Friday, March 20, 2009

Buy This Not That

I got these two books from a friend. Thank god, too, because I'd be pretty miffed if I spent my own cash on them and I'll tell you why.

Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds--or More! by David Zinczenko and its companion book Eat This Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution are both superstars in the diet book world right now - hugely popular, as the ratings on Amazon and other book sites can attest. Why, precisely, I'm not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the snappy title, because there is little to no actual substance inside the books.

The author is preoccupied with calories. And of course calories count. But so does nutrition and Mr. Zinczenko and crew seemingly forgot about that part of the health equation. In a stroke of irony, the author is editor in chief of Men's Health magazine.

The first one concerns itself with eating out for the most part. That was actually strike one since I do not eat out all that often, but I can hardly hold that against him. More importantly, in both books, the author makes mention of fiber and sodium and fat content, but other than that, the focus is almost solely on calories.

Here's an example. Fresh asparagus grilled in olive oil with a salmon steak is relatively high in fat, albeit good fats. It's also high in lots of other good stuff. The lint out of my clothes dryer contains very few calories, but is nutritionally devoid. According to the book, based on calories (and possibly fiber, fat, and sodium content) the dryer lint would make an ideal meal. That's the kind of logic that seemed to be prevalent in the books.

A lot of the books concern picking one type of junk food over another. What is the healthiest fast food burger out there? Not exactly the way to Save 10, 20, 30 Pounds--or More! is it? Americans are overfed, yet undernourished. This book isn't helping the status quo.

Browsing Amazon, I was horrified to find a children's version:

If the focus in on choosing the best of prepackaged meals and fast food, which I suspect it is (note the cover), then I'll pass. And parents should too.

From an Amazon reviewer of the original book, who got it spot on:

"I think this book is a reflection of how bad the American diet is. I heard it discussed and thought it sounded like a good book. All it does if give you a choice between the lesser of two evils. Why not recommend whole grains, vegetables and low sugar foods. That would be a sound choice. But when you recommend eat a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut over another kind of doughnut, who are we kidding here??? This just allows people to be completely off the hook for being responsible for eating a nutritious diet, or feeding a nutritious diet to their kids. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic in this country."

Another Amazon reviewer suggested Food Politics by Marion Nestle and I am intrigued. I'm going to request it at the library in just a moment, in fact.

And let me just point you toward this site - it's worth a look see if you have a few minutes.

And if you are still looking for what to eat, by some fortune, the same author has published What to Eat, which was recommended to me, though I will confess I have not yet read it (stay tuned!).

So the bottom line is this - using the Eat This Not That books will give you false confidence in your (poor) choices and nothing more. Don't buy them, even if you are tempted by the snappy titles and cute catchy covers. And if you really must have them, you can have mine - I certainly have no use for them. There are better books out there if you must have a book. I also suggest using your common sense, since this author seems to have forgotten how to use his.


  1. I haven't read the Eat This... books, but the author appeared on The Biggest Loser, that paragon of television reality entertainment. :uh Anyway, if I recall they did a little game where the contestants won prizes if they made the "correct" choices. In one instance it was like, 17 light bottles of beer vs a burger with the works. Guess which one won?

    The Food Politics book looks interesting. I'll have to get it from the library. About a month ago I saw an ABC News special about that very subject. It is from 2004 but still extremely relevant. I watched it on YouTube. Took about 45 minutes to watch, but on the whole it was a VERY compelling program. Highly recommended.

  2. That's hilarious. I'll put out 17 bottles of light beer for the kids' healthy dinner tonight. WTFever. Thanks for the link, too - I'll check that out.

    Also, if you are feeling really organic, check out The Nourished Kitchen at It's Jenny's Blog and it's fabulous, though a little crunchier than I am ever likely to be. Very good resource and she is at PP if you want to bug her about stuff, lol.

  3. Well, think of the advantages to serving beer! Besides the obvious nutritional superiority, there's also zero prep time and super easy clean up (not counting the puke). All the packaging is recyclable so it's also a very "green" choice. Sounds like a win-win to me.

    Will check out that blog. thanks!


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