cooked”, Pollan explores how cooking connects us to plants, animals, farmers, and culture (amongst other things). (Photo by Ken Light)

3. Michelle Obama

After launching the Let’s Move! campaign at the start of 2010, the First Lady has made healthifying America’s eating habits (especially for kids) her job. The ultimate goal is to eliminate childhood obesity and help kids live healthier lives with good food and a little extra physical activity. This year, Obama held the second annual “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” where she asked children ages eight to 12 to whip up nutritious, tasty, and affordable recipes. Unfortunately, we weren’t invited to the White House kids’ “State Dinner” with the winner of this year’s challenge. (Photo:

4. Mark Bittman

Bittman part-time vegan marathons ( Photo:

5. Mike Bloomberg

Bloomberg soda bans healthier menus ( Photo:

6. Ann Cooper

Renegade Lunch Lady Food Family Farming Foundation ( Photo by Kristen Boyer)

7. Joel Salatin

Polyface Farms pastured cruelty free ( Photo:

8. Jamie Oliver

flack brash attitude school lunch campaign Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Food Revolution Day ( Photo:

9. Bryant Terry

Terry Urban Organic food deserts ( Photo:

10. Sam Kass

Let’s Move! The Great American School Lunch Challenge ( Photo:

11. John La Puma

La Puma ChefMD Paging Dr. La Puma ( Photo:

12. Robb Wolf

Wolf ( Photo:

13. Sean Croxton

Underground Wellness ( Photo:

14. Lisa Leake

100 Days of Real Food 10-day real food pledge dyes ( Photo:

15. Michael Mudd


Wondering how this year’s list stacks up against the last? Check out Top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry 2012.

Anyone you think is missing from this list? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.