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Diet for a Small Planet
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Diet for a Small Planet

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,997 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
With the new emphasis on environmentalism in the 1990's, Lappe stresses how her philosophy remains valid, and how food remains the central issue through which to understand world politics.
Paperback, 528 pages
Published August 27th 1991 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1971)
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Oct 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: sadists
This book ruined my childhood. This book made my mom put soy grits in spaghetti sauce, and I'm pretty sure it had something to do with her delivering a lecture on carob to my second grade class, too.

But I'll give it this: Walnut cheddar loaf sure makes the planet FEEL small. Because as far as I'm concerned, the planet isn't big enough for the both of us. I hate you, walnut cheddar loaf.
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
When my mom became a vegetarian in the early 90s, she read Diet For A Small Planet. I remember thinking, “wah wah wah my mom is such a boring loser moron head.” I pitied her for picking up a book with the words “diet” and “small planet” on it—and a pile of grain, to top it all off. This was around the time that I hid all the “Now Serving Veggie Burgers!” pamphlets from our favorite diner, because I didn’t want that nasty crap on my table. But Mom was onto something. Although it was written in 19 ...more
Bionic Jean
The most important book on Nutrition and Politics I have ever read. If you don't immediately see the relationship, then read this book.
Lisa Vegan
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who cares about the earth, the next generations, anything at all
I enjoyed this book when I read it, but I thought it hadn't made a huge impression on me. Looking back, I realize that I became a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian a few years after I read this, and I'm wondering if it had more of an influence than I've ever realized. Highly recommended - probably suggest reading the 20th anniversary edition that's out if you've never read the book, although I have not read that edition.
Jun 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
My next door neighbor Leslie introduced me to this book. She was a hippie who gave my Nixon-loving parents fits. Later she died tragically of an unspecified genetic cancer. In the 70's she was skinny and long-haired and had hip-bones like Twiggy and I thought she was the bees knees.

What she said when she loaned me her copy of the book was that meat was very expensive and hard-on-the-planet to produce whereas grains were not. Because I was ten I thought she was talking about eating grass and tha
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I got this a couple of months ago and was prompted to read it by seeing author Frances Moore Lappé's daughter Anna speak this weekend. What's astonishing is quite how thoroughly she stated, 25 years ago, everything that current food politics writers (Pollan, Nestle) are still reiterating. The message is evidently still sinking in!
Her recipes themselves are intriguing - I think she might be single-handedly responsible for an entire generation always shaking gomasio on top of their rice and beans
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was Frances Moore Lappe's great gift to us to throw out the concept that something called an "entree" must center the dinner table, be it a great sullen lump of animal protein or a substitute like tofurkey. Instead, she focuses on protein complementarity, the technique of melding vegetable sources with incomplete amino acids into full proteins (for example, corn and legume beans; milk and peanuts). It's a wonderful way to think, plan, and cook; as a result this wonderful little book has brave ...more
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read the 20th anniversary edition of this book (which is nearly 20 years old itself) and recommend that anyone else who do so start with the actual book, then read the intros and comments in chronological order. I just read it in page order, so I got a lot of updates and somewhat self-congratulatory and very earnest statements about the impact of the book until I got to the actual book that had such a big impact.

If Lappe feels self-important, it is because to a real extent her book (or at lea
Devon Trevarrow Flaherty
Oct 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: natural food buffs who want a little walk through.
It was fun to read this book, because I felt like I was returning to the roots of a lot of the modern whole foods/vegetarian movement (if that's what you would call it). Honestly, though, it's the kind of information that you can now get in an abundance in a myriad of other, more modern, more up-to-date, even more interesting books and other sources. Even my current reading of The Omnivore's Dilemma is proving to be more engaging, and has much of the same info as Small Planet. And another thing: ...more
Ben Williams
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Though many such books exist today, this book was akin to Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" in that it brought to life an entirely new way of looking at or thinking about food. It encouraged people to look more deeply, to see that food contains a hell of a lot more than the obvious elements one normally is exposed to. I read this book after completing my first semester of college, read it late into the night, feeling a new sort of excitement well up as the pages went on. Almost seven years later, ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The recipes I have tried from this cookbook actually are made to taste good. Years ago, when this book was new, it was difficult to find some of the ingredients the recipes called for, but it is not much of a problem now; even the local supermarket carries many of the specialty items used in here.

There is also a great deal of practical nutrition information.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Read this one a while back and started making soybean loaves. Good ideas, but wow, were some of the original recipes heavy on the stomach. Wonder if they've changed them over the years.
Dec 20, 2017 added it
One more from the Steve Jobs' reading list.

In some ways this book is dated, in other ways it is a natural prologue for 'omnivore's dilemma' and andrew weil.

I do not believe in the word 'diet'. Deprivation results in binging, moodiness and an unrealistic approach to something at the centre of one's life: food and health.

