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.