This month we feature two books for parents with vegetarian children. The first is a delightful picture book to read to pre-schoolers. The second is a handbook for non-vegetarian parents with practical advice on supporting their child's choice to be a vegetarian.
The Organic Adventures of Tucker the Tomato
By Ray Ortega and Amanda Moeckel
Sun King Publishing, 2003
Written for very young children, this picture book combines Moeckel's creative artwork with a simple story of a tomato that falls off an organic tomato truck and finally wends its way to a natural foods market. In the process Tucker realizes how different he is from those conventionally grown tomatoes covered with pesticicide residue. He also encounters a number of creatures and experiences obstacles before reaching his final destination in this 32-page adventure.
The book concludes with a clever maze that depicts the obstacles and asks the young reader to "Help Tucker the Tomato find his way to the natural food store!" As an added bonus the last page asks the reader to draw Tucker and his friends in the space provided.
Tucker the Tomato even has his own website at http://www.tuckertomato.com where he personally welcomes young readers.
Ray Ortega is a natural food exponent who owns Sun Flour Baking Company that produces vegan cookies and snacks with no hydrogenated oils, dairy, eggs, or refined sugar. His co-creator, Amanda Moeckel, graduated Magna Cum Laude from American University with a BA in Studio Art. Her artwork has won numerous awards.
Parents who are vegetarian and/or are interested in introducing their children to organic, natural foods will find The Organic Adventures of Tucker the Tomato an ideal book for a read-aloud session. Tucker's facial expressions are worth the price of the book. The illustrations throughout are priceless.
What, No Meat?!
What to Do When Your Kid Becomes a Vegetarian
By Debra Halperin Poneman and Emily Anderson Greene
ECW Press, 2003
When Debra Halperin was a teenager who announced to her parents she was going vegetarian, her announcement was greeted with consternation. Her parents sincerely believed she would die of malnutrition. Now 30 years later Debra Halperin Poneman is the mother of a teen daughter who has been raised as a vegetarian. Neither she nor her daughter is suffering from malnutrition nor any serious ailment because of their dietary choice.
Poneman has teamed with her former baby sitter Emily Anderson Greene to create What No Meat?! to offer counsel to omnivore parents who face the dilemma of what to do with and for their children who decide to become vegetarians.
The principal advice comes early on in this handbook. In fact, it comes in the brief introduction by Poneman when she writes, "Your child's decision to become a vegetarian has the potential to be a source of disharmony and division in your family, or it can be the beginning of a fun and exciting family adventure. I don't have to tell you that, if you resist or, worse yet, belittle your child's decision, nothing positive will come of it. So be supportive, and give vegetarianism a chance. And one more thing: don't worry if they're getting enough protein."
The authors quickly deal with the protein misconceptions that confront so many vegetarians. In a chapter titled Don't Worry, I'm Getting Enough Protein, the authors demolish the myth that people need to eat meat to derive enough protein by explaining that animal protein is not superior to plant-based protein and that vegetarians can achieve enough of this important nutrient from their diet. In that same chapter they also do battle with the other myths associated with vegetarians: iron and calcium deficiencies and not enough nutrients to sustain an athlete. They complete this chapter by providing a list of famous vegetarian athletes.
After parents gain an understanding of the myths, they face the RTM problem. The authors respond to RTM (Replace the Meat) by providing a chapter filled with information and substitutions for what in many families is the centerpiece of each meal. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, and TVP are now added to the vocabulary of many parents. Poneman and Greene detail numerous substitutions for each meal of the day and provide both vegetarian and vegan options. Readers may be surprised by some of the suggested substitutions like ground turkey for meat in a Sloppy Joe, but the authors are directing this type of recommendation for the transitioning "semivegetarian."
Greene is the creator of the numerous recipes that appear throughout the book. Since so many holidays focus on food, she has provided menus and recipes for those special days. In Who Says You Have to Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving? she not only provides a menu and tasty recipes, but she also features suggestions for other holidays like Christmas, Hanukah, Easter, and Passover. New World Turkey with Plymouth Rock Stuffing could add delight to any vegetarian table. Most of more than 50 recipes are vegan or have vegan alternatives, but there some that use eggs, cheese, and butter without vegan alternatives.
Helping the child function in a non-vegetarian world is one significant area where the authors offer some insightful suggestions. If the child is invited to a party, the parent can inform the host or hostess and offer to send food or instruct the host or hostess that the child will eat everything but the animal protein. If the affair is catered, the parent can ask if a vegetarian entrée could be provided. The important thing is to defend the child's choice to other adults, but on the other hand the child should also be tolerant and respectful of others who do not agree with his or her philosophy.
Vegetarian kids can still go out to dinner, but parents need to be aware of the restaurants that are most accommodating. The authors present their Best Bets with Chinese/Thai/ Vietnamese at the top of the list followed by Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Japanese. They even list the Steak Joint where a diner can often make a meal out of salad, baked potatoes, or a combination of appetizers.
In a chapter titled You May Want to Try It Yourself, the authors espouse the health benefits parents will experience by following a vegetarian diet. They discuss the different diseases that are affected by a vegetarian diet such as asthma, cardiovascular conditions, high cholesterol, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
The book concludes with a discussion of some of the environmental and health issues involved in the world's food supply. The authors detail the distinction between organic and non-organic foods and make a plea for going organic and avoiding genetically modified foods. By going organic people will avoid pesticides and growth hormones, and at the same time support sustainable agriculture that is the key to the survival of the planet.
In the Forward to What, No Meat?! Marilyn Diamond, co-author of Fit for Life, describes the book as a "godsend." She writes, " With a combination of useful information and simple yet delicious recipes, it is the perfect starter kit." We echo her feelings and advise parents of vegetarian children to find a copy and read it from cover to cover. They'll be glad they did. Reluctant teen readers will find the book inviting because of its breezy, informal style.
We also salute the Canadian governmental agencies that generously supported the publication of this volume.