The author is concerned with world hunger, I am more concerned with the small planet, but an informative book. Being vegetarian or vegan is trendy now, but is falling short of cha
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
April Dickinson
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The overarching themes are possibly even more relevant today, but unfortunately, much of the facts and figures were way out of date. I mostly skimmed this one. The most powerful messages were: 1) more than 50% of the grain and acreage for producing grain is to feed livestock (makes no damn sense), 2) the US food industry is not designed to feed people, but instead to generate profit for a very small percentage of people, 3) the cost of agriculture is so highly manipulated and arbitrary that is d ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lot of new vegetarians today understand that eating low on the food chain is best for the planet, but many do not seem well versed in how to eat vegetarian and get all of their nutrition. Any diet that eliminates food groups can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can lead to health problems. I found "Diet for a Small Planet" good at covering all aspects of vegetarianism. A classic read.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
My very first vegetarian cookbook! It's all gotten a lot simpler since then. Ms. Lappe' was all scientific about getting enough of the right proteins as a vegetarian, and these days the experts just tell us to eat a colorful meal, as many colors as you can put on the plate even. For a first book it was inspirational.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: women-writers, food, 1999
I was given the first version by an aunt who was vegetarian and read it cover-to-cover, and later used it as a guidebook for my forays into vegetarianism. I revisited this, the updated version some years after it was published, and still found it useful, not just for the recipes, but for the science and philosophy behind it.
Some cookbooks are just for reference. This one is for reading.
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Frances Moore Lappé originally published Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, and twenty years later, republished it with additional/updated information and clarified statements. Apparently she got some flack for being “too political,” but I think that’s kind of the point she was getting at with this book: choosing where and what you eat is a political act. As much as this book is about food, it is just as much about the environment, the economy, and democracy. How? Lappé says that “what we eat link ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even reading this book in 2017, I found it life-changing. It was dated only in small ways. I wouldn't normally take a highlighter to a book but this one is quite marked up with sections I want to refer back to and recipes to try. I've tried 3 or 4 so far and they were all keepers.
Jonathan Kauffman
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most influential nutrition books of the 20th century. Despite the debunked notion of "complementary proteins," Frances Moore Lappé's discoveries about the Earth's capacity to feed itself and the use of so much of our farmland to feed animals, not people, are still trenchant.
Carolyn Fagan
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Excellent starting point, but at this time even the updated version is a bit dated.
Degan Walters
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
Good info but I am not the target audience for this book. Going to pass it along.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read in 1997. Inspired me to stop eating meat. I've been a vegetarian ever-since. Compelling and has almost nothing to do with cruelty or long eyelashes.
Stacy Ho
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
I enjoyed reading this classic book, especially the author's theory of change. I think her five grounding principles sum up the philosophy behind her food activism:
1. Because scarcity is not the cause of hunger, . . . the solution can be found only by addressing the issue of power. . . . Development must be the process of moving toward genuine democracy . . . .
2. Just as "development" must be redefined to encompass the concept of power, so must "freedom." For what is freedom without power? . .
Jul 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Wow, this book was excellent. I found it to be probably the most comprehensive book about food politics that I've read. It encompasses a lot of important points and really takes a thorough look at all of the intricacies of our current food system. For example, the author makes all of the important connections and leaves no stones unturned. She explains how our current food system leads to overproduction, environmental devastation, hunger and questionable food products. She makes the connection b ...more
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Pike by: Father
If I had been new to the subject this would have been at least a 4 star for me, but since I was familiar with it I felt it a little basic. This book should be noted for its influence on current public knowledge on how protein comes from the majority of foods and not just animal products. I am a vegan and I frequently recommend this book to people who critique me on how I am starving my body of protein by only eating plants. I wish this book had included more vegan recipes, as well as more tables ...more
Karen Floyd
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-and-wine
My edition is from 1980, and I often found myself wondering how much, if anything, has changed in the 30+ years since then. For the better? For the worse? Today's food poisoning crises in various avenues of food production would seem to indicate that not a lot has. The laws seem to be there to protect the big producers not the consumers. And certainly not the health of the Earth. The book is full of important information about the way our food is produced and new products are developed, and the ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
My copy is the 20th Anniversary Edition of 1991 – so it doesn’t present the latest nutritional breakthroughs on vegetarianism. However, a healthy diet is not the author’s only or even primary concern. Frances Moore Lappé makes a very strong case for a low or nonmeat diet primarily based on sociological, economical, environmental and political considerations

I first read this book many years ago and it made a huge impression on me. Yet, rereading it recently I am appalled to note that Ms Lappé do
Oct 08, 2008 rated it liked it
I would have been really excited about this book in college. Written in the 60s, it was one of the first books to link US food policy and production with global poverty and poor diets. Reading it now feels a little outdated, not because the information is old (indeed, much of it rings familiar to contemporary complaints about the global food industry), but her enthusiastic 'look what I've discovered!' style of writing reminds the reader of how new many of these findings were in the 60s and how m ...more
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Frances Moore Lappe--author of fifteen books, including three-million-copy bestseller Diet for a Small Planet --distills her world-spanning experience and wisdom in a conversational yet hard-hitting style to create a rare "aha" book. In nine short chapters, Lappe leaves readers feeling liberated and courageous. She flouts conventional right-versus-left divisions and affirms readers' basic sanity - ...more
“For freedom is not the capacity to do whatever we please; freedom is the capacity to make intelligent choices.” 2 likes
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