Lunch Lessons

Introducing healthy foods to your children.




If you deep-fry mechanically recovered chicken and dip it in corn syrup, your kids will think you’re Iron Chef. Serve them vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins? Not so much. Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, by Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes (Collins, $22.95), sets out to change all that.

The evolution from factory-processed foods — even those labeled “organic,” although the book notes that in a pinch , organic junk is still better than conventional junk — to seasonal, healthy whole foods is not easy to come by.

Because it’s so much more effort to do the right thing, Cooper and Holmes are strident in their advocacy of changing the way children eat. Parents have to be totally committed to change if they’re to introduce healthy eating habits to their offspring because it’s so easy to fall off the wagon.

Lunch Lessons lays out a two-pronged approach to fixing the nation’s dietary woes, which are often fixed in childhood and carried through adult life. The first is for parents to get involved: Join your school’s efforts to offer healthy food programs, offer to help out if hand and funds are short.

The second prong is for parents to practice what they preach. Lunch Lessons helps accomplish that via 69 easy and tasty-sounding recipes. Honestly! You’ll find chicken enchiladas in there, as well as lemon-ricotta pancakes and grilled beef salad with Japanese mustard greens among other breakfast, lunch, and snack recipes. It offers creative ways to get kids sampling healthy foods.

The source of all these recipes are the groups that have teamed up with progressive school administrators to open kids’ eyes to healthier choices: Alice Waters’ Chef Panisse Foundation, the Ross School project, FullBloom Baking Co., and the Community Food Resource Center. The authors understand that many parents aren’t super-comfortable in the kitchen, so they keep things simple — most recipes are no more than six steps — and they encourage parents to get their children involved in food preparation; there are many simple tasks that children can take on that really make them feel a part of the family meal, which is a huge step toward persuading them to eat a vegetable they would otherwise shun.

All told, Lunch Lessons is a useful book for parents, with chapters starting with basic child nutrition to a tome on the importance of recycling. The overall message and the ease and appeal of the recipes make Lunch Lessons an important book for improving how children and their parents eat.

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