________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


Healthy Eating for Preteens and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Diet, Nutrition, and Food.

Leslie Beck.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2005.
284 pp., pbk., $28.00.
ISBN 0-14-301720-9.

Subject Heading:

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up, plus parents and teachers.

Review by Joanne Peters & Cindy Mitterndorfer.

**** /4


Over the past 15 years, I have counseled many teenagers about nutrition. I’ve helped overweight teens slim down and navigate the fat and sugar traps on cafeteria and camp menus. I’ve educated teenagers about healthy vegetarian diets, and I’ve advised others about sport-specific nutrition.

There’s never been as much demand for nutrition information as there is today.  Teenagers and adults are more aware of nutrition than they were even a decade ago. My clients come to me looking for sound, credible, and relevant information about how their food choices affect their well-being.

It’s a confusing world out there, and sometimes even for a nutritionist like me. Conflicting news stories abut nutrition, fad diets, and a growing number of “magic bullet” supplements can make even the most nutrition-savvy person’s head spin. Given today’s overwhelming amount of health information, it can be a tough task to make sense of the foods you eat.


Making sense of the foods you eat is a tough task, indeed, but Leslie Beck’s book achieves its goal. And, given her credentials, it’s no surprise: a registered dietician who continues to run a private practice in Toronto, she also provides nutritional consulting to corporations and athletic teams. She is the author of five other books on nutrition, writes a weekly nutrition column in The Globe and Mail and appears both on CTV’s Canada AM and the Discovery Channel’s Foodstuff. The woman on the front cover of the book looks wonderful, fit, and healthy. If this is what good nutrition can do for them, teens should be willing to forswear forever the empty calories that come with a diet of chips, pop, and all fast food.

     Beck dedicates the book to her preteen niece and nephew, and it is clear that she is in touch with the food habits of today’s teens. “The What’s On Your Plate?” High School Nutrition Survey polled 1046 Canadian high school students on eating habits at home and school, as well as attitudes towards nutrition and their participation in sports and/or exercise activities. The results of that survey clearly inform much of the book’s content and provide parents with authentic information behind the often-conflicting food factoids presented in the popular media.

     The book is organized into four parts: “Nutrition Basics” (focusing on preteen and teen nutritional requirements), “Making Healthy Food Choices” (both at home, in the school cafeteria, and at the ever-increasing number of restaurants which are the dinner tables of today’s heavily-scheduled families), “Nutrition for Health and Fitness” (including vegetarianism, weight control, eating disorders, and nutrition for sports), and finally, a recipe collection created and tested by the Canadian Living Test Kitchen. Although the first two parts of the book are comprehensive and data-packed, easy-to-understand text, diagrams, tables and graphs make the facts readily accessible. You don’t need a B.Sc. to understand this (and even if have one, you’re bound to learn something new). Cindy Mitterndorfer, a member of Kelvin High School’s physical education department reviewed the chapters on “Nutrition for Health and Fitness” and was very impressed with content that focused on calorie needs, weight management, and the challenges posed by teens who choose vegetarian diets. She was equally positive about the section on eating (and hydrating) properly for training and competition. Healthy lifestyle is stressed, and Beck is a strong proponent of the key role of exercise and fitness in maintaining a healthy body and managing weight. Manitoba’s Physical Education curriculum looks at nutrition in the context of “The Adolescent Consumer,” and Cindy stated that the book was an excellent resource, providing support material for teachers.

     As for the Recipe section, Canadian Living’s test kitchens are known nationally for recipes and cook books that stress good nutrition, as well as ease of preparation. Whether looking for a healthy choice for “breakfast on the go,” interesting additions to brown-bag lunches, inspiration for “quick dinners on the fly,” or something to battle the inevitable “snack attack,” more than 60 recipes provides parents (and teens who cook) with  plenty of ideas to balance good nutrition with great flavour. Beck makes it clear that healthy eating habits start at home: parents (and other significant adults) have to take an honest look at their eating habits, and model the behaviours that they want their preteens and teens to adopt.

     Healthy Eating for Preteens and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Diet, Nutrition, and Food deserves a place in the kitchen (and bookshelf) of every family of preteens and teens, every high school library, and the office of every high school home economics and physical education department.

Highly Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB. Cindy Mitterndorfer is a physical education teacher in the same school.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.