About a week ago, I started reading a book – Cook This, Not That! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, two editors of Men’s Health magazine. As the title suggests, it is a cook book. But it’s not just filled with a bunch of recipes; it’s a cookbook with lots of advice and suggestions regarding how to eat and cook healthy(er) and what kinds of things to eat more generally.
I’m generally fairly interested in health and fitness stuff, and I love to cook (and eat)! What I have really really enjoyed about this book, is their underlying philosophy towards healthy eating and cooking, which is largely aligned with my own personal philosophy. The main thrust of the philosophy is this (in my own words) – it’s nearly always both healthier and cheaper to cook your own food. (And with practice, you can probably learn to cook your own food pretty well!) It’s also not the case that you have to limit yourself to only eating certain foods or wholesale dismiss others in order to be healthy*. A person can eat a wide variety of delicious foods and still maintain a quite healthy diet, as long as you are paying attention and using moderation and some common sense (not always so common, I guess!). They also seek to help dispel some of the myths or “conventional wisdom” that we have come to believe when it comes to food.
So with that philosophy in mind, they set out to educate people how to eat great food reasonably healthy and on a budget. The book is divided into 12 chapters covering different categories of foods (i.e. breakfast, appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, pasta, etc.). Each chapter begins with a couple of pages of information on that category – usually a brief history and some reasons explaining why you should cook it yourself. They then usually give some “instant” recipes or ideas for quick meals within that particular category, followed by several pages of actual recipes. Throughout the book, they compare homemade meals to actual restaurants and food chains in terms of price and calories – very interesting, but probably not surprising to those who are health (or budget!) conscious. When you see these real comparisons, it becomes even more compelling to cook for yourself!
The book reads very conversationally, using a good mix of stories, humor, anecdotes, and interesting information to keep you engaged as a reader. They also use lots of infographics throughout the book, which can help to visualize and digest the information for those who don’t want to sit down and read. (It’s also becoming one of the most common ways that we now consume information.)
Some interesting nuggets so far:
Never use margarine (if possible)! The trans-fats are terrible for you; you’re much better off using a whipped butter. (Fats are not bad for you, you just need to be aware and use them in moderation!)
According to a 2002 study, the USDA found the following portion problem for average restaurant sized entrees:
- Pasta: 480% oversized
- Muffins: 333% oversized
- Steak: 224% oversized
- Bagels: 195% oversized
- Hamburgers: 112% oversized
Best Food for surviving flu season: Red Bell Pepper. They have twice as much vitamin C as an orange, and three times as much vitamin A as a tomato!
Best Food post workout: Greek Yogurt. This has 2-3 times the amount of protein as regular yogurt and is also high in amino acids which are helpful to rebuild muscles after a workout.
Between 10-30% of the calories you burn every day get burned by the act of eating and digesting food. As they say, that’s like making a third of your money by shopping!
The average veggie burger contains five times the amount of sodium as the average beef burger.
Frozen produce often has a higher nutrient density than fresh.
Coffee is by far the richest source of antioxidents in the American diet. (But watch out for the amount of cream and sugar you add to your coffee!)
“Yoplait 99% Fat Free” strawberry yogurt has nearly as much sugar as a Snickers bar.
Every time you eat quinoa instead of brown rice, you are getting double the protein and eight times the fiber!
Do not store tomatoes, peaches, onions, potatoes, or garlic in the fridge!
Six of the seven salads on TGI Friday’s menu have over 900 calories (showing that you’re not always better off going for what appears to be the “healthy” option when it comes to eating out).
As you can tell, I am enjoying the book quite a bit. We are fairly health (and budget!) conscious and do our own cooking almost all of the time, but it’s still fun to see a credible source pushing a similar philosophy, and stating that it really is much better for you and your wallet! Some of the information is new, some is not…but it’s all put together in an interesting and engaging way in this particular book. I highly recommend it, and may try to post some more interesting tidbits of information or even particular foods that are inspired from some of the recipes.
As Always: Eat. Be Happy!
*For example, it has always bugged me when people try to wholesale dismiss certain foods as unhealthy, such as pasta. (“You should cut pasta out of your diet completely, it’s loaded with carbs!”) Sure, you shouldn’t eat pounds of pasta everyday, but to write it off entirely as a “bad food” is also a bit silly. The story is a bit more complex than that…walk around Italy where there’s pasta galore and you probably won’t find a whole lot of morbidly obese or overweight people. It’s not just “pasta’s fault” that people are overweight, and just cutting that out entirely isn’t a surefire solution either. Similar stories apply to other foods as well.