Diet Detective’s Calorie Bargains: Free and very worthwhile food books, reports, programs (curricula) and lectures

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Simon Loses His Tummy [Kindle Edition], by Judith Wurtman with illustrations by Kathryn Selbert
Simon is a long-haired dachshund who loves to eat cheese and hates to exercise. Susie tries to feed him diet dog food, but Simon hates it! When Susie goes to summer camp, Simon stays with Susies friend, Annie. Simon fools Annie into feeding him lots of cheese and letting him take naps instead of walks. But one day, Simon wakes up and finds his tummy gone! There is a furry beach ball where his tummy used to be.
How will Simon find his tummy? In Simon Loses His Tummy, the humorous and gentle message of the importance of eating healthy foods and exercising will appeal to young children as well as their parents.
Notes: In the spirit of full disclosure, Judith Wurtman is a friend of mine, but I think this book is hilarious, and packed with great messages for children. I was the one who urged Dr. Wurtman to give the book away rather than selling it. Get it while shes still convinced! The target age for this book is 5-11.  
Where you get it: Put a 0 in the Name a fair price donation section. Even better, make a donation, if you so choose. You can also purchase the book from
Cost: Free (or with a donation) or on for 99 cents.
Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active!
Overview: This is an interactive after-school education program for children ages 11 to 13 developed by the National Institutes of Health. The curriculum is designed to empower young people to Become aware of and think critically about medias role in influencing their nutrition and physical activity choices. Build skills that help them make informed decisions about being physically active and eating nutritious food in daily life. Learn about media and create their own media products to educate their peers.
 The curriculum combines media literacy and youth development principles and practices with up-to-date research findings and federal recommendations about nutrition and physical activity. It is also consistent with widely accepted, national learning standards.
Notes: If you have any concerns about the influence media have on your child, this is a great resource, with lessons, activities and more.  Its designed to be used in the classroom, but there is no reason you cant do it right at your kitchen table.   Topics include Thinking about Media and The Power of Advertising, among many others. Just creating awareness of the fact that theyre being marketed and manipulated to eat unhealthy foods will resonate powerfully with the 11- to 13-year-old mind.  The goal of the material is to get kids to think about making healthier choices.
Where you get it:
Cost: Free
Food Day Cookbook: Eat Real: Recipes from Some of Americas Best Chefs
Overview: This eBook offers tasty, healthy, and affordable recipes from some of America’s top chefs, including Dan Barber, Rick Bayless, Nina Simonds, and many others. The book was published by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and has 20 kid-friendly, healthy recipes ranging from oat squares to sesame tofu to fruit kebabs. You can even open the cookbook on your mobile phone when youre doing your grocery shopping to get the ingredients youll need for the recipes.
Notes: These are great fun recipes for adults and young kids.
Where to get it:
Cost: Free
Pre-K Nutrition Education Curriculum Developed by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) and the NIH.
“EatPlayGrow is a new health educational curriculum created through an innovative public-private partnership between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM). EatPlayGrow‘s interactive and engaging lessons incorporate art-making, storytelling, music and movement activities into fun, hands-on educational lessons about the importance of making positive choices in areas that most affect health: nutrition, physical activity, and, based on emerging medical research, sleep.
Notes: This is great for the parents of 2- to 5-year-olds.
Where you get it: Read more about the curriculum and go to the download page here:
Cost: Free
University of California, Berkeleys Edible Education Lecture Series: Edible Education 103: Telling Stories about Food and Agriculture
As the costs of our industrialized food system to the environment, public health, farmers and food workers, and to our social life become impossible to ignore, a national debate over the future of food and farming has begun. Telling stories about where food comes from, how it is produced and how it might be produced differently plays a critical role in bringing attention to the issue and shifting politics. Each week, a prominent figure in the debate explores: What can be done to make the food system healthier, more equitable, more sustainable? What is the role of storytelling in the process?
Notes: Lecturers include famed foodies Alice Waters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson (The Kitchen Sisters), Jerome Waag, Charlie Hallowell, Samin Nosrat, Harold McGee and Raj Patel. You can also get the first series, called Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement, at
Where you can find it:
Cost: Free
Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science
This public lecture series discusses concepts from the physical sciences that underpin both everyday cooking and haute cuisine. Each lecture features a world-class chef who visited [Harvard] and presented their remarkable culinary designs. The lectures then use these culinary creations as inspiration to delve into understanding how and why cooking techniques and recipes work, focusing on the physical transformations of foods and material properties.
Notes: This course is available from Harvard University. You can simply watch the lectures (two years worth) on YouTube, or you can register for the course at HarvardX.
Where you can find it: or
Cost: Free
PSYC 123: The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food
This course encompasses the study of eating as it affects the health and well-being of every human. Topics include taste preferences, food aversions, the regulation of hunger and satiety, food as comfort and friendship, eating as social ritual, and social norms of blame for food problems. The politics of food discusses issues such as sustainable agriculture, organic farming, genetically modified foods, nutrition policy, and the influence of food and agriculture industries. Also examined are problems such as malnutrition, eating disorders, and the global obesity epidemic; the impact of food advertising aimed at children; poverty and food; and how each individual’s eating is affected by the modern environment.
Notes: This compressive course includes 23 video lectures. The course is taught by Kelly Brownell, an internationally renowned expert on food and obesity. Dr. Brownell, was a prominent professor at Yale, and is now a dean at Dukes Sanford School of Public Policy.
Where you can find it:
Cost: Free


(Photo by Jon Chase, Harvard Staff Photographer)

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