The 1200 calorie a day menu cookbook

Jun 27, 2003 (Updated Jun 27, 2003)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Varied, inventive, tasty recipes, lots of crowd-pleasers

Cons:Lack of nutritional information provided

The Bottom Line: Read this book for some ideas to help you form a low calorie menu, but don't rely on it for balancing your diet or making good food choices!

I've never been felt like I needed to lose weight in my life. I am 130 pounds when soaking wet. This fortuitous set of circumstances had, until a few years ago, led me to believe that there was nothing about my diet that I needed to pay any attention to. I then read some books on nutrition as part of a self-improvement program I dreamed up, and my former ignorance was discharged forever.

I found myself in Safeways yesterday, contemplating how I would spend the first evening of leisure time I had been able to set aside this month, just for me. I was hovering in the snack isle, envisioning potato chips and Mars bars and sodas. But then I remembered that their effect in my mouth was as nothing compared with their effect in my future, and instead bought a slew of ingredients and spent the evening enjoyably cooking one of my favorite recipes from "The 1200 calorie a day menu book." Perhaps my dopamine levels could have peaked higher on the junk food rush, but I'll take longevity and peace of mind over hedonistic gluttony.......I want to see three generations of my family graduate, not one.

This book is a "mix and match" collection of recipes. It provides for three meals a day, designed to accomplish the goal of limiting calorific intake to 1200 calories, while including all major food groups. Each breakfast and lunch is around 350 calories, and each entree is around 400 calories or less. You just pick one from each category, and you're set!

You may be aware that there are plenty of good reasons to limit your calorific intake beyond simply losing weight. Restricting your calorific intake whilst maintaining a healthful balance of nutrients will increase your energy levels, improve your mental acuity, reduce your blood pressure, improve your sleep, and reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Just how badly DO you want that blintz?

Well, if the answer is VERY badly, this might be a good book for you anyway! In the "1200 CADMB" (initialed down the title), you will find recipes for just about every comfort food you might have been customized into needing for psychological support.....heres some dopamine-inducing, mouth watering, guilt-free examples.....

Egg and Bacon Stacks with Dijon Cheese Sauce

Sausage and Gravy over Biscuits

Camp style Potato Patties with Bacon

Cherry Crumble

Pecan Caramel Coffee Cake

Hearty Sausage and Pasta Stew

Skewered Barbecue Pork with Bacon and Pineapple

......I think you get the picture!

And talking of pictures, call me old-fashioned, but I do like to get some illustrations in a recipe book! This book has no illustrations of the dishes it contains except for four dishes featured on the front cover. This is not a budget recipe book, and so the lack of any, even rudimentary decoration of the recipe pages took away from my enjoyment of the book for coffee table perusal. Perhaps that's just me, but that of course is why I am here writing my epinion!

So you see this is most certainly a book which understands that what is pleasing to the metabolism must also please the eye, the tongue, and the soul! Now, I'm not going to lie to you, some of the titles of these dishes are somewhat misleading....when you actually get to the page giving the recipe for ham and eggs, you are going to discover that they meant turkey ham. Now I don't know about you, but personally, I can taste the difference between ham and turkey ham pretty darn quick. I would really have preferred that the recipe contents page had saved me a journey, and come clean about the fact that it was turkey would have saved me a needless journey flicking through the pages.

Having said that, the recipes tend to turn out good and filling. No one is going to pretend that the same degree of satiety is going to arise from turkey ham as would from its less healthful cousin, but I have not walked away from the table unsatisfied after one of these meals. They are all tasty, and I have long found that lingering over excellent subtly flavored food is as satisfying as stuffing oneself in order to achieve the bloated satiety of a plate of salted fatty pot-sticker food.

The author has the good sense to include a healthful carbohydrate piece with each entree in order to assure your continued satiety until your next meal. Here, peruse some of the carbohydrate offerings with some of these entrees, you'll see that they can all be healthful additions to your diet, and can all be served in low glycemic index form, for maximum prolonged satiety:

Bean-Stuffed Peppers with Rice and Tossed Salad with Olives and Tortillas

Vegetable Fusilli with Tomato, Olive and Feta Salad

Southern Comfort Vegetable Dinner with Crisp-Topped Corn Muffin

Italian Rice and Beans and Creamy Dijon Salad with Artichokes

Nice combos, eh? So you see, you shouldn't feel hungry till your next meal despite the reduced calories. I also found that the portions were entirely adequate. In the example of a meal using a stuffed baked potato as the carb, the potato called for is 6 ounce per person. In addition to the main meal feature of charred fish, this is just fine, at least for me.

I do have some criticisms of this book to add. One major criticism is that there are certainly some points at which this book has sacrificed healthful food choices for reduced calories. In my opinion, that is never a good way to go. Take for example the use of low fat alternative for real mayonnaise. It has been established that real mayonnaise, consumed in modest quantities each week can positively contribute to a good balance of fatty acids in our body, essential to our long-term good health. This author is, I suspect, unaware of this. This is one good example where saving twenty calories in counter-productive. No information was included with this book regarding the qualifications of the author Nancy Hughes, other than the fact that she has written other recipe books.

Another significant fault of this book is that there is no nutritional breakdown of each meal, even in a rudimentary sense. The only nutritional information with each recipe is the amount of total fat. To produce a book which emphasizes low fat, low calorie living, and then fail to even breakdown which kinds of fat one finds in the enclosed recipes seems to me to be a little slapdash, and gave me the feeling of a book which had been cobbled together, and not thoroughly researched. If you are going to use this book regularly, it will be incumbent upon you to already possess the nutritional savvy required to make balanced choices, I fear Nancy Hughes evidences no authority to make those decisions for you. Be aware!

All in all, this is a good book to have on your shelves if you want a ready source of ideas for tasty low calorie meals to get you through the day. It should not be considered a self-contained diet, nor will it be useful to those whose might seek learned advice on making balanced choices. If that's you, I recommend Andrew Weil. If not, enjoy!

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