Comments: On their own, most of these recipes are fine. You would not be offended if a friend served you one of these dishes for lunch. You would probably be happy making at least half of these recipes yourself. But as a collection, they are pretty bleak.
The book is another in Phyllis Pellman Good's wildly successful series of community cookbooks, with recipes contributed from people around the country. The difference here is her collaboration with the dieticians from the Mayo Clinic, in which recipes were adapted to fit within the clinic's Healthy Weight Pyramid. Chapters feature main dishes based on salads, vegetables, whole grains and pasta, beef, pork, poultry, and seafood; salads; vegetables; whole grains and pasta; soups; breakfasts and brunches; breads; desserts; beverages; appetizers and snacks; and sauces, seasonings, and condiments. Each recipe includes a nutrient analysis (calories, fat, fiber, etc.), its number of Mayo pyramid servings (of vegetable, carbohydrates, fats, etc.), as well as an estimate of the preparation and cooking or baking time. Most are quick recipes.
The recipes rely heavily on herbs, spices, onions, garlic, peppers, and fruits to provide flavor. You have to be willing to work with fat-free mayonnaise, Ranch dressing, Italian dressing, cottage cheese, half & half, and egg whites or egg substitute, and track down 95%-lean ground beef, which is not available in most grocery stores.
What bothers us is the austerity of the collection. The book says clearly that the American Heart Association allows three to four whole eggs a week, but we found only six recipes out of more than 400 that even use whole eggs – and among the six, you get to eat between one-third of an egg and one whole egg.
Looking at the calorie count for most of these recipes, it appears that you'd have to have six or seven meals a day to reach the recommended number of calories. Among the 101 main-dish recipes, the average calorie count per serving is 261, or 13 percent of the average adult's recommended intake.
There are only four recipes that provide more than one serving of fat, even though the clinic's Daily Serving Recommendations allow for five servings per day for the average adult. Half or more of the recipes have none. If your food pyramid allows for fat (the principal carrier of flavor), why not use it?
Why not publish recipes that are a little less draconian, that use small amounts of real foods with real flavor (instead of small amounts of engineered foods with no flavor or flavors that must be masked with large amounts of spice) and encourage people to modify how they cook and what they eat? If one is trying to change people's eating habits, an all-or-nothing approach doesn't seem like the best way to go.
If you already have a super low-fat, low-sweet, low-sodium, vegetable-rich, whole-grain, fruit-filled diet, you'll probably be delighted to have more than 400 new quick, simple recipes. If you don’t eat this way, this book is unlikely to make you a convert.