Anyone who has tried to optimize their diet can attest that nutrition is a challenging and sometimes perplexing subject. It’s not so much a matter of knowing what foods are healthy—vegetables are good, cake not so much—as understanding why they’re healthy. While education can help consumers make smarter food choices, parents can’t simply send their toddlers links to the latest nutrition research.
In EATING THESE FOODS MAKES ME…, Kalifa Rodriguez, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics, provides a basic primer on nutrition basics aimed at young children. Using illustrations and simple, easily-understood language, Rodriguez connects five nutritional benefits (Strong, Smart, Healthy, Happy, Energized) to the foods that best support those benefits. One section, for example, depicts a child playing on a climbing wall and monkey bars, with captions reading, “Eating these foods makes me…strong.” The following pages display photos of protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, beans, and dairy and a brief explanation of how protein builds strong muscles and bones. The book ends with a section, primarily for parents but addressing young readers as well, listing fun learning activities that provide ways to implement and reinforce healthy eating habits.
Rodriguez packs a great deal of helpful information in a few pages, and even adults can benefit from her explanations and examples. Water, for instance, helping the body flush waste so that we feel better, is a valuable fact for readers of all ages. The colorful, appealing illustrations (by artist Madeline) are gender and race-inclusive, and vegetarians/vegans will appreciate the strong emphasis on plant-based foods throughout the book. Rodriguez makes the nutritional explanations clear enough for young readers to understand without overloading them with details. However, parents with curious kids who unfailingly respond to any fact with “but why?” will want to be ready with additional facts—carbohydrates, for example, act as fuel for our bodies…but why?—since the book doesn’t include a section for grown-ups providing more in-depth details on how these nutrients deliver their benefits. The section on learning activities is, unfortunately, a little muddled, with only one of the four suggestions directed at adults and the other three using language more suited to slightly older readers (who aren’t likely to be reading this book in the first place). Although the section contains valuable tips, such as eating water-rich vegetables like celery to help stay hydrated, it would have been more effective if explicitly written for adults.
Well organized, easy to understand, and beautifully illustrated, EATING THESE FOODS MAKES ME… is an excellent introduction to basic nutrition concepts for early readers.
~Edward Sung for IndieReader