Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Shmoo Review

Recently I set out to find books my son and I could read together that would encourage healthy eating without requiring any dairy deprogramming afterwards (kids are always being told to drink lots of milk for "strong bones and teeth", with no mention of other sources of calcium).

The first book we ordered, The Children's Health Food Book, sounded promising: superhero "Health Guardians" like "Vegetarian Warrior" and "Fruitarian Fighter" do battle against the evil "Meat Monster" and "Sugar Demon". Sounds perfect for an eight-year-old!

But when we sat down together to read the book we both became...confused. What does the author mean by "mucus"? Is this some kind of raw food thing? Mucus, he says, causes all the adult diseases and all childhood illnesses like colds, flus, and asthma. Mucus comes from eating "thick gooey food" like meat, milk, sugar, and starch. I told shmoo my best guess was that the author was referring to atherosclerosis, but I really have no idea.

My son's biggest complaint was the lack of story line; the book reads more like a lesson than the action-adventure he had been hoping for. 1 star.

Next came The Race Against Junk Food, starring the S.N.A.K. Posse ("Super Nutritionally Active Kids"). The message here is clear, straightforward, and universally acceptable: junk food and cigarettes are BAD; fruits, vegetables, and exercise are GOOD.

The author uses an action-packed story to get the point across, combined with colorful, detailed illustrations (we loved all the exercising vegetables). Shmoo liked sitting down with this one; he carefully analyzed each picture and read the story several times on his own. I only wish a competent editor had helped with punctuation and sentence structure; better writing could have made this story easier to read. 4 stars.


Danna said...

May be young, but we like Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon!
It's a fun story!

Elizabeth said...

Mucus is the cause of all health problems. Hmm, that's something to ponder, on second thought, I think I won't. ;-)

I laughed when I returned home to my children, who were being watched by their grandparents for a week, when my mother-in-law said in consternation that she'd *tried* to get the kids to drink milk with their dinner, but they refused. Heehee! I looked at her funny, and said I don't make them drink milk! Sheesh! I guess that she thought that the milk thing should just carry over for Hibi, and she should drink soy milk with dinner. Oh, well.

funwithyourfood said...

I've read that first one. It's a bit much. Never seen the second one tho. that's awesome


Jennifershmoo said...

>>There are some great books at

We've gotten some great books from peta. We especially liked "Bees Dance and Whales Sing".

cristy said...

Is mucus not an American word?

In Australia it is commonly used to describe the thick substance that you cough up when you have a cold and that forms into snot (or boogies?) in your nose when you are congested.

I just read a parenting book that (in the one paragraph that it bothers to devote to vegan children) says that "most" vegan parents give their children meat and dairy so that they can be healthy and avoid "imposing" their "extreme" lifestyle on their children. It goes on to say that while vegan children might appear to be healthy, they are most likely to be defiicient in essential vitamins and minerals and less tall & heavy than they could be.

I was very disapointed to see this in a recent publication and am glad to hear that there are books around that are not so ridiculously ill-informed.

Harriet said...

The mucus thing is, I think, folk wisdom that has taken on the guise of pseudo-science. I have long heard from voice teachers to avoid dairy because it encouraged mucus production, thus coating vocal chords and clogging breathing passages. There was a recent study published in (I think) the NY Times that debunked this idea. Still, to blame all health problems on mucus is just plain weird.

Unknown said...

RE: mucus - I've often heard people say that you should avoid dairy when you have a cold because it speeds up mucus production. I believe it's a myth. It's just plain weird anyway.

I've read Herb the Vegetarian Dragon, too - cute! I just took my 12 month old in for a well visit and when I told the pediatrician that we eat little meat (and my infant none), she automatically assumed she might be anemic. Of course the bloodwork came back to show that she is a very healthy little girl. She said I should still try and give her those Gerber meat sticks (ew, yuck!). We'll stick with what looks appealing, like strawberries and blueberries and white beans . . .

Anonymous said...

i was just curious...i am a newly pregnant vegan mama and i was wondering if you knew of any books that would be helpful at this time. i have a couple, but i'm looking for something a bit more indepth...
just curious if you had any ideas ;)

dollydlux said...
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dollydlux said...

