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Book Review

Refined to Real Food: Moving Your Family Toward Healthier, Wholesome Eating

by Allison Anneser with Sara Thyr, ND

reviewed by Sherée Young
Bucyrus OH USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 6, November-December 2006, p. 281

At one time or another, most of us will find ourselves wandering the grocery store aisles and wondering how to make the shift to healthier eating. When that time comes, deciding exactly what constitutes healthy eating can be overwhelming. La Leche League philosophy regarding diet is not trendy or based on the latest fad diet. It is a common sense approach to nutrition, and is backed by decades of scientific research. It is simply this: good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.

In Refined to Real Foods: Moving Your Family Toward Healthier, Wholesome Eating, Allison Anneser and Sara Thyr define whole foods as "All foods, plant and animal, traced back to their natural environments and original forms." Many consumers are confused and overwhelmed by rapidly changing nutrition recommendations, from organic labeling to genetically modified organisms. This book cuts through the confusion to provide current and thorough information. For example, the different types of fats are explained and the effect each one has on our bodies. In the wake of the high-protein diet fad, recommendations are outlined for complex carbohydrates and protein. While eating more fish is a desirable goal for some families, the concern about contaminants may outweigh the benefits. This book offers current information on which fish to eat and which to avoid. The authors illuminate sections of the health food store, which may be frightening to some shoppers, discussing how to prepare products such as amaranth, barley malt syrup, and kefir. The information is accurate and served to the reader in a way that is very digestible. (Pun intended!) This book would be a welcome addition to anyone's kitchen.

Packed with tips, ideas, and recipes, readers learn easy ways to transition to healthier food choices. The last section, "Quick Ideas and Basic Recipes," includes suggestions for nutritious and delicious fast foods. "Quick Ideas" are foods that easily adapt to your family's tastes and preferences. These suggestions would be perfect to refer to when it's 5 pm and there is no answer in sight to the question, "What's for dinner?" The suggestions are foods that are staples in most kitchens that yield healthy meals. The "Basic Recipes" are child-friendly and easy to shop for and prepare.

The authors never forget that the subtitle of the book is, "Moving Your Family Toward Healthier, Wholesome Eating." The challenges of getting children to eat healthy food are clear: preparing healthy food for hungry children who want to be held, pleading with everyone to eat what's been prepared, or encouraging children to eat a different vegetable other than potatoes in the form of fries. The section titled, "Feeding the Family," offers suggestions for encouraging healthy eating habits in children, such as letting children help shop for, prepare, or even grow some of the food the family eats. One suggestion for avoiding food battles is allowing children to choose what they want to eat during meals that are designated as "make your own meals." These are meals, such as salads and tacos, that each family member can "customize" to his or her own liking.

The only exception I have, and it is a big one, is that the author chose not to include information on infant nutrition. There were no references to breastfeeding -- the very first "real food." I think the author missed this opportunity to discuss starting children on a whole foods diet. I would have liked to read a suggestion that mashing a banana is just as easy as opening a jar of baby food.

The appendix proves invaluable with lists of pantry, refrigerator, and freezer staples, lists of health and nutrition organizations and Web sites, recommended reading suggestions, and a bibliography of recent titles. Anyone interested in nutrition is sure to find additional resources here.

This title makes healthy eating seem possible. The authors remind us to do the best we can with what is available to us -- words to live by! There is no "perfect diet." Each chapter ends with great ideas for "shifting." That is, gradually making little improvements until you find yourself eating "real foods."

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