Saturday, January 17, 2009
How To Use The Eat This Not That Books
David Zinczenko has come out with three books so far in the Eat This Not That series. There's the original Eat This, Not That! , Eat This Not That for Kids!, and the recently released Eat This Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide.
All of the books have the same basic premise--they show some simple contests between two foods, and say which one would be better to eat, with both health and weight in mind.
They're usually based on two options at the same restaurant or two foods of the same type. Which is better to eat, the Big Mac or the Whopper? Is turkey bacon really better for you than regular bacon? How big a difference does it make if you get a strawberry ice-cream cone instead of a chocolate ice cream cone at Ben & Jerry's?
These are great books.
But reading some of the reviews of it around the internet, I want to try to make a few things clear:
These are not "pure" healthy eating books. A lot of the gripes people have with this book is that it doesn't go far enough. How can a book that has, say, a quarter pounder on the "Eat This" side really be a book about healthy eating?
However, the book actually goes a lot further towards being a "healthy eating" book than most of the critics give it credit for, sometimes putting higher calorie foods above lower calorie foods because of issues like sodium or trans-fat. But ultimately, this book isn't about pushing people to the extreme of healthy eating as . . .
This book gives people real world food swaps. It isn't a list of "All the healthy foods in the world," versus "All the unhealthy foods in the world."
Instead, it simply breaks down, given two choices, which one of those two you'd be better off picking. For example, on the Taco Bell page, the "Not That" side features the Baja Beef Chalupa. On the very next page, Uno Chicago Grill's "Eat This" page features the Cheese and Tomato Flatbread Pizza. If the contest had been just between those two, the Chalupa would have won--the individual pizza has 50% more calories, double the sodium, and triple the trans fat.
But that's comparing a pizza to a taco. When you look at the actual comparisons being made, two grilled steak soft tacos, fresco style really do bump the chalupa to the "Not That!" side, and you should "Eat This!" pizza if your alternative is the Chicago Classic Deep Dish individual pizza they have at the same restaurant.
Now you probably could have guessed the flatbreat would beat the deep dish, but believe me . . .
Many of the winners in these books are surprising. Would you believe that the quarter pounder I said was on the "Eat This!" side actually beats out McDonald's Premium Grilled Chicken Club? (You just have to hold the cheese.)
You'd think that the multigrain bagel with the lite cream cheese would beat out a breakfast sandwich with egg, ham, and cheese at Dunkin' Donuts, wouldn't you? But it doesn't.
Or that the kids' mini turkey burgers at Ruby Tuesday would be better for your kids than the deep-fried shrimp? (Actually, the book rates the turkey burgers the worst kids' burger in America.)
The book isn't all restaurants and fast food. While the most recent book is all about the supermarket, the other two books both have supermarket sections. The other books also have general menus for categories of restaurants (like BBQ joints, Chinese restaurants, Italian restaurants, and so on) with explanations of what to look for and what to avoid.
The kid's book also features a scorecard for Halloween candy and some recipes for healthier versions of kids' favorites like Mac 'n Cheese and Nachos.
Look, bottom line is that if you're already eating an all-organic, grass-fed, phosphate-free diet, then yeah, these books would probably be a step backwards for you.
But if you're living in the real world, buying your food from real places, this thing might come in handy once in a while.
Last time I was in an airport and I couldn't decide what to get, I wandered over to the bookstore, found a copy of one of these books, found something that looked good, then headed over to the place it suggested. Couldn't have been easier.
These books help you avoid the landmines you'd think would be healthy because of their names, find the manageable options you'd never have guessed, and make a few little steps in the right direction for the health of you and your family.
Of course, if you're sort of in the middle, like me--counting calories, but not looking for the "certified stuff"--this book's perfect, too. All your calorie info is in here.