We are starting a new tradition here at Badger Girl Learns to Cook: Book Club Mondays! 

I read a lot. I call myself a remote control reader: I read multiple books at a time so when I change books, it’s like changing the channels on TV. Not surprising, I read a LOT of books on food and nutrition, as well as cookbooks.

When I meet other foodie-interested people, I start peppering them with questions: What is your favorite cookbook? What is a must-read for you? And if they bring up Forks Over Knives, turrets takes over and I shout “We’re not becoming vegan!” (Manatee and I are still in denial).

As you can imagine, it can be a little annoying.

The problem is that I am dying to know what other foodies are reading, so I decided to start a venue in which we can discuss our books. I plan to alternate between books on food and cookbooks. I invite you to join in the discussion and to let me know what YOU are reading and what has impacted the way YOU eat.

I am starting with a book that is near and dear to my heart. I read Real Food Has Curves one year ago and it has completely changed my life and how I approach food. 

Real Food Has Curves

I found this book through Weight Watchers. I want to give you a little of my background because at the time, I wasn’t the clean eating fool that I am today. Here’s what you need to know:

  • I was chubby as a child.
  • I grew up on processed foods.
  • My mother was a rock star who got me into a Nutritionist whom I saw off and on for about eight years.  Because of her and my mother, I lost my weight in a very healthy way and learned a lot.
  • I stayed slim until I returned from graduate school and put on about fifteen pounds. It was a combination of being down, being less active, and the joys of getting older.
  • I turned to Weight Watchers and quickly lost almost all of the weight.
  • On Weight Watchers, I was the queen of low-fat everything and processed foods. My grocery cart was filled with fat-free shredded cheese, Weight Watcher carrot cakes, and 100 calorie packs.
So when I turned to Real Food Has Curves, I was looking for answers. Answers to why I was eating the right number of points but not feeling at all satisfied, answers to why I was so frustrated and hungry all of the time, and why those 100 calorie packs were barely denting my hunger.
The subtitle of this book is: How to Get Off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What You Eat. This is exactly what you will do if you read this book.
Who should read this book:

Anyone who has the slightest interest in moving away from processed foods, anyone who doesn’t understand what the problem is with processed foods, anyone who loves food, anyone and everyone.

I am being a little tongue in cheek, but my point is that you don’t need any previous knowledge to read this book. Writers Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarborough walk you through the process of identifying processed foods, why and how they are created, and how to break free from the processed mold.
While I am incredibly preachy, I can say they are not. I am having a hard time writing this review without being preachy so their style will be refreshing after you read my review.
Basic Layout:
The book is broken down into 7 sections which are posed as 7 steps towards a whole food diet.
  1. Learn to the Secrets to Satisfaction
  2. Make Informed Choices
  3. Relish What You Eat
  4. Detox Your Palate from Useless Salt, Fat, and Sugars
  5. Take the Long View
  6. Upgrade Your Choices
  7. Treat Yourself Well
What it includes:

Within each section, Mark and Bruce provide taste testing experiments to compare processed and whole versions of the same food, recipes, and informative tables. These tables include lists of ingredients (and what they actually are!), comparisons between time and cost in making a processed version and the whole food version, and also tables detailing some of the whole food ingredients they recommend (example: they break down different cooking oils).

Writing Voice:

Bruce and Mark do not go into this with the idea that they are perfect and want to bring us to their standard. Quite the opposite. They are down-to-earth people who even though they were food writers, they were falling into the trap of eating processed foods. I especially love when they talk about going and ordering a hamburger from your typical sit-down American restaurant. They share how good it looked, what it tasted like, and most importantly, how hungry they were an hour later.

At one point, they keep a food journal, share it with a nutritionist, and then share her feedback. I think this is very brave because they weren’t perfect. They made mistakes and were okay sharing it with us. But you know what? Those mistakes were the same ones I was making. 

I also think they are very sympathetic. They don’t want you to feel stupid for all of the processed crap you are eating, they want you to realize that you really can break free from from it AND enjoy your food so much more (and not spend any more money or time on making your food). You can have your (from-scratch-not-a-box) cake and eat it too. 

What I think:

Can you tell that I LOVED the book?! Okay, so now the questions are why. Why did I love this book and why did it change my life?

  • I didn’t feel stupid when I read it. They walked me through how and why food scientists do what they do. They made no assumption of what I knew before reading the book. This was a great introductory text but it also wasn’t dumbed down. I have reread it and each time I enjoy it and find something new.
  • I love tables. Reading huge blobs of text gets old. I loved having the tables and they made the book a great reference book. Since the initial read, I have come back and looked up the tables on oil and on chemicals.
  • They anticipated my arguments. At one point, they break down the time and cost of making your own homemade breaded fish versus heating up fish sticks. As you may have guessed, it’s more cost and time efficient to make your own.
  • It made sense. This may sound trivial, but it’s not. When I understood what the chemicals in my fat free shredded cheese were AND that if I ate real cheese, I would be satisfied with much less AND by eating less of the real stuff instead of more of the fake stuff, I would be healthier, leaner, and happier, why wouldn’t I buy the real stuff?
In terms of the recipes and taste testing experiments, I have to admit I didn’t take the time to try them. I was so engrossed in what they were seeing, I didn’t stop to challenge. I also have had enough of the processed crap (canned peaches in syrup, fake chocolate pudding) to know that a real peach tastes better and so does real chocolate pudding.
Here is where you can buy the book (and you should) and here is Mark and Bruce’s Blog, another great resource.
What is your favorite food book or must-read? Have you read this book? What do you think?

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