Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food
By Jessica Seinfeld
Collins Living, 2008
Review by Stephanie Brewer
As an avid cookbook reader and cook, I was excited to receive a copy of Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld as a gift. The cookbook contains numerous “kid-friendly” home-style recipes using various hidden fruits and vegetables to “enhance the nutrition.” Unfortunately this book is yet another case of a well-meaning celebrity wife and mother perpetuating the lowfat nutrition dogma.
In the book’s foreword, Drs. Roxana Mehran and Mehmet Oz blame heart disease and diabetes on “too much starch, sugar and saturated fat.” I read on, expecting the recipes to limit all three of these ingredients. What I found is a collection of recipes that almost completely avoid saturated fat but still use plenty of flour (both white and whole wheat) and refined sugar. Given my knowledge of nutrition (based on personal experience, several years of research and the advice of the Weston A. Price Foundation), I would much rather see recipes for children that use more saturated fat while reducing the starch and sugars.
Deceptively Delicious is designed to resemble an old-fashioned cookbook so I expected plenty of “from scratch” recipes using real ingredients. Hiding vegetables in food is nothing new. I imagine that mothers have been fortifying their children’s foods in this way for as long as we have had graters and blenders. (My own great grandmother was famous for her zucchini cookies.) Many of the foods that Jessica Seinfeld promotes in her cookbook, however, are very new to the human race. I was not surprised but definitely disappointed to find that she uses lowfat dairy products, tofu, cold cereal and lean meats. I was more alarmed to find that she wants us to bake with canola oil, vegetable oil, nonstick cooking spray and “trans-fat-free” tub margarine spread. Not only are these ingredients highly processed, but they are also high in omega-6 fats and dangerously rancid when heated. And this is a cookbook of recipes for our children!
It saddens me that this cookbook is flying off the shelves. Thousands of loving mothers think that they are doing a good thing just because they are getting their children to eat hidden vegetables.
There are serious flaws in nearly all of the recipes. Let’s start with the eggs. Nearly every recipe that uses eggs calls for throwing out most or all of the yolks. Someone needs to let Mrs. Seinfeld know that the yolks are the most nutrient-dense part of any egg. Adding a half cup of puréed carrots or squash will add some fiber to a recipe but will never make up for the fat-soluble nutrients, including true vitamin A, that are lost when you discard the egg yolks. Using nonfat yogurt and trans-free soft spread instead of butter in the same recipe will ensure that your unsuspecting children will lack the essential saturated fats and nutrients they need to convert the beta-carotene in those puréed carrots to usable vitamin A.
From breakfasts to desserts, this cookbook gives us a surplus of carbohydrates and lean proteins while neglecting the important fats and fat-soluble vitamins that every child needs. For example, the pumpkin oatmeal recipe uses skim milk and a full quarter cup of brown sugar for two servings. Mrs. Seinfeld then suggests serving the sugar-laced oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts and maple syrup. In my own kitchen, I made the recipe using well-soaked oats, whole milk and a quarter cup of butter instead of the brown sugar. With the pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie spices it was still very sweet to my taste.
If the sugar-rich breakfasts and baked goods are making you crave some protein, be very careful of the entrées. They are loaded with improperly prepared whole grains, lowfat or nonfat dairy products and lean meats. We know that too much protein without the fat and fat-soluble activators will deplete our livers of vitamin A. Too much beta carotene, which you might get from all the puréed veggies hidden in these dishes, can depress our ability to convert carotenes into vitamin A.
Many of the recipes are baked substitutes for fried foods. Some of them would be just fine if they called for more heat-stable fats such as lard. Of course, they all use nonstick cooking spray. I don’t even want to go near the Tofu Nuggets. Mrs. Seinfeld claims the kids think they are chicken or cheese. Let’s just feed them some chicken or cheese then. They certainly aren’t getting what they need from all that soy. The Spaghetti Pie and Lasagna recipes don’t even look very appetizing, though I think they could be very good if made with full-fat dairy products and meats.
That said, I do find myself using Deceptively Delicious for ideas. If you are someone like me, who follows recipes very loosely, this is a serviceable cookbook. The recipes that I have converted to use full fat dairy products and real food ingredients have all turned out very well. Just ignore the appalling advice to throw away those precious egg yolks and use plenty of high quality animal fat. Avoid the high sugar desserts and the tofu nuggets. I also want to caution you against the advice to prepare several steamed vegetable purées ahead of time. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, nitrites can form in cooked vegetables during storage. This adds yet another danger to our so-called healthy cooking.
I do believe that Jessica Seinfeld has her heart in the right place. She offers parenting advice throughout the cookbook. One of her advice pages tells us to keep a strict schedule of meal times and snacks to avoid mood swings in our children. While regular mealtimes and snacks are important, mood swings are not a problem if our children have plentiful saturated fat and fat-soluble vitamins in their diets to prevent hypoglycemia. I also can’t help commenting on the photo of her youngest on the back cover. He has his mouth open wide, displaying his narrow palate and crowded front teeth. Jessica herself looks model-thin and pale. I want to take them both home and feed them a traditional foods supper. I may even hide some puréed liver in the main course.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2009.