Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wellness Kitchen: Book Review

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The Wellness Kitchen cookbook is written by registered dietician, Paulette Lambert, from Extreme Makeover Weight-Loss Edition. Now that fact does not impress me, given how I feel about reality television, but the book is not at all what I expected.  Given that contestants lose massive amounts of weight in a short period of time, I expected the book to prescribe a diet to consist of kale and vitamins.  But it isn't that at all.

In fact, Lambert explains, it is not a diet book at all, but, rather a guide for healthy living and cooking.  She does, however, also provide detailed menu plans for those looking to lose weight.

Lambert's general philosophy is that health begins with cooking from scratch.  I can't agree more.  Cooking at home with real, whole foods is critical for maintaining a healthy weight.  What my clients struggling with obesity all share is an overreliance on restaurant meals, takeout and processed, convenience foods.

Her goal with this book is to simplify healthy cooking for those who think it is too complicated or time consuming.  She starts with listing what you need to stock your pantry.  She lists many commercial products (i.e. All Bran Buds, Kavli Crispbread, Boca Veggie Burgers, etc.) that she approves of.  Just keep in mind that many of them are not available in Canada, particularly fat-free half and half, which she uses in many of the recipes.

Before the recipes, there is a section on general nutrition guidelines that explains the importance of various macronutrients and food groups, as well as a section that explains the link between diet and chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.

Another section is devoted to weight loss where she addresses some of the most common reasons people struggle to lose weight (portion distortion, unbalanced diet, biological binging, emotional overeating, etc.) and provides solutions for each.  There is also a 21-day meal plan for those who desire to lose weight.

Part 2 of the book is the recipes broken into chapters by category:

1. Breakfast
2. Appetizers
3. Salads & Dressings
4. Soups and Breads
5. Main Dishes (Beef, Fish/seafood, Poultry & Tofu)
6. Vegetables
7. Pastas, Grains & Pizza
8. Sweets

The recipes are lovely, although I would say they are not as quick and easy as I would say is necessary for people reluctant to cook.  Believe me, I have clients unwilling to even cut up a piece of fruit!!!

They are accompanied by lovely photos, and nutrition tips.  What is probably the most useful thing about the book, is that many dishes start with a basic recipe and then provide numerous variations.  This is essential for individuals who are not comfortable altering recipes on their own to suit their tastes or available ingredients.

My one criticism is that, like many cookbooks, a lot of refined flour is used.  It makes little sense given she discusses the importance of sticking with whole grains.  I would say replace the white flour with whole spelt, another whole grain flour, or whole grain gluten-free blend in these recipes.  Honestly, if there is one thing I wish I could change about our food landscape in North America, it is the ubiquitousness of white flour and sugar, which are basically the same nutritionally. If they were no longer available at all (that's my fantasy), than even the most die-hard sugar/carb addicts would have no choice but to eat whole grains.  If you are thinking right now that you could not live without your ___________ (croissants, donuts, baguettes, etc.), well yes you could. Suck it up buttercup!!

Anyways, now that I'm done my rant I will say that its a nice book and if you are open to learning how to cook great, healthy recipes, than check it out.  If you have absolutely no experience cooking and/or want really, really simple and fast recipes, this one might not be ideal for you.

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