I love the idea suggested by the title of the book, “Cook Your Butt Off”. In essence, when you do the cooking, you gain control over your nutrition and especially the calories per meal. In general, the book is a reminder that weight loss often provides health benefits. To get you started, the book offers several sensible reminders for how to break the food habits that are holding you back.
The book makes an excellent case for cooking at home as a way of improving nutrition and for controlling weight. The recipes are not overly challenging and even a beginner could succeed. Although some ingredients like hot cherry pepper brine, lemon zest, lime zest, poblano pepper, and monk fruit crystals may be new to you, once you become acquainted with them, you will find they can be used in quite a few of the recipes.
While the book makes a case for reducing meat and dairy foods, most of the recipes feature animal products. This isn’t an approach I would recommend, however, for a person only wanting to take baby steps toward a more nutritious diet, I can see this as a possible approach. My concern is that without diligently working toward reducing animal protein, the health benefit may be limited.
Getting back to the premise of the book, anything that reduces calories or burns calories will help most people, and cooking from scratch offers both possibilities. This double win is the basis for the advice, “Head for the kitchen, not the gym.” Certainly, moving about in the kitchen burns extra calories and every calorie burned is one less on the hips. In practice, most of the calories burned while in the kitchen would probably not be a great deal more than used by a sedentary activity like reading a book. While it’s possible to work in some extreme calisthenics while cooking, I doubt that would work for me. Still, cooking from scratch is sensible advice given that about 85% of weight control is usually from what we eat. The author estimates that based on 3500 calories per pound, the calorie difference between popping a frozen Lean Cuisine in the microwave and in cooking from scratch could make a difference of about 20 pounds of body weight per year if it involved cooking lower-calorie foods from scratch.
If you are like most people that pick up a cookbook, the first thing you do is scan the pictures. Over the years, I’ve bought a few cookbooks just for the pictures. If that sounds like you, then this is not the cookbook you are looking for. All of the food pictures in the book are in a rather nonappetizing shade of pale pink. I want to believe this was a printing error or possible a cost saving measure. Just try to image a green smoothie or a vegetarian chili burger depicted in pink. Whatever the reason, foods displayed in shades of pink are not visually appealing. To be accurate, they are awful.
While most of the advice offered would agree with guidance I might suggest, there are two points on which the book needs to be corrected. The recommendation to avoid “acid foods” and foods with lectins are both contrary to what is needed for good nutrition. The recommendation to avoid “acid foods” eliminates many nutritious food choices (citrus, tomatoes, berries, etc.). Unfortunately, an idea once popularized has a way of becoming gospel to many and thereafter spreads like a highly contagious disease to those not grounded in science. If you have been infected by these ideas, you can find the cure on Wikipedia in the article titled “Alkaline diets.” You won’t need to read very far. A little science goes a long way.
The book also strays from science and common sense by recommending the avoidance of many common foods with lectins. As it happens, lectins are naturally occurring proteins that are found in most plants. Beans, peanuts, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, fruits, and grains typically have somewhat higher amounts of lectins. Given that beans are eaten by the healthiest populations, it’s hard to imagine how the lectin story survives.
Granted, some research seems to indicate that eating very large quantities of raw lectins could be harmful. In practice, the amount you would have to eat would be far higher than you can ingest. Given that lectins quickly break down when processed or cooked, the danger from eating lectin-rich foods is not a cause for concern. Unfortunately, books like “The Plant Paradox” and “The Longevity Paradox” have spread misinformation about lectins that has been repeated by those that failed to notice the lack of reliable research behind the claims.
Overall, the recipes are nutritious and probably tasty although you would never guess it from the sickly pink pictures that depict the food. As a person that fully agrees with the “Cook Your Butt Off” premise, I’m still not going to be among those that cook their butt off with this book.
If looking for a cookbook that can help you take baby steps away from the Standard American Diet (SAD), the Volumetrics Diet would be a better choice. For better nutrition and far better pictures, I recommend the cookbooks below.
- The Engine 2 Cookbook: More than 130 Lip-Smacking, Rib-Sticking, Body-Slimming Recipes to Live Plant-Strong by Rip Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn
- The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook: Over 125 Delicious, Life-Changing, Plant-Based Recipes by Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn
- The How Not to Die Cookbook: 100+ Recipes to Help Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger M.D. and Gene Stone
Regardless of the cookbook you follow, the best place to kickstart good nutrition really is in your kitchen with fresh wholesome foods.
Nancy Neighbors, MD
Stir Fry Without Oil
If stir-frying without oil is new to you, then let Chef AJ show you how she does it with her easy Vegan “Chicken” Curry Recipe.