Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Shmoo Review: Lunch Lessons

Activists, start your engines! Authors Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes are here with Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children,and they’re ready to draft you into the battle they are waging for healthier school lunches for all!

Depending on who you are, I think this book will either have you ready to shout it from the rooftops, or leave you feeling like improving your family’s health is too daunting a task, tying it as they do to the larger work of social and environmental activism and widespread public education and policy change.

First, I want to point out that this is not a vegetarian book. Even so, vegan parents can still find much here that is inspiring or enlightening. The recipes section includes chapters for every meal of the day, not just lunch, and offers many recipes that are vegan or could easily be veganized. A wide variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains are used in many delicious-sounding dishes like "Spinach Salad with Tangerines", "Corn and Black-eyed Pea Stew", and "Vegetable Lo Mein".

The authors take a strident tone when talking about proper nutrition, although their messages seem a bit mixed. I was most saddened by the fact that, although the nutrition chapter wisely advises parents to avoid cheese because of its high level of saturated fat (p. 28), the authors then go on to include recipes for "Three Cheese Vegetable Strata", "Mac and Cheese", and burritos, frittatas, and casseroles that all call for hearty amounts of cheese.

They also mention the frightening and very real dangers of mercury contamination in fish, especially tuna (p. 22), but urge parents to not cut fish out of their children’s diet because of its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They don't mention that foods like flax, hemp, and walnuts can provide mercury- and fish-free sources of omega-3s.

On a happier note, the authors do point out that calcium can be obtained from non-dairy sources. There are many other instances here where vegan and omni parents can find common ground, joining forces to encourage a more plant-based diet for everyone.

Going beyond mealtime, the authors include information on gardening, composting, healthy cleaning products, plastics, recycling, and making a difference in your cafeteria and your community. So, if you're ready to make a change in more than just what your kid is packing for lunch, Lunch Lessonsis ready to show you the way.


Zoutke said...

Hi Jennifer,
I follow you blog for sometime, because I love your lunch box and also because while not vegetarian, I do cook egg and milk- free for my son allergy.
This post trigged me to ask you about fake cheese and saturated fat. I gathered that you as me use Tofutti, which is full of saturated fat. Therefore whil my son loves it I try to avoid it because I feel I am killing him everytime.
Can you suggest any other fake cheese, without saturated fats?

Thanks and keep up the good work!



Jennifershmoo said...

Hi, Clara -- I answered this same question in the comments below:

Sadly, the only vegan cheese we have available to us locally is Tofutti slices. They taste good, but they are still made with trans-fats (really, when are they going to get with the program?) Lots of other people have recommended Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheeses. I hope to try them myself one day.

Other than that, I would recommend making your own cheesy sauces and dips, with a book like Jo Stepaniak's "Ultimate Uncheese". There are a couple cheesy dip recipes in my archive, too:


Good luck!

Roxy said...

Why the nit-picking over the fake cheese and meat? It's not like Jen melts Toffutti over Schmoo's cereal in the morning. While it is true that these products contain saturated fat and sodium, compare that to the real thing that most kids eat every single day--often for more than one meal.

I applaud Jen for raising a healthy child in an unhealthy world and I don't think eating soy cheese or meat once in a while is an issue.

the veggie paparazzo said...

Clara was asking Jenn a question, not 'calling her out.' And all of us need to be careful about trans-fatty acids, given how only a few grams a day of them jack up your eventual heart attack risk.

I think the book sounds really interesting! Thanks for reviewing it.

Five said...

If you're looking for AMAZING fake cheese, VeganEssentials.com just got in Scheese. They use vegetable oil but I don't think it's the evil stuff. I ordered one of every kind. Vegan Gouda!? Blue Schhese?!

It's from Scotland and has been the best I've EVER had. Ever.

mikajean said...

This book looks fantastic!!! I'm checking my library for it. I was curious Jenniferschmoo, do you think that the authors were inspired with many of your beautiful lunches for the picture on the cover? :)

Jennifershmoo said...

Actually, that's a picture taken from the Laptop Lunch website. They took the picture of the inner containers and placed it inside a picture of a regular lunch box. Clever! They mention the Laptop Lunch System in the book, too, as a recommended lunch box.

Chef Toni said...

Hi Jennifer. Love your blog. I heard about you on an NPR spot. We're not vegans, but I find lots of useful information anyway. I ran out and bought two laptop lunchboxes today. I'd seen them before online, but it wasn't until I heard you talk about them that I wanted to actually buy some. Question: I can't get the lid on the lunchbox to close securely when i have the lidded container in it. Am I doing something wrong?

Jennifershmoo said...

>>If you're looking for AMAZING fake cheese, VeganEssentials.com just got in Scheese.

Ooh, I just got their email about it this morning and have been debating over whether I should order some. Now I think I have to!!

Jennifershmoo said...

>>Question: I can't get the lid on the lunchbox to close securely when i have the lidded container in it. Am I doing something wrong?

The only thing I can think of is perhaps you have the lidded container in the wrong position? It will only fit in the back left corner.

If that doesn't help, I would contact Laptop Lunch Systems and ask them for help. Good luck!

Zoutke said...

Jennifer, Thanksalso for understanding that I was really just asking. As for us we only for a year can find the Tofutti so I feel just lucky for that already :)
I will check the VeganEssential.com too, but I fear they will not ship to Belgium or it will be very expensive.
The "Ultimate Uncheesed" book is on my wish list..maybe I should give in :)

M said...

I checked this book out a couple months ago and enjoyed the recipes and insight on what happens with the food in our schools.
I just found you blog and love all of the wonderful information!

DDawnC said...

One more voice crying out for a little sanity- bravo!!! I haven't read the book yet, but plan to order it, read it, then share it with my sister, who has two young kids.

Despite the many differences between and among vegans, vegetarians, and omnis, there are so many things we can agree on! The need to do a better job of nourishing all children is obviously one of those things.

brisket said...

Hello. Where do I buy the lunch box on the cover of Lunch Lessons? It looks more durable than the laptop lunches boxes. Thanks!

Jennifershmoo said...

That's actually a fake mock-up of a lunch box. They've taken the inner containers of a Laptop Lunch Box from a photo in the Laptop Lunch User's Guide and pasted it into a big red lunch box.

red said...

thank you