Pros: Good guide to the variety possible within the South Beach Diet; good selection of recipes for all stages
Cons: Some recipes really aren’t all that good
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
First posted 3/6/2006
One of the things I love best about the South Beach Diet (after the fact that it finally stabilized my hypoglycemia issues) is the ability to eat delicious food that really doesn’t seem like diet food. I get up in the morning and make an omelet with low-fat cheddar, a seasoning mix, and some Canadian bacon on the side. Lunch might be a salad including vegetables, more cheese, and even nuts, not to mention the full-fat thousand island dressing. Dinner often includes lean meat such as a seasoned and seared steak or chicken breast, or a turkey burger. I really don’t feel particularly deprived on this diet. Unfortunately, while some of the recipes in “The South Beach Diet Cookbook” reflect this panoply of options and delicious flavors, some of them definitely do not.
The book starts out with a good, basic explanation of the precepts of the South Beach Diet, just in case you haven’t read the original book or need a refresher. It includes a much more thorough guide to stocking your kitchen than what you’ll find in the Good Fats Good Carbs Guide. It starts off with a list of all the things you should clean out of your pantry when you start the diet, and then moves on to a fairly thorough guide to what you should look for when perusing the grocery store.
Recipes are handily marked with a colored bar and label saying which phase they’re good for. (Obviously a recipe that’s good for phase 1 is also good for phase 2, and a recipe good for 2 or 1 is also good for phase 3, since each new phase is less restrictive than the last.) Because these bars are colored it’s easy to flip through and find a recipe appropriate to your phase of the diet.
There are definitely some wonderful recipes in here. The Oatmeal Pancakes are absolutely amazing in terms of texture and flavor. My only complaint is that I hate the taste of sugar substitutes, so I did end up using a small amount of honey instead of the 2 teaspoons of sugar substitute called for here. But then, natural honey is one of those things that you can have in very small amounts as of phase 2 anyway. The Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Cups tasted good, but the consistency was terrible–they only sort-of firmed up, were soggy on top, and when used in conjunction with paper muffin cups as suggested, refused to part ways with the paper. The Hot Scrambled Tofu had no real flavor to it and was pretty unappealing. The Bombay-Style Sole, similarly, had less flavor to it than one might expect, and the texture of the sauce wasn’t all that appealing either. Texture and structure were two weak areas for this cookbook, which is a trait I associate with cookbooks written by people who may cook good food, but aren’t entirely familiar with tried-and-true techniques.
The food photography is professionally done and quite lovely. It’s simple and attractive. You won’t find photos for every recipe; just a representative sampling. The layout is clear and easy to read. Ingredients are set apart from the recipes and spaces out well; the fonts are clear and easy to read at a glance; instructions are broken down into small paragraphs; and all recipes include nutritional information (calories, fat, saturated fat, protein, carbs, dietary fiber, cholesterol, and sodium). Success stories are included from various dieters, which helps to provide context and encouragement.
There is definitely wonderful food to be found in this cookbook, and we certainly won’t put it on a back shelf and never use it again. However, the quality is just spotty enough that we tend to turn to other cookbooks first. This is a good book to get if you need some ideas for how you might adapt your favorite cookbooks and recipes to the South Beach Diet, but it isn’t the best cookbook you might use.