We like "Benji Bean Sprout doesn't eat meat"

My son was 6 when we got it and he is now almost 7 but he still enjoys it. Great pictures as well.

we also have the organic adventures of Tucker the Tomato which isn't so much about veganism but more about the no cigarettes/junk food thing. still pretty cute though if you like animated veggies!

Mistrmind said...

Evil "Meat Monster" and "Sugar Demon"?

I'd be a bit concerned that books like these will be teaching kids that people that like to eat meat and sugar are evil.

Really, do you think you guys would be up in arms if we published a book with a villian called, "The Veggie Monster" or "Vegan Demon"?

Some common sense and sensitivity please.

Hapamama said...

De-lurking regarding the milk mucous production myth. it really is not a myth imho. Milk is for baby cows, even a calf can get sick from pasturized milk.

From my own personal experience I have a gastrointestinal disorder that led me to eliminate dairy from my diet. After years of having mucous in my stools, I know longer. I know that's probably TMI for some of you sorry! But it has been true for me.

Also I have read that vegan children are less likely to get sick or have asthma or other respitory sicknesses. My son is dairy free and has had very few colds.

I know it's not scientific, but I think to call it a myth is incorrect. Just putting in my two cents....

love your blog Jennifer!

M.E. Greene said...

I took a few classes from Dr. Christopher's School of Natural Healing and he taught that mucus is, indeed, the source of disease. I believe the author of the book you read was referring to foods that stimulate mucus production in our bodies. Yep, mucus. The same crud that causes sinus problems, congestion, etc... is found throughout our digestive system and in the lining of our colon. It traps bacteria and toxins and keeps us from eliminating them. Thus, a breeding ground for disease. Processed foods, fried foods, dairy, refined sugar, and meat are all mucus-forming foods. Dr. Christopher isn't the only natural health guru to speak on the subject- there are others. I know I've read it in several different places, but for the life of me I can't remember where.

Anyway, just thought I'd share the logic behind the whole mucus story. I'm sure it sounded completely insane if you hadn't heard it before. For what it's worth, we are a vegetarian (frequently vegan, sometimes raw foodist) family raising three strapping boys 11, 10 and 8 years old.

Shelly said...

I have to second Danna on the recce for -Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon.- The story is about a dragon who tends his own veggie garden and refuses to eat meat and how he helps to change his corner of the world. I read it about twice a year to my pre-school storytime class. And we plant radish seeds in cups and make miniature flower gardens. We also read non-ficton books about how plants grow.

I find that by taking the emphasis OFF meat entirely and only talking about veggies, I interest the kids (they LOVE to watch things sprout) and don't put off any of their possibly omni parents. I also bring in veggies and dip for snacks during this time!

For the older set, there is a new version of the book -Fast Food Nation-, entitled -Chew On This!- which talks about all the stuff you didn't want to know about fast food meat and cooking procedures. It's written for the 10-14 crowd.

Unknown said...

"how strange people see this mucus thing as a myth . . .i have no idea why anyone would think that it is ???" Dre

The reason why I thought the whole mucus thing was a myth is because I was told so by my pediatrician. But then again, it's difficult what to believe when you are bombarded by so much conflicting information. I am not a vegan or vegetarian. My family eats a lot of dairy. We are all very healthy, and as far as I know, there's not a lot of excessive mucas. However, I would be really curious to see what would happen if I removed dairy from our diet. If we are feeling fine now, we might be feeling great after.

kelly (vegan kid's mom!) said...

My 7 year old loves Herb the Vegetarian Dragon as well, especially because his book came along with a Herb action figure. I'd love to find more pro-veg books. There are plenty of movies that have very pointblank anti-cruelty messages, but not nearly enough books. Shae's complained a few times about seeing meat, etc in books and has declared he's writing his own vegan books (none yet though!)

Little Black Car said...

Mucus isn't bad or good, either way; it depends on the context. Your stomach is lined with mucus to keep you from getting ulcers (this is why taking NSAIDS and steroids together is a no-no--it interferes with production of mucus lining and can cause serious GI problems). I'm pretty sure overproduction of mucus is a SYMPTOM of health problems less than a cause. Mucus does contain pathogens, of course, but then so can blood, saliva, and a lot of other necessary body fluids, and I don't think anybody thinks blood causes disease.

