Advice on How To Write A Diet Cookbook

I was in town today and had 30 minutes to kill before an appointment, so I wandered over to Barnes & Noble. I found myself standing in front of a huge table devoted to nothing but diet cookbooks. Paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian, Biggest Loser, South Beach, Fat Cleanse, French Women... take your pick.

Personally, I love cookbook porn. I'll sit and flip through any cookbook, any day of the week. But as I was looking at the recipes, particularly in the breakfast, lunch, and dessert sections, my thought with any given cookbook I picked up was, "Who has the time to make all this stuff?" 

And so the idea for this blog post was born: a few tips from an average reader on how to improve the average cookbook for dieters. No need to thank me. Ready? Here goes.  

  • Don't tell me to substitute a smoothie, shake, or other beverage for a meal. Meals are for chewing. If my incisors aren't involved, it doesn't count as a meal.
  • Same goes for telling me to eat one of your trademarked protein bars for a meal. We're dieters, not criminals, and we deserve more than a little poo-shaped log for a meal. 
  • Ease up on the breakfast recipes. I'm not denying that your egg-white omelet recipe with lightly sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, and broccoli isn't delicious. I'm just saying that at 6:20 am, the chances of getting me to do more than pour milk or sling toast is slim to none. A recent book I'm working out of asked me to broil a grapefruit and I almost flung the book across the room in anger. Work with me here, people. 
  • Same with lunch. I realize I'm one of the lucky few who, working from home, actually has the option of preparing the diet lunches that require 2 pans, a broiler, and access to a spice rack. But let me speak for the average Joe when I say, "Give us something for lunch that can be prepared in the 2 minutes it takes our toast to brown in the toaster oven in the morning or we'll be forced to make another pizza run for lunch." 
  • Dinners I'm okay with, especially if leftovers can be used for lunch the next day. I do think cookbook publishers get a little carried away and make things harder than need be. Today I looked at a recipe for spaghetti sauce that had something like 8 spices and I had to cut up my own tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes, etc. I'd appreciate a little asterisk footnote that says, "*Or it's okay to just use Prego."
  • More pictures! Pictures sell books, pictures sell recipes. I have never made an eggplant dish I like, but I am sucked into buying eggplants over and over again by the pretty pictures I see of them in cookbooks, all baked and stuffed and laying there like they actually belong in the lasagna. 
  • Regarding those meal plans in the back of the books where they pull together a sample one-week menu for you? Heads up, cookbook publishers. I am not going to--wait. I'll go so far as to say, NO ONE IS GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENT MEAL FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER, 7 DAYS A WEEK. Seriously, those plans make me laugh. Do you know anyone who doesn't eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast every day of their life? Why when I diet do I then suddenly need to have an omelet on Monday, smoothie on Tuesday, breakfast burrito on Wednesday, etc...?

I appreciate all the effort going on to make us smaller and healthier but let's get at least one foot grounded in reality. Yes, I know the idea is that I can take the recipes and make them work for me but you know what? That's not what these books promise. Instead they say, "Follow us! Do it this way! It's simple! It's easy!" 

For the record, the closest cookbook I've found to doing most of the above is The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jumpstart or probably any Biggest Loser cookbook. The recipes I've tried are simple, tasty, and rarely take more than 15 minutes to make. 

Bon Apetit!