The Colorful Plate: Healthy Reading for Kids
by Lois Rubin Gross
I became a vegetarian about three years ago. I had, you should pardon the expression, nibbled around the edges of the lifestyle for years, gradually reducing my intake of red meats, white meats, and eating mostly chicken and fish. I did try to make the switch in my thirties, but I had a husband who is a meat-and-potatoes guy and my daughter was a finicky eater so being a vegetarian meant cooking three separate meals, and that was too much for a working mom to handle.
However, a few years ago, I began to develop health problems that seemed to be connected to my consumption of meat. At my doctor’s insistence, I was taking double the amount of antacids that are recommended for health and bone density. So, I made an executive decision: my husband could cook his own damned steaks and I would eat vegetarian.
The great news is it worked. My meds decreased, my health improved, my cholesterol plummeted. The only wished for consequence that didn’t happen was my weight remained the same. Age has its penalties.
If your family already practices vegetarian or flexitarian eating, you know the benefits of the diet. You also know that people look at you strangely, especially if you happen to be raising a child in the veggie lifestyle.
Just as it’s tough for an adult to go to a steak house and ask for the chef to go off menu, think about how a child feels going to a birthday party and saying, “Sorry, I don’t eat hot dogs.”
We can, however, give kids a little ammunition to help them justify healthy eating. A recent book, albeit a controversial one, Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action, by Ruby Roth explores the immediate and global implications of following a plant based diet. This is a follow-up to the author’s first book, That Is Why We Don’t Eat Animals. The reason for the controversy surrounding Vegan Is Love has to do with the perception of violence articulated in the book. However, my first copy of the book disappeared from the library, literally. (Will whoever took it please bring it back?)
If you’re looking for a gentler, kinder, and more fantasy-based book on herbivores, you might try Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon, by Jules Bass and Debbie Harter. This sweet, pastel-toned book tells the story of a kind-hearted dragon accused of violence against princes, princesses and knights only to prove his innocence in his lovely garden.
The Monster Health Book: A Guide to Eating Healthy, Being Active & Feeling Great for Monsters and Kids, by Edward Miller, takes a longer view of healthful eating and it is not limited to a plant and grain-based diet. It helps children understand the new rules about creating balanced meals without the agri-business’ famous food pyramid.
All-time favorite siblings, Lola and Charlie, cope with the need to eat their colors in I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, by prolific author Lauren Childs in which Charlie tries to convince Lola that disliked carrots are actually twiglets from outer space.
If your kids are too young to know that Lisa Simpson of Fox TV show The Simpson’s became a vegetarian through the influence of Paul McCartney, perhaps they would prefer to hear about healthy lifestyle choices from a classic Dr. Seuss character. Read Oh the Things You Can Do That Are Good for You!: All About Staying Healthy, by Tish Rabe with illustrations by Aristedes Ruiz. Again, this deals with the wider spectrum of healthy eating, regular exercise, and feeling good about your body.
Making healthy nutritional choices with your children can be a challenge in today’s commercial-heavy, sugar-laden, fast-food craving society. As parents, we want to promote the best food or body-image choices. Give your child support on what constitutes healthy eating habits. Let them know that many people eat well for health, ethics, and a smaller carbon print in the world. When you give them this level of support and evidence, you’ll help them deal with peer pressure, making them feel confident in their choices too.
Lois Rubin Gross has an MS in Library Sciences from Drexel University. She is currently Senior Children’s Librarian at the Hoboken (NJ) Public Library. She has also worked as a librarian for children with special needs. She is a book reviewer for Children’s Literature and a blogger for After Fifty Living and Wise Women Now. Join her Facebook book community Lois Storylady.
Tags: CHOICES, green, nutrition