The CSA we recently joined came with a cookbook. I rolled my eyes when I heard this, because who under the age of 60 uses cookbooks anymore? (Sorry mom.)
But the Cleaner Plate Club isn’t your typical cookbook. It is pretty much the best book ever. It’s coauthored by a passionate chef and a clueless cook who has picky young children. It focuses on eating whole, natural, unprocessed food. In their opinion, it doesn’t matter what the food DOESN’T have (fat, calories, carbs, etc) as much as it matters what it DOES have (vitamins, nutrients, etc). A 100-calorie snack pack of Oreos might be low fat and low calorie, but is that better for you than a handful of fatty nuts or high calorie fresh fruit? The marketing departments of food companies have spent billions of dollars to convince consumers to go with the 100 calorie Oreos.
If you don’t know anything about healthy eating and are a little intimidated by the bulk bins or the difference between organic/natural/free range/cage free eggs, this is the book for you. It explains everything there is to know about eating whole foods in a way that is so easy to understand.
Each vegetable you might find in a farmer’s market or receive in your CSA has a couple of pages dedicated to it. It tells you all about that vegetable- what kind of nutrients it gives you, how to store it, the different varieties it comes in, the different ways to prepare it. It then gives you at least one recipe to use that vegetable in- and all the recipes are kid-friendly (aka, Jayme-friendly).
The index of the book is fantastic. You can search by the vegetable, so if you have an eggplant, you can easily find all the recipes that use eggplant. You can search by the name of the recipe. Or you can search by the season, so that during the summer you can find all the veggies that are in season, and all the recipes that use those veggies.
If you have kids, the book also talks about how to avoid making mealtime battle time. When I was growing up, I was in a constant fight with my parents at dinner. Two more bites- no, bigger bites than that- no, you can’t have PB&J instead of dinner- finish this or you’re not getting a snack tonight. I can’t imagine how frustrating that was for my parents, and I don’t want to have to go through that with my own kids. This book not only talks about how to avoid that, but also how to teach your kids a love and appreciation for healthy eating. They don’t advocate “hiding” vegetables by disguising them into foods the way that some other books do, because that is only feeding into the myth that vegetables are gross- not exactly setting your kids up for healthy eating habits later in life.
My favorite part about this book is that it is real. It doesn’t tell you to buy all organic all the time. It doesn’t tell you to never eat a chip or a cookie. It doesn’t tell you to take away candy your kid might receive at the bank or after a sports game. It acknowledges that we live in a culture that has some pretty unhealthy habits and that it’s impossible to totally avoid that. It reminds you that your overall goal is to eat healthy, and/or to teach your kids to eat healthy- not to avoid THAT cake or THIS sucker. Because if you eat healthy most of the time, do those little indulgences really matter? It encourages you to control what you can control and to let go of the rest. And it’s all written in short sections, making it incredibly easy to read.
I’m not getting paid to promote this book, I just truly love it and think it’s a great tool for learning how to eat healthy and try new things. If those are goals you share, definitely check this book out!