14 Dec

Book Review: Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family

Feed Yourself Feed Your Family is an attractive La Leche League book packed with information and useful tips. The chapters are ordered chronologically, covering pregnancy, new parenthood/breastfeeding, starting solids, and feeding a family. Each chapter includes a selection of recipes considered appropriate for that particular chapter of your life.

I was concerned that a chapter on eating for breastfeeding would fall into the trap of implying that breastfeeding is demanding if you don’t eat special food, but in fact the book explicitly states that this is not the case (however it does mention the need for 350 extra calories, which is not supported by evidence). This section is brimming with suggestions for food you can eat with one hand, and food you can get other people to cook for you. I especially liked the comment that “you are passing on your culture through your milk,” (p68) and have quoted that in antenatal classes and see the parents nodding.

The book has a slightly american tone, although it’s clear that much of it has been ‘translated’ into British English. Some of the food standards given are american, though this doesn’t detract from the clear, factual approach. My biggest concern with the book was the amount of salt added to almost every recipe, some of which included salt in the cooking, again before tasting, and then a garnish of bacon. The Starting Solids section could have had more emphasis on baby-led weaning, good finger foods, and how to work family meals that baby can eat too.

I didn’t think I could review a recipe book without trying out some of the recipes, so we tried five of them last week. Here’s how it went:

The Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup (p182) was very convenient for such a busy day; all the ingredients went into the slow cooker at lunchtime, and it just smelled more and more delicious over the course of the afternoon. Recipe books for me are inspiration rather than instruction, so most things get altered in some way. I added pancetta to this vegetarian recipe, to make it more acceptable to my partner and son, both of whom like veggie food but are sometimes a bit tentative when it comes to pulses. The soup went down an absolute treat, and there was enough left for lunch next day. Both of them said they would like me to make it again.

Tortilla Pie with Black Beans (p48) was another hit. This was tasty and cheesy, though it was a mistake for me to plan it for swimming night when I had one hour to cook and eat before rushing out to teach. This vegetarian dish slipped through the net no problem, though it was suggested that we could try it with chicken as well.

We were less enthusiastic about the Chicken & Sugar Snap Pea Saute, which seemed like an odd combination of nice things that didn’t really go together. It was also quite tricky to figure out what would go with this, as it didn’t lend itself well to pasta or rice, so ended up being served with chips.

The plan was to make Froelich Family Rice (p137), however on reviewing the recipe at 5pm on Thursday I realised that it involved over an hour of cooking just to produce minced beef with rice. So I’m afraid I cheated completely, got out a packet of rice with vegetables, and cooked up the beef with some herbs, mushrooms and tomatoes, and mixed it all together. The end result was much the same, and they just stopped short of licking the bowl clean.

I try to include fish in our diet every week, despite not really liking it much myself, so on Friday I made the Fish Chowder (p229), using white fish instead of salmon which I cannot stand. This was the added-saltiest of all the recipes I tried, with salt added twice in the cooking as well as a stock cube and a bacon garnish. This seriously undermined the promise that the book is giving the reader “a blueprint for a lifetime of healthy meals” (p8). As I had forgotten to get the bacon out of the freezer, this was a moot point. My partner and son enjoyed the chowder, though my son as usual when bread is available did mostly eat the bread. I tolerated it and felt virtuous.

I would recommend this book because every chapter there has sensible information and guidance, including practical ideas for cooking while your baby or toddler is around. I would not go out and buy it just for the recipes.

To order Feed Yourself Feed Your Family with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.

05 Sep

Book Review: My Child Won’t Eat, by Carlos Gonzalez

After enjoying Gonzalez’ Kiss Me! so much, and with a long standing interest in the subject of solid food, I looked forward to reading My Child Won’t Eat, and hoped it would have some useful information that I could pass on in my Introducing Solids Workshops.

The book is sensibly divided into Causes, Solutions, and Prevention, and uses a rich selection of anecdotes to illustrate the points made in each section.

Gonzalez’ basic premise is that babies and children can be allowed and trusted to regulate their own appetites; and that it is the parents’ expectations that are wrong. If parents stop worrying about it or trying to force their children to eat, they will still eat the same amount, but it will all be much less stressful. They won’t eat any more than they did before, but they won’t waste away either.

This premise is entirely sensible and based in the science relating to appetite control, and Gonzalez uses the perspective of the child to argue that mealtime battles are confusing and unhelpful when it comes to creating a positive attitude to food.

The book includes a large section on breastfeeding, which, as the author acknowledges, is likely to come too late for the parents of babies or toddlers eating (or not eating) solid food, at whom the book is targeted. Perhaps this would be more useful for health professionals and other people supporting those parents.

I found some of Gonzalez’ recommendations to be highly directive and some of his language is really quite judgemental. On the subject of introducing potential allergens, he writes:

Before one year, introducing many different foods only means buying more tickets for the allergy lottery.

which is sweepingly dismissive, and not in line with current recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, whose review of the evidence concludes that there is currently no clear indication that early (or late) introduction of certain foods either prevents or triggers allergies.

I am not sure I learned anything new from My Child Won’t Eat, but the book gave me plenty to reflect on, and has helped to develop new perspectives and different ways of explaining things to parents.


To order My Child Won’t Eat! with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.