Did the World Really Need This Children’s Cookbook?

When the existence of a popular children’s cookbook was brought to Dr. Pretlow’s attention, it inspired the following comments:

What were the authors thinking when they created such an appalling cover for their book??? It is horrifically irresponsible to promote such highly pleasurable foods in the midst of a global childhood obesity epidemic and with mounting scientific evidence that such foods may be addicting.

It is tragically ironic that Food Network, the author of the book, lists the most addictive foods on its website, which include the foods on the book’s cover!

The cover’s pictorial centerpiece is the bland yet weirdly breast-like top part of a hamburger bun. There is also a much less prominent lower piece, and together they embrace a brown patty, some vegetative tendrils, and white sauce.

The item on the right seems like something that would be a hit with kids, who often have extreme tastes. They will reject a familiar food whose texture is slightly different from what they are accustomed to, and then pounce on the opportunity to eat something that could imaginatively be interpreted as fried worms or an equally gross concoction. (The book includes such child-friendly celery-based snacks as Ants on a Ranch, Ladybugs on a Log, and Pigs in a Pen.)

The trend continues

In the background reposes a dish of a red substance that might, in the eyes of a mischievous kid, appear to be coagulated blood waiting to be applied to some other child who is only trying to eat lunch. (It is warmed tomato sauce, for dipping.) Further research, on page 103, reveals that the cover photo is, in fact, an Italian Burger with Spaghetti Fries. The burger is indeed meat; not to say there is anything fundamentally wrong with that, one way or another. From an obesity-prevention point of view, however, it would be better without the bun.

The nutritional value of deep-fried pasta is debatable. The strands are cooked, not surprisingly, in hot oil, a process that some parents do not want a child anywhere near, even when the child is just watching and the parent is doing the many transfers of spaghetti to and from the hot oil.

The little pictures along the book cover’s side are not too bad, until we get to the cupcake. Of course, dessert and snacks are a part of life, but must they be on the front door?

Words of unwisdom?

The title is somewhat problematic: The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook. Let’s take that to mean, “the cookbook that belongs, in an ownership sense, a custodial sense, or possibly a creative sense, to kids.” It seems like “Kids” should have an apostrophe, either in the place that would make it the book of one kid (Kid’s) or that would imply it belongs to several or all kids (Kids’).

But without that distinction, Kids becomes ambiguous, just another plural noun. The title includes both big and fun, but perhaps the adjectives apply not to the book, but to the kids. Encountering a cookbook for big, fun kids, would a morose child feel rejected? What about the child who does not enjoy thinking of herself or himself as big — would that child reject the book?

Dr. Pretlow also mentions what a sad commentary on current awareness it is, that this is a best seller. However… for a book to be described as a New York Times Bestseller does not mean as much as it used to. Apparently, accounting loopholes and system-gaming have reduced the prestige factor considerably.

A review from Publishers Weekly mentions the food trivia quizzes, and lauds the dozens of facts, for instance:

“There are 10,000 varieties of grapes in the world,” they write next to a recipe for candied grapes…

Candied grapes? To some, this is sacrilege. The grape is nature’s most perfect snack: wet yet tidily self-contained, and sweet. The grape cannot be improved upon. The piece also mentions the “coloring pages that are bound to spark enthusiasm.” With detailed and intricate designs, the coloring pages are a hybrid of food drawings and psychedelic art, and in fact seem more likely to be enjoyed by the grandparents of the child audience.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Look Inside!,” Amazon.com, undated
Source: “The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook,” PublishersWeekly.com, 04/28/20
Image by Evelyn Lim/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources