Five unhealthiest cookbooks of 2012
What do Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse, Downton Abbey, a âFifty Shades of Greyâ parody and an SEC tailgate party have in common?
Their food will kill you, says Marsha Hargreaves, a local clinical care nurse who also heads up Savannah Veggies and Vegans. Every spring, Hargreaves takes a hard look at the previous yearâs unhealthiest cookbooks, as graded by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 2012 did not score well, to say the least.
âThis recipe has the equivalent of 12 tablespoons of lard per serving,â Hargreaves explains, paging through Emily Ansara Bainesâ âUnofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook,â inspired by classic recipes from the hit British period drama shown here on PBS. âItâs a nice book, but all of the foods inside it are laden with high-cholesterol ingredients â creams, eggs, butter, sugar, oil.â
Hargreaves delivers the hits with her trademark, beaming smile â itâs impossible not to like her, even as she throws some of Americaâs favorite celebrity chefs into the stock pot, though not without a ladleful of Southern tact.
âAll of these people, theyâre all great cooks,â she says. âWe all love Rachael Ray. We all love Emeril. But all of these recipes are just shocking with the amounts of fat and cholesterol.â
Sheâs smiling, too, because sheâs been there. As a longtime health care professional, Hargreaves admits, she spent decades ignoring exactly the kind of advice sheâs now on a mission to dish out. Her personal cookbook collection, which she carries in a plastic laundry bin, has volumes dating back to the 1950s, where most recipes are âa frying pan melt with half a cup of butter.â
âFor 30-something years as an adult married woman,â she says, âI ate food that was just filled with cholesterol and fat. It had cheese and bacon and butter. I never just ate a plain piece of fruit. I never had just a plain, beautiful sweet potato.
âBack in my day, cooking was all done at home, and really the staples were butter, eggs and always some kind of meat product. And thatâs just what we lived on.â
Hargreaves says that was pretty much her routine for the first 57 years of her life â âI did good to eat a piece of fruit every other dayâ â until she had a change of heart in the mid-2000s and began researching plant-based diets. She became a vegetarian, then a vegan.
âMy personal reason was that I did it out of compassion for the animals,â she says, but looking at it as a nurse, the health implications of her previous food choices added up fast, too.
âWorking in a hospital and living in Savannah and knowing that we are the stroke hotbed of the South,â Hargreaves says, was shocking. âOur diabetes rates are huge. Then I started making the health connection to it as well, which made me feel like, I want people to know about this.â
So Hargreaves launched Savannah Veggies and Vegans about two and a half years ago as an offshoot of a similar group in Charleston. Today, they have more than 200 members who meet monthly at different locations throughout Savannah.
âWhatâs happened in America is one out of two of us is now dying of heart disease and stroke,â she says. âThe rate of diabetes has skyrocketed. Weâve got children and teenagers developing type 2 diabetes.
âSo youâve got to look at, how is our diet different from the rest of the world? And at the same time, those parts of the world that are now getting the McDonaldâs and the Burger Kings, their disease rates are changing. You can see it.â
Hargreaves says the answer is making a gradual â a word she stresses â change to a mostly plant-based diet, free of animal byproducts and rich in whole, unprocessed foods. Sheâs a strong advocate for food substitutions to lighten and enrich your favorite recipes:
â˘ In place of sugar, try fruit jams and preserves, agave nectar or maple syrup.
â˘ In place of eggs, mash half a banana or use 1/2 cup of applesauce.
â˘ Fantastic oil substitutes to help trim calories, fat and cholesterol include purified water, vegetable stock or even a splash of white wine. These are excellent for sautĂŠing.
â˘ And in place of animal meats, substitute beans.
âThe bean is the very best natural and healthy alternative to meet our protein needs,â Hargreaves says. âTheyâre packed full of natural fiber and protein along with iron and other vitamins and nutrients. Coupled with generous serving of fruits, veggies, dark leafy greens and whole grains, who needs to eat meat at every meal?â
The process takes time, Hargreaves admits. To learn to eat differently, she spent years attending classes, reading books, researching online and meeting other people who were trying to make the same kinds of dietary changes. But it was worth it, she promises.
âIf you feel like, âNo one can convince me,â well that was me, and Iâm a nurse,â Hargreaves says. âIt was having to learn about it, then start tasting the food and trying food substitutions bit by bit.
