I have to say that while the recipes in this book are certainly nutritious and tasty, any parent of a typical, modern-day child will have great difficulty incorporating most of them into their daily dinners. Kale soup? Delicata squash and Swiss chard sauce? Even all but the most “health foodie” adults out there will likely still balk at some of the recipes – Lima Bean Hummus (p. 239) with Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips (p. 241) and a dessert of Rhubarb Crumble with Rosemary and Thyme (p. 252) are probably not going to be hits at the next dinner party. While I’m no kale-hater, the fact that Bader and Benjamin claim to be catering to the “everyday adult / parent” out there means the majority of foods included in Cleaner Plate are simply impractical to suggest.
Of question for me as a nutritionist (both conventional and holistic) were the recipes Bader and Benjamin include in their vegetarian section. While I applaud the authors for including one at all, I was expecting both more and more varied options. With a few exceptions (Carrot-Quinoa Biryani (p. 229), Curried Eggplant and Long Beans (p. 226), and Potato Salad (p. 228)) it seems that if you are vegetarian, pasta is the only thing you can dish up that’s both full of nutrition and kid-friendly. The problem here is that these pasta recipes are not even balanced from a macro-nutrient perspective: aside from a handful of cheese here and there, protein is absent from the pages. Given that growing evidence continually promotes the meat-restricted eating plan as a prime practice for longevity and the avoidance of disease, I was disappointed that a greater effort to include a variety of delicious, kid-appealing vegetarian and vegan meals in Cleaner Plate was not made. Considering that the authors include and promote ingredients like artichokes, fennel, lamb and capers, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to include a sweet-and-sour tofu stir-fry or “crispy breaded tofu sticks” in the childhood diet.
The fault with The Cleaner Plate Club is certainly not in its thoroughness, charm, or good intentions. For the well-schooled home cook who has the time, money and willingness to scope out the farmers’ markets every Saturday while joining a CSA, and who hasn’t yet introduced their family to the occasional alluring call of the drive-thu, it’s a great anthology of vegetable recipes. The problem lies in the marketing – like so many of the common “convenience” foods on the store shelves, it looks like a book your kids will grow up loving food from. For many busy families, though, getting kids to start eating (and enjoying) a healthier diet will be more successful by reducing the junk in the house, offering a few baby carrots and grapes after school and tossing in green peas with that night’s mac and cheese.
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