You’re flipping through a magazine at the doctor’s office and a column catches your eye. “Eat This!” it proclaims, pointing at a full-color photo of some restaurant entree. Beside it, another photo declares, “Not That!” A couple call-out boxes give fast and dirty nutrition info, the amount of calories you’ll save by switching from one entree to the other, and some other quick nutrition trivia about one or the other of the items.
I imagine I’d think so if I saw such a column (although it’s unlikely I would, since it could – maybe still can? – be found in Men’s Health).
Now, put 415 pages of that together into a book about the dimensions of a children’s board book, except, well 415 pages long.
Not exactly. Or at least, I didn’t think so.
Eat This, Not That! has 24 chapters, including “The Best (& Worst) Breakfasts in America”, “The Best (& Worst) Supermarket Foods”, and “The Best (& Worst) Foods for Your Blood Pressure”. Each chapter includes a two page “Eat This, Not That” spread like the one I listed above, before providing a countdown of 15-20 of the worst foods (with plenty of pictures). Each “worst food” (example: “saltiest packaged side”) is accompanied by an “eat this instead!” – giving a similar item that’s not as unhealthy. The end of each chapter gives a “Hall of Fame”, with about five items that are good bets.
Overall, the information is pretty good – mostly focused on calories, sodium, fat calories, and trans fats. Callout boxes highlight things to look for or substitutions to make (pesto instead of mayo switches healthy fats for unhealthy and adds antioxidants) and little blurbs here and there discuss how to choose a healthy sandwich, for example, or make a healthy pizza.
But a whole book of it is simply not sustainable. I love food. I love nutrition. But I struggled to make it through this book (that said, most people probably aren’t going to read every word like I did.)
Now, a lot of that might be because I don’t eat a lot of restaurant food or prepackaged meals or snacks. If I do, I’m choosing it as an indulgence. All that “if you switch this for that once a week, you can save x pounds per year” stuff? It doesn’t really apply to me because I don’t drink sweetened drinks, don’t eat packaged snacks, don’t buy frozen meals, don’t go to restaurants frequently. Someone else who finds themselves relying on convenience foods or restaurants for a greater portion of their intake might find this book more useful.
Of course, I wouldn’t be myself unless I had some sort of beef with this book nutritionally speaking. The authors are wary of additives and anything unpronounceable – in a way that ignores what science actually exists about the additives they’re denigrating and fails to recognize that some food additives actually make our food supply more safe! Believe it or not, a long ingredient list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat something. (In fact, I have quite a few recipes that have 20, 30, 50 ingredients once you count the ingredients that went into the components of the recipe.)
So… should you read this book? Eh, check it out of the library and browse it, especially if you use a lot of convenience foods and/or eat out a lot. But I wouldn’t buy it.
Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis: The authors give lists of the best and worst foods you can buy at restaurants or prepackaged at the grocery store – and substitutions to improve your nutritional choices.
Recommendation: Neat concept for a column, okay to browse, but not great for reading straight through.