Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Book Reviews: Kids and Paleo

By Diana Hsieh

Not too long ago, I received two books aimed at paleo kids and their parents to review. (Disclosure mandated by the turds at the FTC: These books were given to me for free as review copies.)

Alas, I disliked Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship. However, I loved Eat Like a Dinosaur. Let me explain why.

Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo

As you've probably gathered from the name, this book is a children's story on eating paleo. I wanted to like it, but I don't think that it does much to explain to kids what's good about eating paleo or bad about eating the Standard American Diet. Also, I didn't find the story compelling in itself: too much came across as propaganda, and I didn't like that.

The two basic claims of the book about paleo are (1) that industrial food production is scarybad and farm-produced foods are goodygood and (2) that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically.

I strongly disagree with the first claim against industrial foods, and frankly, that's not what paleo is (or should be) about. Farms can and do produce unhealthy SAD foods, and factories can produce healthy paleo foods. Similarly, "processed" foods are not inherently bad, as some people seem to think. All fermented foods -- like kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut -- are "processed" foods. Anything cooked is "processed." That some food is processed -- or even processed in large batches under strict conditions (i.e. industrially) -- reveals little about its nutritional value. Instead, what matters is the original quality of the ingredients, and then whether the processing enhances or degrades the nutritional value of the food.

While I'm not a fan of many foods sold in America today, the fact is that industrial production is huge benefit to everyone, particularly in terms of safety and cost. Every paleo-eater depends on the industrial food system in order to eat paleo. As much as I want to see changes -- including the end of all government meddling -- that doesn't justify condemning industry. I'll just vote with my wallet.

The second major argument for paleo in the book is that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically. I agree with that, but again, the book was mostly just asserting that, rather than allowing it to emerge from the story. So it seemed like propaganda.

If you're a paleo-eating parent, I'd recommend reading how Kelly Elmore and her daughter eat, as described in this post: My Paleo Kid. And if you have any problems or challenges, ask on the PaleoParents e-mail list.

Personally, I'd not be willing to read a child this book, purely due to to its explicit anti-industry message and seeming propagandizing.

Addendum: I'm a person with strong opinions and a blunt style, and I like that about me.  However, I tend to err in the direction of "bull in a china shop," and that can be misunderstood by more gentle people.  Here, I don't want my review to be taken as any kind of personal attack or global criticism of Sarah Fragoso.  I didn't like this book, and I stand by that judgment.  Nonetheless, I respect Sarah Fragoso and her work with Everyday Paleo. I've never met Sarah, but her blog is awesome, and I'm more than happy to recommend it to everyone, particularly parents.  And if you found value in this book -- if it helps you explain paleo to your kids and grandkids -- that's fine by me... and you're welcome to say so in the comments.

Eat Like a Dinosaur by The Paleo Parents

I love this book! It's a kid-friendly paleo cookbook, with over 100 gluten-free, dairy-free, legume-free recipes for kids and adults to enjoy. Every recipe has a good picture, simple instructions, and a handy icon for what kids can do. (Obviously, what kids can do will depend on their age and skills.)

Kids could easily review the recipes to decide what to cook, review and assemble the ingredients, and then do much of the cooking. It would be a great first cookbook for kids to work through, and after much cooking from it, they could easily graduate into regular adult cookbooks.

I loved the cooking that I did as a child. I only wish that I'd done more nuts-and-bolts cooking of meat and vegetables, rather than so much baking and desserts. I'd strongly encourage paleo parents to teach their children to cook... and then let the kids do the cooking!

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