11 Children’s Books That Help Build a Healthy Food Culture

This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to winners Stacia J and Shanna! You both have been emailed. A big thank you to all who entered.

In March I wrote about the importance of creating a healthy food culture for your family. You, in turn, embraced the post, gave me some incredible feedback, and confirmed that I wasn’t the only parent who wanted to shape that culture around my table.

From the post:

“By creating a healthy food culture in the home, you are giving your children the very best attitude toward food, instead of letting society’s food culture influence – and perhaps misguide – them.
We want our children to grow up to be healthy eaters, aware of the way their food choices affect the planet, and how it is produced. Most importantly, we want them to connect the dots between healthy, whole food and happiness.”

I listed six ways we can take to help build a healthy food culture, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized I had left out another essential action: READING.

Books: Another Way to Nurture Food Culture

In our home, reading ranks right up there with bathing, eating and resting. So, yes, pretty important. Our children don’t watch television or play video games, so aside from the interactions with their friends and family, books are probably one of the largest influences on them.

We’ve managed to gather a respectable collection of books that I feel nurture healthy food culture. As food has been my career and passion for so long, it is no surprise that many of our books have food as a subject. Our books relay important messages such as sustainability, preserving the harvest, trying new foods, hospitality, local eating, and growing your own food.

Today I wanted to share some of our favorite titles with you. I realize there are probably hundreds more out there that also have a great message, but these are a few that are special to my boys.

At the end of the post, several publishers have generously offered a few titles for giveaway!  So be sure to leave a comment for a chance to expand your own ‘library of healthy food culture’.

Eight Stories for Young Readers that Encourage Healthy Food Culture

Please note that all opinions are my own. I do not have a degree in literature nor have I combed through every single children’s book with food as a subject. What I do know is that these are the books that are brought into bed by my children (ages 3 and 5) evening after evening and are requested to be read.

Don’t be alarmed or injured if you don’t see your favorite book on this list, it just means our repertoires are different. Instead, please leave a comment and share the title so we can all discover new favorites together. Thank you!

1. Blueberries for Sal

by Robert McCloskey

Her mother stopped picking and said, “Now Sal, you run along and pick your own berries. Mother wants to take her berries home and can them for next winter.”

I love that Sal and her mother are foraging for their berries, not strolling the supermarket’s fruit aisle. This is sourcing local food at its very simplest – wild berry picking! Sal’s mother’s mind is filled with preserving food for winter and Little Sal is along for the ride.

2. Bread and Jam for Frances

by Russell Hoban

“That is a good lunch,” said Albert. “I think it’s nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks.”
“So do I,” said Frances.

Oh my, Frances didn’t always think like that, but learns an important lesson in this book about being appreciative for what is served to her.

3. Mama Panya’s Pancakes

by Mary and Rich Chamberlin

“How many people did we invite for pancakes tonight?”
Adika, skipping two steps ahead, sang his reply. “All of our friends, Mama.”

I’m pretty passionate about cooking for others and showing hospitality, so this story of how young Adika invites half of the village to enjoy his mother’s modest (and meager) dinner really warmed my heart. Children will learn an important lesson about community and the rewards of sharing.

4. Green Eggs and Ham

by Dr. Seuss

“You do not like them.
So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.”

We have definitely referred back to this Dr. Suess favorite from our dinner table. Green Eggs and Ham shares a powerful lesson about being open to trying new foods.

5. Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

by Jules Bass and Debbie Harter

But one dragon was different. While Meathook and his friends sat in their cave, planning their next raid, Herb was happy to tend his vegetable patch. For Herb was a vegetarian.

Likes. Dislikes. Allergies. Dietary restrictions. It’s okay to be different – and like in Herb’s case, it just might save your life.

6. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

by Judy Barrett

After a brief shower of orange juice, low clouds of sunny-side up eggs moved in followed by pieces of toast. Butter and jelly sprinkled down for the toast. And most of the time it rained milk afterwards.

