A Thumbs Down Book Review
By Marilu Henner
Review by Sally Fallon
Marilu Henner is an actress who also describes herself as a health pioneer. In this colorful, “kid-friendly” book she says it’s time to say good-bye to sugarcoated cereals, artificially colored cheese puffs, oceans of sugary soft drinks, nutritionally deficient school lunches and fast food supermeals. Sounds great.
But then come all the mistakes:
- Young girls are starting to menstruate years earlier because of bovine growth hormones in meat and dairy.
- School lunches are bad because they contain over 40 percent of calories as fat. s Meat and butter clog arteries.
- Saturated fats are just as bad as trans fats.
- Grains and legumes will protect against cancer, heart disease and overweight.
- Plant foods are better sources of calcium than dairy foods.
- There are more pesticides in meat than in grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Children should eat lots of rough whole grains, including the bran and hull.
- Cows milk does not contain essential fatty acids.
- Safflower oil is good for frying and corn, canola and soy oil are fine for “general use.”
Henner’s dietary advice for nursing mothers is to avoid spicy foods and drink plenty of water. Recommended foods for weaning include soy-based, vitamin-enriched formula, tofu and hard-to-digest items such as breads, cereals and nut butters.
Then come the recipes, just loaded with unbleached flour, soy margarine (even though she says trans fats are bad), canola oil, lots of whole unsoaked grains and an overabundance of sweeteners. Just about every soy food imaginable finds its way into Henner’s recipes for kids—soy milk, soy yoghurt, soy mayonnaise, soy cheese, soy sausage, soy meat substitutes, soy cream, soy bacon and soy pastrami. These bland foods then get flavored with Spike and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, both sources of MSG. The only meat allowed is skinless chicken breasts or lean turkey, and the only other animal food in the recipes is cage-free eggs.
Henner promises that this diet will protect children against asthma, allergies, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, yeast infections and overweight. But it is almost completely devoid of those dietary factors that children need to avoid these conditions, beginning with the fat-soluble activators found in organ meats, oily fish, shellfish, butter and other animal fats. The granola and other whole grain products she recommends are the fast-track to candida problems.
The irony is that Henner condemns processed foods on one page but on the next endorses the most processed foods of all—imitation milk, butter, yoghurt, cheese and meat made from soy. And she doesn’t seem to realize that these soy foods contain huge amounts of additives—the very additives she condemns in her appendix.
To top off her highly restrictive diet, Henner throws in food-combining rules that prohibit eating protein foods with starches. Sweet fruits should not be combined with other foods, she says, but they abound in her baked goods.
This book is billed as a guidebook to healthy kids, but the guidelines it contains are more likely to produce a variety of pathologies, including the kinds of eating disorders that manifest when we prohibit those wholesome traditional foods for which the body has deep instinctual desires.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2001.