Book Review: The Dorito Effect

The Dorito Effect was a very interesting and perhaps somewhat alarmist book. In a nutshell, the book argues that modern agriculture has bred both our animal and vegetable foods to optimize transportability and yield and neglected to breed for flavour. The lack of flavour in our food is remedied by synthesized flavour chemicals that are added to make our food palatable. According to Schatzker, the major problem with this is that in nature, flavour is an indicator of nutrition. So our flavour-poor foods are also nutritionally-poor, and we are being coerced into eating these things because food additives are tricking our bodies into thinking we want to eat them.

There was a particular section of this book that interested me as a parent. I have included the two pertinent pages below (my apologies for the slight blurriness). These pages discuss a study done back in the days when there weren’t ethics review boards. Children of “teenage mothers” and “widows” were fed an experimental diet consisting of 34 different whole, unprocessed foods. The children were allowed to choose whatever they wanted to eat at each meal from the options, and permitted to eat as much as they wanted. Not every meal the children chose for themselves contained all of the food groups, but overall, they ended up with a balanced diet and were in excellent health at the end of the study.

 

At another point in Schatzker’s book he talks about how flavour chemicals are used in raising livestock. In that particular context they are referred to as “palatants” and they can make livestock consume many more calories than they naturally would and grow much faster (which is great for farmers to maximize profit).

This, in addition to his description of the nutritional experiment with children got me reflecting about RJ, who is still way at the bottom of the growth chart for her weight (somewhere around the 1 percentile mark). She is a good eater and we avoid giving her processed foods. I started to wonder where the numbers on the growth chart come from, and if perhaps the children on which the growth charts are based are fed more processed foods with flavour chemicals (aka palatants) than RJ is, and therefore they might inevitably consume more calories and be more plump than she is.

Fortunately another blogger whose work I really admire, Alice Callahan over at The Science of Mom had written a well-researched post on growth charts in 2011. I learned from her post that the WHO charts are based on the measurements of a total of 882 children from Pelotas, Brazil; Accra, Ghana; Delhi, India; Oslow, Norway; Muscat, Oman; and Davis, CA, USA. It turns out that children who were “super lean were excluded so as not to skew the data.” I can only speculate that many, if not all of the 882 children ate processed foods with flavour chemicals. According to Schatzker’s book, flavour chemicals are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine that there are children in the world who aren’t exposed to them. I wonder what a growth chart from 100 years ago would look like, if such a thing exists. Would RJ have been at the bottom of a growth chart 100 years ago before processed foods, or would her weight be more average compared to those children of the past.

Although RJ is a skinny little toddler, she seems healthy and I feel that I am doing the right thing for her by feeding her whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. The Dorito Effect definitely underscored that belief.

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Double Book Review: PK Hallinan’s Let’s be Thankful and Thank You, God

If you are a Christian, you should buy Thank You, God for your child. It’s a hard book to track down but I ordered my copy through abebooks.com.

This book’s only mention of Jesus is on the page that reads as follows:

And thank you, dear God,

For all that you are —

From the cross on the hill

To the Bethlehem star.

I like this open-ended reference to the importance of the cross, because I don’t think we need to get all into atonement theology with our children right away. I’m still figuring out what the cross means in my own life, and I may very well spend the rest of my life still trying to work it out. So I think it’s good to introduce the cross as an important symbol to children, but not to try to give a tidy explanation about what it means.

This book also does not refer to God with any gendered pronouns. Inclusive language win! Because I don’t want to have to explain to RJ some day that even though I’ve been reading her books for years in which God is a “he,” God is not actually male.

Thank You, God has lovely, lilting rhyming verse, and highlights all the sweet and simple things in life that kids enjoy and parents sometimes forget to enjoy. It concludes with reminding us to be grateful for God’s love. Although I find the illustrations are nothing spectacular aesthetically, they do succeed in conveying the excellent message of this book.

If you are not a Christian, you could consider buying Let’s Be Thankful. Same author, similar premise and rhythmic verse, and if you live in the city of Winnipeg, you can just take it out from the library.

Even though these books are by the same author and about the same topic (gratitude), there is something that fundamentally changes when God is removed from the story. In a world, or book, where there is no God, gratitude is no longer directed to a giver or a provider of all the things we enjoy. Maybe you want to direct your gratitude towards “the universe” (people do that, right?). Well either the universe is indifferent or, if the universe is not indifferent, isn’t that kind of the same as believing in God?

Anyway, in an indifferent universe, the exercise of gratitude is mostly an exercise in self-improvement. On some level, Hallinan acknowledges this on the page where he writes:

For when I am thankful,

It’s easy to see,

I tend to spend life

Living more joyfully!

So in a way, this secular gratitude is a little self-serving. But hey, religious gratitude also can function in a self-serving way, and appreciating the world does bring more joy into one’s life. And the more joy you have in your own life, the more you can spread it around. And that is something we can all believe in and be a part of whether we believe in a higher power or not.

Book Review: I am a Bunny

Why am I obsessed with this book?

I’ve already read it to RJ twice today.

I actually chose this book brand-new from the bookstore (I usually only buy used children’s books or take them out from the library). Our friend had given RJ a copy of Each Peach Pear Plum for her first birthday but we already owned a copy from my own childhood. So we went to the bookstore to exchange it, but choosing a replacement book was a lot to live up to because Each Peach Pear Plum is an awesome book.

So I looked through almost all of the children’s books while RJ squawked and I sweated, finally choosing this one. And it’s awesome. Hubby and RJ both agree with me.

To begin with, it has the right text to page ratio to hold the attention of a 1-year old. Secondly, it’s adorable and whimsical, even though I slightly disapprove of anthropomorphizing animals. Especially since we ate a rabbit for dinner the other night. So it seems kind of twisted to read this book one night and serve up a tasty rabbit stew the next. But I digress…

I thought this blog did a great job of describing how charming the illustrations (done by the renown and prolific Richard Scarry) are in this book. I like the simplicity of this book and how it describes the changing seasons. The changing seasons do seem more magical now that I have RJ. Life feels more rhythmic in a way, and I like to read books that talk about seasons.

This book was written in 1963, and there is something old-fashioned and innocent about it. You should check it out.