Dr. Margaret Towolawi, Shoreline-based family physician and children’s book author, has released a new take on alphabet books for young readers: The ABCs of plant-based nutrition.
In Ayomide and Seyi’s Kitchen: A kids guide to plant-based nutrition, Ayomide and his little sister move through their kitchen pointing out plant-based foods and explaining in simple, easy to understand terms, why they are good for the body.
A new take on learning letters and foods
Not all letters are represented by food, however. The siblings find energy (the letter E) as they move through their kitchen, and iron too (the letter I). This colorful trip through the alphabet will help kids understand why plants matter :
- A is for apple, which is a “yummy source of fiber.”
- D is for vitamin D, which “helps to build strong bones” and which you can get from the sun or some cereals.
- L is for legumes: “They help you poop!”
A nod to world foods
Towolawi includes a West African rice dish called jollof for J, the purple yam called Ube for U and nutritional yeast for Y, creating this alphabet book from her own cultural experience. And, it takes a good illustrator to make lentils look tasty and fiber fun, but Oritz pulls it off.
We asked Dr. Towolawi about the project. Here’s what she had to say:
Seattle’s Child (SC): Why a book about plant-based eating for small children?
Dr. Towolawi: I am a doctor mama on a mission to get people young and old to eat more plants. No labels. No judgment.
I have taken care of hundreds of families as a family physician over the past decade. Once I learned that so many common chronic diseases could be reversed and prevented by making healthier food choices – the light bulb went off that if I could get people to begin to make these healthier food choices at a young age, the likelihood of young children who become adolescents and later adults who have chronic diseases like prediabetes, obesity, hypertension could be prevented.
I have been plant-based for about 25 years and my family is predominantly plant-based. I always tell people that this book is for everybody regardless if you are vegan or not. I find that if children aren’t exposed to something, they never have the opportunity to get curious enough to try it. The hope all along was that the book would inspire children and their adult readers to try the plant foods they learn about, hopefully preparing them together in the kitchen.
SC: Do you feel families should consider plant-based nutrition?
Dr. Towolawi: The reality is in the United States, we all eat too much processed food and do not get enough fiber. Plant-based eating takes the guesswork out of how to get fiber as this diet is full of fiber. On the contrary, animal products do not have fiber. Fiber is essential for blood sugar regulation, controlling cholesterol levels, giving the feeling of fullness, regular bowel movements and more. There are also countless evidence-based studies that show how plant forward diets can reverse, prevent, and treat diseases including diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.
SC: Do you feel there is a gap in education on this topic for young children?
Dr. Towolawi: Absolutely – at no fault of their own. Nutrition is not taught in many schools and parents often do not have the knowledge in this area as well. I’ve had so many parents tell me how much they have personally learned from the book. One of my missions is to get funding to build a curriculum centered around the book that I can bring into schools and organizations that would include reading the book and creating a mini-nutrition lesson with a food demo.
SC: What do your children think of your book?
Dr. Towolawi: They think it’s pretty cool and don’t hold back on their thoughts lol. I picked their brain during the writing process and my son actually came up with the cover design which I love. He was six years old at the time!
SC: Are those your children in the book?
Dr. Towolawi: Yes they are. As a Black mother, it is sooo important for me to make sure my children can see themselves in literature. I have been able to create a body of work that allows my children to see themselves not just figuratively, but literally as well. I am really proud of this fact.
SC: How does this or your other books fit into your medical practice?
Dr. Towolawi: It fits in perfectly. I am a double board certified physician in two disciplines: Family Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine. As a family physician I take care of children and adults and do a great deal of preventative counseling which includes going over nutrition. I also practice Lifestyle Medicine which focuses on six main pillars to prevent, reverse and treat disease. One of those pillars includes plant-based nutrition, so sharing the book with patients really falls in line with the mission of my private practice and bigger goal of wanting to see people live longer, healthier lives.
SC: Anything else you’d like to say?
Dr. Towolawi: Just have fun in the kitchen and get creative. Don’t worry about labels. If you don’t want to eat plant-based 100% of the time that is fine. Just get comfortable eating more fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains. Our children are always watching and healthy habits really start at home. It is never too late to make a change.
For sale and free in libraries
Ayomide and Seyi’s Kitchen is available in English and in a Spanish-Bilingual edition and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble websites but also at local bookshops Third Place Books and Edmonds Bookshop. Both versoins can also be purchased at margarettowolawimd.com for $15.99, along with Towolawi’s other book Ayomide’s Train Ride to Graceland.
The book is available to checkout at the following libraries: Seattle Public Library, Sno Isle Library and other locations.