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The Family Nutrition Book:
Everything You Need to Know about Feeding Your Children - From Birth through Adolescence

William Sears, MD, and Martha Sears, RN
Little, Brown; 1999 Available from LLLI
Reviewed by Janice Knight Hartman,
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 4, August-September 2000, p. 80

This book on family nutrition is set up so you can find what you need when you need it with everything you need to know in one nearly perfect nutrition resource. There are several favorite recipes of the Sears family; and while more could be included, we need to remember this is a nutrition book, not a cookbook. There are references to LLLI cookbooks, especially WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, which many of us consider the gold standard for easy, fun, nutritious recipes for the entire family.

This book contains "Nutri-Tips" and informative lists like the "Top-Ten Fiber-Rich Fruits" and the "Top Seven Vitamin C Fruits" (Hint: oranges are #6, and grapefruit is #7, read the book and find out the top 5!). Some people will be surprised to see apple juice at the bottom of a list of eight nutritious juices. Another tidbit is that white grape juice is the most intestine-friendly. You can also find out why there is a chance that you may be giving your child too much juice. Many people know that a healthier dietary plan includes avoiding nutrient-poor white flour and white rice. But many may not realize how healthy colorful foods can be: dark green (leafy vegetables), bright red (tomatoes), orange (pumpkins, oranges), blue or dark purple (cabbage), black or dark red (beans). Each adds a powerful amount of necessary vitamins and minerals. Most people enjoy eating a plate of food with various colors.

The authors take on the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid and its shortcomings. They point out that while the Pyramid does address the quantity of food, it doesn't address the quality of that food. At one time there were seven food groups, then similar foods were combined to give us the Basic Four, and then the USDA divided the vegetables and fruit to give us a Food Guide Pyramid. While the Pyramid is not perfect, it is simple and teachable. The Sears have put a lot of thought into a Food Guide Wheel by offering more substance with the quality of the food choice having as much importance as the quantity. One also needs to keep in mind that the fewer calories taken in, the more important it is that the food be very nutritious. This is very important for children, as well as adults on low-calorie or weight-loss diets.

The Family Nutrition Book starts off with nutrition basics so you can become your own nutritionist. "It does not take a formal education or degree to meet your family's nutritional needs" write the authors, "just good basic knowledge and a great resource or two. You have the advantage of knowing your family best - their likes, dislikes, and personalities - and that makes you the expert." This book helps by providing the reader with the proper tools. Then they discuss how to make wise food choices. Many times mothers are concerned that their child is not eating well. Choosing nutritious foods in the store will ensure that the foods available to their children will be as healthful as possible. Of course, the Sears devote many chapters to "Optimal Infant Feeding": that is, breastfeeding.

The chapter called "Trimming the Fat" deals with a growing problem: obesity. The Sears LEAN® Program addresses trimming adult fat with lifestyle, exercise, attitude, and nutrition, the four keys to optimal health and well-being. The authors use a common sense approach to weight loss focusing on good nutrition and lifestyle changes. The chapter "Foods for Health" is about a lifetime of foods that promote good health for one's entire family. In this section the Sears explain their very important anti-cancer diet including a recipe for an immune system-booster smoothie. There are some things included in the book that breastfeeding advocates may not particularly like. For example, Chapter 27 deals with infant formulas. As an LLL Leader, you do not normally need this information, nor do many breastfeeding mothers. But there are instances where mothers might need to use a formula supplement and this chapter provides good basic information they might need. Unfortunately, many babies are weaned before they are one year old, and the proper human milk substitute might be a commercially prepared formula. The authors present all kinds of nutrition information including some that are controversial.

Some busy mothers may feel this book contains more than they need, but many will find the in-depth information both interesting and valuable. It is a wonderful resource for mothers and LLL Groups, and many will want to own a personal copy. It is hard to find a nutrition book that is well done and has so much good breastfeeding information. It took a doctor who is also a father and a mother who is also a nurse and an LLL Leader, to pull together an inclusive book that will be an asset to any Group or personal library.

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