I removed this book from this list and put it back on a few times, telling myself it was silly and didn’t have a deeper message. But every time I read it to my boys and watched their eyes dance, I knew it was important. There should always be room to encourage imagination, even with food.

7. The Beeman

by Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis

Here is the wagon, filled up to the brim, with bottles of HONEY collected by him and brought to the house by the Beeman.

A sweet book that details the art of beekeeping, The Beeman is as educational as it is entertaining.

8. To Market, to Market

By Nikki McClure

Next on our market list is fish.
Steve is smiling this morning.
“Steve, what makes your smoked salmon so good?”
“Good fish. Rock salt. Alder smoke. Nothing else.”

In a tale the follows a mother and son to the farmer’s market, To Market To Market promotes important interests such as sustainable living, local eating and spotlights all the skills that go into making and producing whole food.

Cookbooks for Kids

Storybooks are wonderful, but it is important to keep a few cookbooks on hand that are geared toward kids in the kitchen. Here are three of my picks.

9. The Silver Spoon for Children

Here is a cookbook that will help inspire a lifetime of love for cooking in children. The recipes are really very simple plus the illustrations are a perfect way for kids to get introduced to reading and following recipes.

The Silver Spoon for Children is full of over forty well-balanced recipes that feature wholesome ingredients and are depicted with absolutely charming step-by-step illustrations that present cooking as fun.

  • Author: Amanda Grant
  • Illustrator: Harriet Russell
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press

10. Kids’ Kitchen (Cooking Card Deck)

Easy to read with fun, bright colors, the recipes in the Kids’ Kitchen Deck represent favorite dishes from all over the world. The forty recipes are based around the five main food groups, and offer children a healthy and exciting way to learn about cooking.

  • Author: Fiona Bird
  • Illustrator: Roberta Arenson
  • Publisher: Barefoot Books

11. The Whole Family Cookbook

Creative, organic, and family-friendly, Michelle’s cookbook focus on sustainable ingredients and simple techniques. She gives her expert tips on engaging children of all ages in the kitchen – right down to the toddler.

The Whole Family Cookbook for the modern, eco-conscious family that enjoys the simple pleasures of home cooking.

  • Author: Michelle Stern
  • Publisher: Adams Media


This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to winners Stacia J and Shanna! You both have been emailed. A big thank you to all who entered.

Two lucky winners will receive two storybooks and two cookbooks to expand their own library of healthy food culture!

Giveaway Prize Package (2 winners)

  • To Market, to Market from Abrams Books
  • Mama Panya’s Pancakes from Barefoot Books
  • Kid’s Kitchen cooking card deck from Barefoot Books
  • Silver Spoon for Children from Phaidon

Giveaway Requirements

  • Leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite book (childrens or adult) with food as a theme.
  • Contest ends Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 11:00 pm. ENDED
  • Giveaway is for residents of the United States and Canada only.
  • Additional entries must leave a separate comment.
  • Books cannot be shipped to a PO box number.

Extra Entries

  1. Follow @BarefootBooks and @simplebites on Twitter.
  2. Like Barefoot Books on Facebook
  3. Like Simple Bites on Facebook.

Good Luck to all!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.


  1. I “liked” Barefoot Books on Facebook 🙂

  2. I “liked” Simple Bites on Facebook 🙂

  3. fun giveaway! following you on twitter. [email protected]

  4. OH, “cloudy with a chance of meatballs” is one of my kids favorites and can you EVER own too many books? I don’t think so! (smile!) thanks for hosting such a great giveaway. Liked you on facebook. Katie [email protected]

  5. I love Blueberries for Sal. Also a friend gave my daughter Ox Cart Man, which is about more than just food, but essentially shows how a small New England farming family would have made a living long ago.

  6. Our favorite book is “If you give a pig a pancake”. 🙂

  7. “If you give a pig a pancake” is a hit around here!

  8. Annie B. says

    My kids and I always get a kick out of Blueberries for Sal:)