Our Family Conscientious Objector

Conscientious Objector

I picked up this book knowing that I was going to disagree with it. I saw it reviewed positively on the blog of a “natural mama” but I could tell I wouldn’t view it so favorably. But I read it anyway because I want to be educated. There are a lot of people out there (particularly ones with radical ideas) that think if you don’t agree with their ideas, it’s just because you are simply “uninformed.” That bugs me, so I read it in order to defend my position against it intelligently.

This doctor advocates a vegetarian–leaning towards vegan–diet, stating that it will make your child healthy and protect them from ADHD, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases.

Here are my major critiques on his positions:

He talks about how ridiculous it is that we fortify grain products with folic acid and other nutrients that can easily be obtained from simply eating green vegetables. However, then he talks about how a vegan diet is lacking in B12 and often calcium, and vegetarian diets are often very low in these as well. He explains why this poses no real problem because orange juice and soy milk are fortified with calcium and vitamin B12. So where did his whole argument about getting nutrients where they are found naturally (in this case through animal products) go?

He then talks about how bad for your dairy products are, in particular cheese. He states that cheese should not be kept in the home. He bases his argument mainly on the saturated fat content, citing a chart of saturated fat content in common foods which lists cheddar cheese at the top with 24 grams of saturated fat per 4 ounces, down further is a 6oz steak with 18 grams of fat, later you see 1 cup of whole milk with 5 grams of saturated fat.

Sure that looks convincing at face value, except that I’m not blind and I could quickly recognize that this chart is comparing arbitrary amounts of the foods as opposed to serving sizes. One cup of milk is an accurate serving size, so if you did drink whole milk (which in this country is only recommended for children between the ages of one and two) you would receive 5 grams of saturated fat. (We drink 1% milk at our house which has 1.5 grams per serving.) An appropriate serving size of meat would be 3-4 ounces which would mean you are getting 9-12 grams of saturated fat per serving. Then there is the appropriate serving size for cheese, one ounce, which would mean that 1 serving of cheddar cheese has 6 grams (not 24) of saturated fat. (Our Kroger brand medium cheddar is labeled as 5 grams per 1oz serving.)

So is cheese high in saturated fat? Yes, but do I serve a brick of cheese for dinner? No, cheese is a condiment which I use a small amount of to add a lot of flavors. Saying that cheese has no place in the home is way too extreme.

Another reason he gives for cutting out dairy is based on the evidence that giving cows milk to infants under the age of one can give them digestive problems and they often end up forming other food allergies. So in this case not only is he using an example that goes against standard contemporary medical advice, which is to not give children cows milk until they are over the age of one, but then he generalizes the problems these infants have to the whole population citing that it proves milk is not healthy for any age humans to drink.

Then he sets out to present a “balanced discussion” on the different diets you may choose and their benefits and drawbacks. As it turns out, if you eat a low-fat vegan diet, you will be super healthy. . . except for the little tiny fact that your brain might explode when you get older because the plaque-building processes of fat just may be protecting the fragile blood vessels in the brain from the stress of high blood pressure (p. 152). So if you just make sure not to eat too much salt you should be OK.

When talking about vegetarianism he sites that fruits and vegetables are the two foods associated with the highest rate of longevity in humans, not whole grains, bran, not even vegetarianism (p. 147). Which makes me wonder why we’re having this discussion at all. But, he insists, the reason to be vegetarian is in order to consume high levels of fruits, green vegetables, and beans. Well, my question is: what about eating small servings of meat prevents us from being able to eat large amounts of fruits vegetables and beans?

So, in answer, he explains his reasons against an omnivorous diet. All his reasons being that the typical western diet is not a healthy balance between animal and plant products. What?! The typical unhealthy American diet is not what we are talking about–we’re discussing diet ideas and what healthy options you can create for your family.

So my overall impression of the book was: it’s totally overly biased. Which I expected. Not to mention full of references to his website and his own personal brand of DHA supplements (oh, more supplements?) that you can purchase from his website.

There was one bit of advice he gave that I thought was good. He stated that if your children choose to eat junk food outside the home you shouldn’t try to guilt trip them about it. He stressed that our job is to control what our family eats in the home and try and make sure that most of your family’s eating happens in the home, but don’t try to control their behavior outside the home.