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Anna Friedman Herlihy

Beginner Cookbook for a Dieter

10 posts in this topic

Hi all,

I've just started teaching a friend how to cook (my first long-term student!) for the specific purpose of altering her diet so that she can lose a fairly substantial amount of weight (she is also starting an exercise plan). I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on a cookbook at beginner level that features mainly healthy, quick recipes that tend to feature lean proteins, lots of fiber and veggies, whole grains, no processed foods, and very little refined sugar or flour (this is my approach to maintaining my weight, and I'm hoping it will work for her--a self-described sugar and pasta addict). She does not want to spend a ton of time cooking or cleaning up lots of pots and pans, so I'm hoping for something that features a number of "one pan" type meals.

Her typical dinner consists of turkey hot dogs and boxed mac 'n' cheese, and I don't want to leap too far, too fast from this (I figure, baby steps...we've committed a year to the weight loss goal). Tonight I taught her how to cook mustard baked catfish, rice pilaf, and sautéed swiss chard dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette (a veggie she had never eaten before and liked--in fact she loved the whole meal, and it was all completed in 40 minutes which should've been 30, but I was talking a lot and trying to teach about timing and knife skills and the like).

Despite my enormous cookbook collection, I don't really have much in the way of basic besides Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything, and an old Betty Crocker (this last one certainly does not fit the bill). I tend toward very specialized and/or advanced tomes.

I'd appreciate any suggestions on her behalf! PS--she does not often eat pork or beef, preferring chicken, turkey, and fish.

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Any of the books written by Sandra Woodruff are an excellent starting point. I like her style, the recipes are usually not too fussy, and she really knows her stuff because she's a trained dietician, not someone with a new fad diet to market. Ms. Woodruff's Secrets of Fat Free Italian Cooking is one of my most dog eared cookbooks. The Turkey-Mushroom Bolognese sauce is to die for. The other books in the Secrets of Fat-Free [fill in ethnicity of your choosing] books are also very good. The Greek book has been getting a lot of play in my kitchen lately to good results.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The Weight Watchers cookbooks are good and geared towards home cooks who may not have a lot of skill. I like Weight Watchers Simply the Best which is a collection of member favorites. It has a variety of ethnic food.

I also like The South Beach Cookbook although I never did the diet. The recipes focus on veggies, healthy protein and whole grains.

Edited by KristiB50 (log)

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Some of Deborah Madison's books might be good, especially _The Savory Way_. It's made to be simple and it's full of simple one pot meals.


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This one is pretty good:

Cooking Light Superfast Suppers: Speedy Solutions for Dinner Dilemmas

You could take the suggested cookbooks of out of the library and see which one she likes or is compatable with her style.

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The Eating Well Magazine Cookbook would fit the bill.


-Mike & Andrea

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It's rare for me to find a recipe in Cooking Light that I don't like. Not only would one of their cookbooks be a good start, but I love going to their website and searching for recipes. And of course, the magazine is available at most grocery stores.

Edited to add: There are a couple of new dieting resources out that you may want to take a look at. One is the Beck Diet Solution, which is not a diet in and of itself, but it uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy to help the person stay on the diet and keep the weight off. Keeping the weight off, contrary to popular belief, is the most challenging part. (Most people think that if they can just shed the pounds, they'll stay away. Not true for most.) The other is the Volumetrics Diet, which encourages a healthy array of foods, but emphasizes those that are the most filling for the least calories, thereby (hopefully) easing the hunger issue. Good luck to your friend.

Edited by jgm (log)

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Not that I need it since I've always been thin as a rail, but I agree that Cooking Light is a great resource - the books or the magazine. We cook out of it at least 3-4 nights per week and have been doing that for over 10 years. In all of that times (literally hundreds if not thousands of recipes) we've only ever had one that we didnt' like. That said, we normally up the salt and fat content as we cook so we don't waste away to nothing :wink:

But, the reason I like their recipes is that is provides a balanced approach to health living, not a fad diet approach.

Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM

A recent write-up in Dorado magazine

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Thanks everyone, for such speedy replies! With the exception of one (the Victory Garden cookbook), I have never even browsed through any of the suggestions, because their target audience is not me (blessed that I was taught to cook at a very young age and also blessed that I've never had weight issues). But these sound like the types of books, etc. I thought might be useful for my friend, so we will be off to the library and Borders next week to see what she finds interesting.

PS--I'm having her keep a food diary for the next week (and keep the packages of anything processed), both to get a better idea of her preferred "flavor profiles" and to help her understand why the packaged products are working against her.

BTW--The cooking lessons and healthier diet were all her idea--so I have high hopes! The hardest thing is going to be to gradually change her palate to less sugary/starchy things so that she can keep the weight off (60 pounds is what we're going for over the course of a calendar year, which seems reasonable to both of us--although she has an appt. with her doctor to make sure about this).

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