âGradual is the way to go. I was five years in the process of becoming a vegetarian. And now I donât even like to use the term vegetarian or vegan. Iâd rather focus on the healthfulness of the food and what your body thrives on.â
To learn more about making healthful changes in your diet or how to attend a Savannah Veggies and Vegans meeting, email Hargreaves at email@example.com.
Jason Kendall | Savannah Morning News
HOW TO MAKE THE SWITCH
To get you started on your healthful food-substitution kick, Marsha Hargreaves adapted this recipe for Southern Livingâs âOfficial SEC Tailgate Cookbookâ to remove 92 percent of the fat, all of the cholesterol and jumpstart protein and fiber.
SO-GOOD BROWNIES (before)
From Southern Livingâs âOfficial SEC Tailgate Cookbookâ
4 1-ounce unsweetened chocolate baking squares
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.
Microwave chocolate squares and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl at high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in granulated and brown sugars. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in flour, vanilla and salt.
Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles. Gently remove foil, and cut brownies into 16 squares.
Per brownie: 254 calories, 3 g protein, 13 g total fat, 46 percent calories from fat, 1 g fiber, 64 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium
Adapted by Marsha Hargreaves from natural foods chef Christine Waltermyer
1/4 teaspoon safflower oil or canola oil
2 15-ounce cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped, pitted dates
1 cup all-fruit raspberry jam
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry or whole-wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with the oil. To cut down on oil even further, you can use a tiny amount of canola oil (about the size of 1/10 of a raisin) as a base on the pan. Blend with a paper towel and then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of water on top.
Combine the black beans, dates, jam and vanilla in a large food processor and process until smooth. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt and process again.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top looks set. Remove from the oven and cool completely, then cut into 16 squares. The brownies will keep, refrigerated in a covered container, for up to 1 week.
Per brownie: 145 calories, 5 g of protein, 1 g total fat, 7 percent calories from fat, 8 g fiber, no cholesterol, 110 mg sodium
Hargreavesâ brownies contain 5 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per serving. The So-Good Brownies have just 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber.
By swapping all-fruit raspberry jam and black beans for butter, sugar and eggs, Hargreaves trimmed more than 100 calories and 12 grams of fat per brownie.
SOUTHERN BEANS AND GREENS
This traditional Southern combination creates a beautiful dish with a heavenly blend of flavors and a surprisingly meaty texture. Serve it with rice or another grain on the side. It also makes an excellent topping for warm cornbread, or a delicious filling for pita pockets.
1 cup vegetable broth or water
3 cups drained cooked or canned beans (your choice of any kind)
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
4 cups chopped fresh kale, stems and center ribs removed, lightly packed
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Combine beans, broth or water and garlic in a large saucepan. Place chopped kale on top of beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until kale is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oil, salt, black pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste.
Per 1 cup serving: 219 calories, 1.9 g fat, .3 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 14.4 g protein, 38.4 g carbohydrates, 9.9 g fiber
This delicious, crumbly cornbread is made with barley flour, which is sold in natural food stores and some supermarkets.
1 1/2 cups fortified soy or rice milk
1 1/2 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup barley flour
2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons canola oil
Vegetable oil spray
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine nondairy milk and vinegar and set aside.
Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar or other sweetener, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a separate large bowl.
Add nondairy milk mixture and oil. Stir until just blended.
Spread batter evenly in a vegetable oil-sprayed 9x9-inch baking dish. Bake until top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
2012âS UNHEALTHIEST COOKBOOKS (FROM THE PHYSICIANS COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE MEDICINE)
âThe Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbookâ by Emily Ansara Baines: One serving of Squab with Fig Foie Gras contains more cholesterol than 10 Big Macs and as much fat as 12 tablespoons of lard.
âEmerilâs Kicked-Up Sandwichesâ by Emeril Lagasse: One serving of Emerilâs Monte Cristo sandwich contains as much sodium as half a medium Papa Johnâs pepperoni pizza.
âMy Year in Mealsâ by Rachael Ray: One serving of Hearty Mac & Cheese with Squash & Sausage contains about as much saturated fat as a package of Oscar Mayer Bacon.
âFifty Shades of Chickenâ by F.L. Fowler: Just four Bacon-Bound Wings contain more cholesterol than a 10-ounce New York strip steak at Outback Steakhouse.
âThe Official SEC Tailgating Cookbookâ by Southern Living: One serving of the Sausage-Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole has more cholesterol than eight Cinnabon Classics.