Please don’t eat the wallpaper! the teenager’s guide to avoiding trans fats, enriched wheat and high fructose corn syrup
Dr. Nancy Irven with Pauette Lash Ritchie
Morgan James Publishing, 2008
Do you remember what kind of food you and your friends at in high school? I know what I ate and drank: a lot of soda, chips, sweets, bagels, and generally more than I needed to. This was during the period when low fat was really turning into the big thing, along with diet foods, microwave meals galore from weight loss companies, and I ate it all. Knowing what I do now, about how much damage that level of sugar and processed food can do to the body, I have to shudder. Had I known then what was really nutritious, instead of all the various fake food coming on to the market, perhaps I would have eaten better and not had to deal so much with asthma, allergies, and depression.
Thankfully there is someone now teaching teens about better nutrition down in Florida. Dr. Nancy Irven began teaching a class in nutrition at a local high school, covering some of the worst stuff kids could eat. In her terminology, these foods are glue (white flour-based foods) and plastic (trans fats), and she also throws in high fructose corn syrup. Her class begins by having the students keep a food diary for three days, noting everything they ate. I can’t say I was too shocked to see what was on there, since it looked pretty familiar with what I’d see in the lunch room back when I was in high school.
Her class, and the book, continue with beautiful science! Irven explains the difference between traditional fats and modern fats, complete with illustrations of the different fat molecules. By putting the material into clear language which doesn’t talk down at its audience (I didn’t feel talked down to and I’m technically old enough to be a parent to a kid in this kind of class) Irven keeps the attention of her reader and hopefully can get through to someone eating the foods she’s heartily against. She also includes a chapter on how to read food labels and avoid the refined foods, as well as seeing how prevalent they are in most food at the supermarket.
Irven also brings up something interesting which is especially of concern to teens: that just because someone looks thin, doesn’t mean they’re not full of fat in their body. Students in her class did get some advanced fat scanning, and without using any identifying characteristics, mentions an underweight girl whose body fat was well over 30%. Anything which can further the cause of thin not automatically being healthy is worth promoting loudly.
The book concludes with some start recipes the teens can share with their families to start cooking at home and getting more nutritious foods into their diets, and letters from some of her students at the end of the course thanking her profusely for teaching them so much information.
There is a lot which can be shared about what constitutes nutritious food, and Irven states loudly that this is only a beginning, covering what’s possibly the worst. If I have any issue with this book, it’s a small one. She included edamame as one of the foods she ate, without saying anything about issues relating to unfermented soy: now one of the most common allergens, it is also full of antinutrients which prevent the body from absorbing what it needs, as well as being full of estrogen.
4.5 stars. If you want to get a teen in your life to eat better, and they’re hooked on sodas, gum, snack cakes, and bagged chips, get them this book as fast as you can. In fact, don’t just limit it to one teen. Buy copies for your local public and school libraries as well!