Friday, July 1, 2011

300 calories of fake foods

I wrote the last blogpost about boring food as a prelude for this one....

I rarely buy cookbooks anymore because I just don't need them....or should I say I just don't need new ones. I've edited my cookbook collection down to, probably, a couple of dozen and only 5 of which have permanent residence in my kitchen within reach. The my top three are "Joy of Cooking" (Irma S Rombauer and family), The Complete Meat Cookbook" (Bruce Aidells and Dennis Kelly), and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" (Mark Bittman). I currently added another soon to be favorite " The Food Matters Cookbook" (also by Mark Bittman).

At the time I bought my last one (Food Matters) I also bought one other. I was intrigued by the theme of the was called "300 recipes under 300 calories". I had read a little blurb about it in some magazine and because I base alot of my own meals between 300-400 calories I thought I might get some ideas....I mean, three hundred recipes under three hundred calories? That's alot of recipes completely within a calorie range for weightloss.

I was quicky and completely disappointed. Here is a list of some ingredients that over 90% of the recipes used one or more of.....

fat free liquid egg substitute

fat free american cheese

fat free chedder cheese

fat free cream cheese fat free sour cream

The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese (1/2 of the recipes had this in them)

sugar free syrup


light whiped butter or butter spread

meatless sausage

pillsbury crescent dough

cool whip free

zero calorie butter spray f

frozen lowfat waffles (do you need a recipe to throw these in the toaster?)

fat free mayonaise

reduced fat "parmesan style" grated topping (?)

fat fee vegetable broth (isn't this already fat free?)

mashed potato flakes


frozen "ground beef style" soy crumbles

fat free tortilla chips

sweetener packets (lots of them)

unsweetened Almond Breeze (to which you add sweetener packets!)

low fat marinara sauce

frozen petite mixed vegetables

House Foods Tofu Shirataki Fetticine Shaped Noodle Substitute (what the heck is this?)

dry ranch seasoning mix,

taco seasoning mix

fajita seasoning mix, etc...(it's not that hard to mix your own spices, minus the MSG!)

Fiber One Original Bran Cereal

low fat baked tortilla chips

Where's the "real" food? This cookbook is not for anyone that is interested in changing their life for real. I just can't see living like this, eating these foods for the rest of my life. Yuck. I don't think I've ever in my life bought most of these ingredients and I'm sure the hell not going to start now!

There are no shortcuts to good health and nutrition. Real foods are not calorie dense anyway. I don't believe in fake sugars or trying the cut fat down to practically nothing. I don't need to eat 300 different meals anyway!

I took the book back and bought Rick Steves' book on "Budapest" that's a good investment for my $20!


Maribel said...

Growing up with a very traditional ethnic family, I had no idea what frozen, can, or any other packaged foods were. I remember going to a friends house and marveling at all the different types of cereal (we never, ever had cereal) in their pantry. Every time I asked my mom to buy me something I saw a friend have she would always say, "That's fake food, let me make you something real", and it was always delicious. At the time I felt deprived, but now I feel so fortunate to have learned about REAL food.

In the age of convenience, a lot of people have lost the connection to what food really is. I see it all the time at work. Boxes of Lean Cuisine in the freezer. I always look and think, I could make that and make it better!

A book I recommend to people is The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. It's not so much "new" recipes as it is explaining something as simple as throwing some greens together with vinegar a little oil and salt & pepper. It's simple and it's delicious. Sadly, many people don't even know how to make a simple salad dressing.

Books like the one you describe is just feeding the cycle of a dependence on fake food.

Can you tell this is a topic dear to me? LOL! I'll get off my soapbox now.

Linnea said...

I also bought a HG cookbook thinking it would give some ideas for quick meals when I am not feeling creative in the kitchen.
I too was sorely disappointed with the content. I can make something simple that will be healthier than all the fake stuff listed in these recipes. I now have a staples in the house for those less creative feeling days that are real and better yet good for me.

Diana said...

It gags me when I see what people eat on a daily basis. I'm no perfect saint, but holy crap....a lean cuisine or any frozen item is so gross. As soon as my co-workers are done eating their "meal in a box", then they steal items from someone; "hey, can I have 1 of your fries"? And then that turns to 10 fries and then they eat from someone else, "hey, can I have some of your cake"? And they have the stupidity to ask why they're gaining weight.....
It's a shame that that book you posted has probably made a lot of that could have been better spent buying your DVD's!!!! Congrats on the new release.....
I'm with Maribel on this one, I'll get off my soap box now too!

Kirsten said...

I read the top of this post, and thought "that sounds like that vile Hungry Girl cookbook." And lo, I scrolled down and there was a picture of it.

This is the diet version of "Semi-Homemade" by Sandra Lee, isn't it?

Beth said...

Seriously...that is the worst list of ingredients! Yuck! I tend to take recipes that I have used in the past and alter them to make them healthier.

Tracy Reifkind said...

Maribel....let's not hate on cereal now, lol!

I used to be one of those people wh didn't know how to make a simple salad dressing...heck I couldn't make a simple salad! No kidding.

Olive oil and lemon are my two best salad friends. But probably the two most important ingredients in my kitchen are salt and lemon.

I used to dream of being on the show Survivor and I joked about the one thing I would bring with me would be salt!

I actually got turned off to Alice Waters with her cookbook "Greens"....disappointing. Ironically I found that book to have over complicated recipes with too many went in my Goodwill pile...yikes!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Take it back! Take it back! It cost almost $30 bucks for God's sake!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Really I can't think of any kind of person that would look at any of those recipes and find them appealing in any way.

Someone who doesn't have/make the time to cook, or someone that is just plain lazy would have to make special shopping trips for those kind of ingredients....and that's as much of a drag as eating them.

Tracy Reifkind said...


Funny! No, I mean I agree,"vile".
Who OK'ed this crap?

I don't think I've gotten through a whole episode of Sandra Lee....but I've not gotten through a whole episode of Paula Deen either....watching hugely overweight people eat hugely fattening foods and almost joke about it is not my idea of inspiration.

I'd love to get my hands on the barefoot contessa.... since I used to look really similar to her I so badly want to move in, encourage her to use her talents "for good", and swing her ass off...literally. I love her stuff, but again, and that's why I feel for her at the same time.

Tracy Reifkind said...


That's the natural progression of cooking, right? Have you ever tried to make something "too healthy" and have it turn out horrible? I have, lol!

Beth said...

Yes, I've done that too. It has to have lots of flavor for me. I love spice in my food too. One of our favorite meals is your vegetarian white bean chili--so dang good! For summer meals, I have a super yummy gazpacho recipe. Tasty and healthy!

Stephanie said...

Half the crap that is spotlighted in magazines is because the editors got a free product in the mail. It is irritating to say the least.

One thing I learned is that it isn't fats from foods that aren't my friend, it was all the flours and sugar! Fake sugar has long been a friend of fad dieters and so I wonder if they are REALLY listening to the latest research that suggests that the body still responds to fake sugar with a glucose surge as if it were real!!!

I don't buy cookbooks anymore either. The public library has a TON of them and so I just check them out and put the recipes I like into a recipe organizing program on my computer. Evernote is a really good option too since you can just take a picture of the page in the cookbook with a smartphone and it will sync to your computer account. Totally free and it is much easier to search digitized recipes!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Thanks for the tips.

I never buy lean cuts of meat and I've managed to maintain my weightloss for over 5 years (no plans of that changing).

I just go online for ideas for recipes based on what I have in the house if I'm in the mood for something kinda new.