Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Watch out for The Joy of Cooking too much!

I just received the Mindless Eater newsletter put out by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab Team (founded by Brian Wansink, author of the great eye-opening book Mindless Eating) in which they report a study they did published in the Feb 09 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The group looked at 14 of the 18 recipes that appear in each edition of the very popular cookbook The Joy of Cooking throughout its 70 year history and found that the caloric content of the recipes increased by about 43.7% ! Furthermore, 17 of the 18 recipes showed an average of 63% increase in caloric content per suggested serving.

The authors found that in 1936, the average calories per recipe was 2124 and about 268 calories/serving. In 2006, the average calories per recipe rose to 3052 and about 436 calories per serving!

The recipes the team look at included macaroni & cheese, beef stroganoff, brownies, sugar cookies and apple pie. The caloric content increase is due to:

Changes in serving sizes.
What served 7 in 1936 served only 4 people in 1986!
In 1997, the basic waffle recipe made 12 six-inch waffles The same recipe in 2006 make 6 waffles.

The use of higher calorie ingredients.
For example, in the 1997 edition, the beef stroganoff recipe called for 2 Tbsp sour cream. The 2006 edition called for 1 cup!

Wansink points out that people often blame eating out for weight gain, but what we eat and do at home may be equally bad.

What can you do?
Rather than adhering to the cookbook's serving size suggestions, use your judgement. A recipe that claims to serve 4 can probably easily serve 6 or more. Make those brownies or cookies smaller. That cake recipe can be cut into 18 slices insted of 12 etc.

Don't feel that you need to follow a recipe to the letter. Use lower fat ingredients, ie. skim milk instead of 2% milk, low fat sour cream, lean meats. I always cut the sugar they ask for in half. Don't pack down the brown sugar. I replace at least 1/2 of the all-purpose flour (usually all of it) with whole wheat flour. I always use less fat. You can replace some of the oil they ask for in baked good with applesauce. Use less chocolate chips. Use less meat and add more vegetables. etc.

Beth Wareham, editor of the 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking, even states that " in putting together the latest edition, writers and recipe-testers used their common sense in terms of ingredients and serving sizes, and they figured readers have some common sense of their own. "


Sweta said...

Great info Sybil-we used to do a similar thing at the software companies I used to consult at(back in b'lore).One of the caterers had to run a health menu parallel to the regular food,and this menu was supervised by us.Nothing fancy-regular dishes made with less/no oil,whole grains,fruits instead of sweets,salads.

Gina said...

Wow how the times have changed. I take for granted how much I know about food and nutrition. Sometimes I forget how little some people know about calories/nutrients/serving sizes. Thank goodness for dietitians who work hard at talking sense into the public and pointing out all of the not-so-obvious diet sabotages that are always thrown in our faces! Way to educate the public Sybil :)

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks for your comments guys!