We’re checking in with Traverse City author Lisa Maxbauer Price about her children’s book “Squash Boom Beet: an Alphabet for Healthy, Adventurous Eaters.” Lisa is a national nutrition journalist and has blogged about parenting for The New York Times.

Find a copy of the book at these locations and try these fun activities with your kids.  

Lisa believes if kids can see the wild colors, study the different textures and learn the crazy names (have you ever heard of candy cane beets and fairy tale eggplants?!) of vegetables growing near their home, they will naturally become fans.

In addition to helping families eat healthier, the hardcover field guide features produce grown at more than 50 local farms in the Grand Traverse region such as Loma Farm and Birch Point Farm in Leelanau County and Between the Bays and Wunsch Farm on Old Mission Peninsula. The book also features healthy food grown at four area schools.

Your approach to vegetables is pretty unique. It’s not, ‘eat your vegetables—they’re good for you,’ it’s about creating exciting and empowering experiences so children want to eat their vegetables. How have kids reacted to the book so far?

Everyone—kids and adults—have the same reaction when they first open the book. They say, ‘It’s so colorful!’ It really is a feast for the eyes. I think some people have gotten so used to artificial colors in foods like cereal that they are pleasantly surprised to be reminded exactly how wildly colorful vegetables can be.

I haven’t even heard of some of these vegetables—dragon tongue beans for example. What are some other fun foods children and parents will learn about?

I really tried to zero in on foods that would pique people’s interest. For example, I featured red fire lettuce, dinosaur kale, candy cane beets, fairy tale eggplants, red zeppelin onions, peaches and cream corn, rainbow chard, lemon cucumber … the list goes on. The fun names alone are great conversation starters with kids. I encourage kids to talk to their local farmers at the farmers’ markets. There is some really amazing and creative stuff being grown right in our backyard. Kids are also excited to learn in the book that they can eat certain edible flowers like nasturtium or try something mysterious like romanesco that looks other-worldly—like coral growing in the ocean.

Why did you decide to photograph food at local farms in Northern Michigan rather than illustrate the book?

Many experts believe that kids can benefit from having some books containing real photography in their home libraries. Photography helps with recognition and vocabulary building. I wanted to empower kids to know which foods they were seeing at the market, and drawings just wouldn’t do them justice. Nothing beats the real thing. My three children love the Carl R. Sams books like “Stranger in the Woods” that showcase real photography of forest animals. Plus, research suggests that kids are more likely to eat food if they play a role in buying and preparing it. So this fun book can be a helpful tool.

Is there anything you’d like to add about your book?

I’m grateful for the local farmers who work so hard to make this region beautiful, prosperous and healthy. Traverse City is such a great foodie town but there wasn’t enough for the youngest eaters in the area. I hope this book helps to get more people talking about local eating and celebrating the work of Michigan farmers.

More Healthy Eating Ideas:


Photo(s) by Lisa Maxbauer Price