At a recent cookbook swap, people were invited to bring up to five gently used cookbooks to trade. I quickly picked out five from my collection, including four diet cookbooks that I had never even looked at.
I was not alone in my thinking. Every other cookbook that people brought, save the tome on French cooking that I grabbed instantly, was a diet book of some sort. Most were low-fat or emphasized so-called “healthful” or “healthy” eating.
I can easily see Joy Bauer’s new “Slim and Scrumptious” (William Morrow, $24.99) in some future swap. It’s not because of the quality of the cookbook, but because a cookbook by itself, any cookbook, won’t cause anyone’s obesity to disappear. Exercise is vital. No book can make you do that. Yet we tend to blame the writer when the book fails to be the panacea we thought it would be.
So, what does that leave you with? Bauer, nutrition expert on NBC’s “Today” show, has crafted some recipes that sound truly delicious. Who could say no to Double Chocolate Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce? Or Herb-roasted Pork Tenderloin? Beef Tenderloin With Fig Reduction?
Ratatouille Lentil Stew is something I can see making regularly in summer, when the eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini are at their finest. And it doesn’t call for any Frankenfoods, aka the modified, processed additives you find in too many diet books. Brazilian Seafood Stew makes good use of scallops, shrimp and coconut milk. (Just don’t buy the light coconut milk suggested. Save some money and make your own light version by mixing one part water with one part coconut milk.)
As a dessert or a snack, Dark Cocoa Almonds are great and won’t make you think you’re eating diet food.
Bauer also includes a few Mexican-flavored dishes, perfect for San Antonians who want lighter versions of some of their favorite dishes. The Chipotle Chicken and the Spicy Pork Tacos With Sassy Slaw both look great, but I think I’d rather eat less guacamole than dip into Bauer’s version, which thins out the avocado with yogurt.
Each of the recipes comes with a nutritional analysis, which can be a big help given the variety of diets there are. Some are low carb, others low sodium and most are low calorie.
But that brings up what’s wrong with Bauer’s book and too many other diet books. How are we to know if this is the diet right for our individual bodies. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. Plus, there are a growing number of studies questioning conventional wisdom on weight loss, such as the suggestion that some low-fat foods actually add weight to people. There’s nothing really new in that. It has long been known that if you want to add weight, the easiest way is to eat plenty of pasta, a fat-free food. Sugar is also fat-free and adds weight.
Then there are the health aspects of other low-fat foods that are being questioned, such as studies that say everything from infertility in women to prostate cancer in men can be related to the consumption of fat-free and reduced-fat dairy products.
So, don’t discount your doctor’s advice on what you should be eating. Listen to your body. Then take recipes likes Bauer’s and modify them to suit your dietary needs. I think most of us would love Buffalo Chicken Chili With Whipped Blue Cheese regardless of what type of cookbook the recipe is in.