Book reviewed: Webb L. The Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free Family Cookbook: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Whole Foods on a Restrictive Diet. Chelsea, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing; 2019.
Leah Webb, author of The Grain-free, Sugar-free, Dairy-free Family Cookbook, has created an informative and user-friendly resource for anyone challenged to create tasty and healthful meals for children with restrictive diets. She quotes: “Not all storms come to disrupt your life; some come to clear your path.”
Webb's path to writing this cookbook involved her young children’s severe health conditions and a commitment to sharing what she’s learned along the way. She describes in detailed yet accessible language her reasons for avoiding grain, refined sugar, and dairy, explaining the physiology involved, including supportive research.
She also lays out her assessment of the research on debated topics such as what constitutes healthy fats and the relationship between dairy intake and autoimmunity. Overall, it is clear that she understands and values bio-individuality—the notion that outcomes from eating certain foods manifest uniquely for each of us. I find it to be an appealing and grounded approach.
A section titled ‘Converting a Picky Eater’ emphasizes patience, as well as exploration and curiosity—framing all of these changes as opportunity rather than restriction.
There are engaging, narrative chapters leading up to the recipes that set the reader up for success, written to help prepare and motivate for the transition, including how to approach resetting our priorities and our concept of time. While many of us may already designate a healthy amount of our time to procuring for and preparing our meals, we know that this is a major stumbling block for our patients. I appreciate her laying the groundwork for appropriate expectations.
A section titled “Converting a Picky Eater” emphasizes patience, as well as exploration and curiosity—framing all of these changes as opportunity rather than restriction. Webb touches on enlisting kids in the kitchen, school lunches and other foods away from home, how to stock your pantry with high-quality foods on a budget, and the concept of efficiency through meal planning. The rest of the book details menus and meal plans, batch cooking, and, of course, recipes.
The dishes are beautifully and simply photographed, and recipes are uncomplicated and attainable, even for the novice cook. Each recipe provides a key at the top, informing of “active time” and total time spent preparing and cooking, servings per recipe, and how long to store or freeze for batch cooking.
Webb provides instruction on how to easily modify the dishes, with sample menus, and includes photo tutorials on knife skills, ferments, and how to wrap a "wrap." Recipe categories include breakfast and “breads"; mains; vegetable sides and salads; soups and stews; sauces, dips, and dressings; smoothies and other drinks; ferments; and sweet treats. The sweets are deliciously decadent—there is no sacrifice whatsoever in these palate-pleasers, as my teenagers will enthusiastically attest.
As a mother with a passion for delicious and healthy food, as well as a focus toward efficiency and simplicity, I found this book inspiring, providing unfussy recipes that satisfy. This book can serve as an accessible resource for our patients, making the transition to a grain-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free diet a gentle, successful, and tasty one.