I don’t mind admitting that I’m a big fan of the television series The Biggest Loser. I also don’t mind admitting that I find the USA and Australian versions much more enjoyable than the UK one. The UK series seems somehow muted, a bit half hearted, when you compare them to its overseas counterparts. But I still watch, of course, normally whilst eating some unhealthy snack of another (don’t tell me you don’t watch those people exercise to within an inch of their lives while digging out ice cream from a Ben and Jerry’s tub too!). It’s great to see these people’s lives completely transformed, and I might even learn something about diet and exercise along the way.
This post is about The Biggest Loser Cookbook, which I have been sent by Octopus Books following a book review tweet a couple of weeks ago. I go through fazes of cooking meals I know by heart coz they’re easy, and cooking from a recipe book. This week I’ve obviously been in recipe book mode, partly because I had a long weekend off work and so had time to spend on preparation and cooking, and partly because I had a cookbook to review.
Before we talk recipes though, and there are 100 in this book, this isn’t just a cookbook. It’s billed as a “personal programme for nutritious & delicious guilt-free food” and is part of a suite of plans, advice and help that goes with The Biggest Loser franchise. The book starts with information about weight, your BMI and setting targets. It also includes a page from each of the trainers with diet and exercise tips. The idea, I guess, is to make you realise that being healthy is about a combination of choices including eating right and exercising, and not just dieting. The plan in this book is based on you eating three meals plus snacks and having a treat each day. It seems to make a lot of sense as far as diets go.
But I’m not going on a diet to test a book (I’m sat writing this while munching on some very lovely biscuits that will be the subject of another post soon), I was simply interested in the recipes for healthy meals. And that’s fine. You can follow the plan and use the two week menu provided if you like, or you can just use the 100 or so recipes as they are. They come in sections – breakfasts, salads, soups/stews, fish/poultry/meat, and desserts. As I do with all my cookbooks, I sat down and looked at each recipe to see what took my fancy – and there was quite a few. This week I’ve tried three of those recipes.
The Butternut Squash Soup from page 85 was very simple, as most soups tend to be. At just 100 calories per portion (I did make more than the recipe suggests and therefore probably had about 150 calories in my bowl) I felt absolutely no guilt having the warm brown baguette I baked to go with it. Being butternut squash and having very little water added, this is a fairly thick soup when liquidised and went down very well – it was very tasty. I froze half and am very much looking forward to having it again another day.
The Lamb Curry with Coconut Milk on page 141 took ages to prepare and cook – a couple of hours (I’m a pretty novice cook really but you do have to leave it for an hour or so). However the time was worth it as it was really tasty, full of flavour, although not a spicy curry – I’ll be adding chilli next time. Again, with two of us this recipe made plenty to freeze enough for another day.
Last night I tried the Spring Vegetable Risotto on page 78. This was right up my street but not so much for my husband, but I decided to make it anyway. It’s a risotto with broad beans, peas and courgette. It looked green and fresh and tasted great, I gobbled mine up really fast, it was very yummy. 425 calories for a decent portion of risotto isn’t bad either, and perfect for a meat-free dinner. One to do again for me, but not one my other half enjoyed as much.
That’s all I’ve tried so far, but I have plans to make more of the soups (love a good soup) and also the Chilli Con Carne on page 148 among other things.
Overall I’d say this book is great if you’re looking for some healthy meal ideas as well as some pretty decent dieting advice. We’re not talking super low calorie things on every page, but each recipe has something going for it that makes it a good healthy choice. But beware a book that doesn’t give you an indication of the total preparation/cooking time – these aren’t quick weekday night suppers, most take much longer than I’d normally spend on dinner.
The Biggest Loser Cookbook is £12.99 (£6.49 on Amazon at the moment) and published by Octopus Publishing Group.