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Ten Celebrity Cookbooks

A Report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
December 2002

 

Cookbook Rating System

PCRM’s registered dietitians based each cookbook’s rating on three criteria: percentage of healthful recipes (up to 75 points), amount of health and nutrition information (up to 15 points), and overall presentation and appearance (up to 10 points). The standard for a healthful recipe was one high in fiber, rich in nutrients, low in saturated fat, and free of cholesterol. Recipes for sauces, marinades, and drinks were not considered in the rating.

Recipe Score
Each cookbook received up to 75 points based on its percentage of healthful recipes:

  • > 60% of recipes rated healthy = 75 points
  • 50%–60% of recipes rated healthy = 65 points
  • 40%–49% of recipes rated healthy = 55 points
  • 30%–39% of recipes rated healthy = 45 points
  • 20%–29% of recipes rated healthy = 35 points
  • 10%–19% of recipes rated healthy = 25 points
  • <10% of recipes rated healthy = 0 points

Health and Nutrition Score
Each cookbook received up to 15 points based on the following criteria:

  • If it provides a nutrient analysis with each recipe = 5 points
  • If it provides research-supported information on using foods for health = 5 points
  • If it offers sample menus, a glossary, or tips for healthful cooking techniques (i.e., lower fat, lower salt, etc.) = 5 points

Presentation Score
Each book received up to 10 points depending on whether it includes photographs of cooking steps and/or photos of the finished product. The books were rated on a scale of 1-10.

The Books

Healthy Holidays: Total Health Entertaining All Year Round
Marilu Henner and Lorin Henner

Recipe Score: 54% healthy recipes = 65 points
Health & nutrition Score = 10 points
Presentation Score = 8 points
Total: 83 points
Final score: 83%

Actress and health advocate Marilu Henner, best known for her role in the award-winning TV show Taxi, has come up with another wholesome alternative to the typical celebrity cookbook. More than half of the recipes are low in fat and cholesterol, and dairy-free. Built around every imaginable holiday, the book even offers a mouthwatering vegan chili recipe for Super Bowl Sunday. This is the only book we reviewed that includes a separate section on health and nutrition.

Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes, 2003
Martha Stewart

Recipe Score: 18% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 8 points
Presentation Score = 9 points
Total: 42 points
Final score: 42%

Martha Stewart’s gorgeously photographed cookbook offers hundreds of recipes categorized by months of the year. Many recipes include a nutrient analysis, which help direct cooks to the healthier, lower-fat dishes. The bad news is that only 18 percent of the cookbook’s recipes rate a healthy score. Instead, Martha’s still serving up steak salads, fries, and pork chops, despite the number of Americans who are now overweight and need more healthful choices.

Live, Love, Eat! The Best of Wolfgang Puck
Wolfgang Puck

Recipe Score: 10% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 9 points
Total: 39 points
Final score: 39%

Renowned for his creativity, famed restaurateur Wolfgang Puck has put together another beautifully styled and photographed cookbook. While he does serve up occasional delectable low-fat recipes such as “Spicy Tomato and Basil Bruschetta,” these kinds of dishes only make up 10 percent of the book. The rest-like “Wolfgang’s Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf”-are high in fat and cholesterol.

Happy Days with the Naked Chef
Jamie Oliver

Recipe Score: 19% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 9 points
Total: 39 points
Final score: 39%

Celebrated chef and best-selling author Jamie Oliver is the high-energy and enthusiastic star of the Food Network. His new book is fun to look at and has a number of unique low-fat and nutritious creations including “Smashed Celeriac.” But despite all it’s got going for it, this book is still heavy on greasy meat and cheese dishes. Among them is a recipe for sardines wrapped in bacon.

Nigella Bites: From Family Meals to Elegant Dinners--Easy, Delectable Recipes for Any Occasion
Nigella Lawson

Recipe Score: 11% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 8 points
Total: 38 points
Final score: 38%

An influential British food writer and cooking show celebrity, Nigella Lawson has published her third book of recipes. Based on her TV series, Nigella Bites provides some stunning food photography and clever chapter titles, but skimps on healthful recipes. Beware of her recipes for “Ham in Coca Cola” and deep-fried candy bars.

The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco
Allen Rucker and Michele Scicolone

Recipe Score: 11% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 6 points
Total: 36 points
Final score: 36%

If the feds don’t eventually snare the Soprano family, their meat-heavy diet is bound to do them in. Although this delightfully written book, which centers around HBO’s hit show, is a fun read and packed with interesting tidbits, the vast majority of recipes are heavy on fat. Among its few healthful dishes are “Pasta Fagioli” and “Giambotta,” a vegetable stew.

Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue: 100 Easy Recipes for Backyard Barbecue
Al Roker

Recipe Score: 18% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 6 points
Total: 36 points
Final score: 36%

Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue: 100 Easy Recipes for Backyard Barbecue

Al Roker, the famed Today Show weatherman, could have done much better by his fans. Although his new book does include some flavorful vegetarian options such as “Corn, Black Bean, and Tomato Salad,” more than 80 percent of the recipes are high in fat and a forecast for trouble. His signature dish? “Steaks as Big as Your Head.” No further comment.

The Wiseguy Cookbook: My Favorite Recipes from My Life As a Goodfella to Cooking on the Run
Henry Hill

Recipe Score: 12% healthy recipes = 25 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 4 points
Total: 34 points
Final score: 34%

Henry Hill, the notorious mobster who disappeared into the Federal Witness Protection Program, offers an amusing tale of his life and “cooking on the run” in this new cookbook. But tough-guy advice won’t protect you or loved ones from the effects of his meaty recipes. Readers should especially steer clear of the “Oven Penitentiary Sauce with Sausage” and “Henry’s Kickback Antipasta Hero.”

Prime Time Emeril: More TV Dinners from America’s Favorite Chef
Emeril Lagasse

Recipe Score: 9% healthy recipes = 0 points
Health & nutrition Score = 5 points
Presentation Score = 3 points
Total: 8 points
Final score: 8%

Celebrated Food Network star Emeril Lagasse offers among the worst of the celebrity books. Although he offers a few low-fat salads and vegetable dishes, most of the recipes are loaded with fat and cholesterol. From ham hock wontons to chicken pot pies, these dishes should be off-limits for anyone with a weight problem.

Kill It & Grill It: A Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish
Ted Nugent, Shermane Nugent

Recipe Score: 0% healthy recipes = 0 points
Health & nutrition Score = 0 points
Presentation Score = 3 points
Total: 3 points
Final score: 3%

Musician and outdoorsman Ted Nugent offers this book for controversy, not nutrition. The book is filled with hunting anecdotes and detailed instructions on how to gut wild boar, buffalo, and venison. The bottom of the heap.

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