I thought the dairy-mucus production thing had been at least partially debunked, but I'm not sure (not that it's an issue if you're vegan, of course). At the least, though, I think that the first book sounds oversimplified and misleading-through-vagueness.

NightOwl said...

Here is an excerpt from, and here's the link to that site:

Got Allergies and Mucus?

If your kids suffer from chronic runny noses and sore throats, it might be time to dump the dairy. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, cow’s milk is the number one-cause of food allergies in children. According to the former director of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Frank Oski, there is evidence to indicate that up to half of U.S. children have some allergic reaction to milk. For these kids (and for adults who are allergic to dairy foods), milk is a mucus maker and can lead to persistent problems such as chronic coughs and sinus infections, asthma, and ear infections.

Megan said...

Just a quick note on the mucus debate: Mucus is supposed to trap bacteria. That's its job. At least the mucus lining your nasal passages is. Every 20 mins or so, the cilia in your nasal passages and sinuses conduct the mucus lining to shed and drain down your throat to be destroyed by your stomach acid. A fresh layer is produced. Other mucus membranes work in similar ways (inside the mouth, lining the GI tract, lining the genitalia, etc etc. They prevent bacteria and other harmful substances (like hydrochloric acid) from coming in direct contact with the body.

Whether excess mucus is the result of eating animal products... Don't know. But mucus is a very necessary and important part of the way the body functions. Excess mucus indicates a problem, the source of which may or may not be dairy, eggs, or what have you. Could be any number of allergens really.

Anyway, just wanted to add a bit of clarification. Mucus is not bad in and of itself. That's all.

Little Black Car said...

"Milk Sucks" is a pretty harsh byline--any food sucks if you're allergic to it. I was allergic to oranges when I was little. They made me horribly sick to my stomach. However, oranges in and of themselves don't suck, they just didn't work for me. I don't think it's fair to blanket-declare dairy as bad if the problem is a food allergy. Lots of foods are major allergens (nuts, peanuts, many fruits and vegtables, etc.) but there is nothing inherently "sucky" about them. It's just that not everyone can eat them.

NightOwl said...

It's true that saying something sucks is harsh. However, the abuse and suffering animals in the dairy industry are subjected to is even harsher.

Shelly said...

While I agree that veganism is a very healthful way to go, I myself am not always vegan. I am ovo-lacto on a good day. On a bad day, I am pescetarian. I do my best to make the vast majority of my days vegan. This is not easy when I live with three omnis and I have to cook for all of them, AND I have a rather sensitive cat who requires fresh cooked meats and grains so she won't get sick. BUT...making life easier requires that I include dairy and egg in a lot of what I cook. I work full time and care for five animals, four people, a house, and have other volunteer duties in the community. I can't always regulate everyone's eating habits.

The main reason I cut nearly all animal products out of my life is because of the conditions animals live in in our corporate farming community. I have found that when I make an effort to buy locally, and from free range dairies and egg-co-ops, we have the best quality at a substantially reduced threat of having side effects. I bought regular eggs ONCE and my son seemed to come down with a cold; the next day he was fine. This is only anecdotal evidence, and in reality means nothing.

But, for my part, I would endorse the purchase of organic, free range eggs and dairy whenever possible. It produces NO coldlike symptoms in my rather fussy kids, and supports the farmers that are trying to be responsible when it comes to how they treat and raise their animals.

I will continue to do all that I can within my personal contraints to buy compassionately.

Essie said...

I put this book on hold at our local library:
Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food (Hardcover)
by Eric Schlosser, Charles Wilson

It says it is for 6th grade and up. It is a child0friendly version of Fast Food Nation basically.... I'm hoping it's any good.

And yes, we also read Herb the Herbivore! Loved it!!

rcxc said...
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rcxc said...

Interesting discussion.

When I lived in Japan, my host family showed me how to gargle with hydrogen peroxide at the end of the day (it debrides the mucous at the back of your throat)to remove the air pollutants that get trapped in the back of your throat.