Editor’s disclosure: Reviewer Sharon Salomon, MS, RD, is a good friend of mine. In fact, she was my nutrition instructor at culinary school. We weren’t friends then, but I knew we would be because she brought a French Laundry menu to class one day and gushed about foie gras.
I briefly met author Sharon Palmer, RD, at a journalist conference about a year ago. She didn’t mention she was currently working on a book. A few weeks ago, I got an email from Ms. Palmer announcing her book. Instead of accepting a review copy, I bought one directly from her.
I was all set to add it to my library when I got an email from Ms. Salomon, asking me if she could review it for Pen & Fork. Knowing her relationship with Ms. Palmer. I thought, “We’ll need a disclosure. “ And in true Sharon Salomon fashion, she gave me one.
Reviewer’s disclosure: Sharon Palmer, the author of The Plant-Powered Diet, is my editor at Environmental Nutrition Newsletter (environmentalnutrition.com). I’d like to say that our relationship (she assigns and critiques my writing) had nothing to do with my decision to review her book. But I’d be lying! Yes, I jumped at the chance to review my editor’s book. Alas, I found nothing wrong. Read on.
Nowadays everyone is a self-styled nutrition expert.
Oprah, Dr. Oz, Jillian from The Biggest Loser, your personal trainer at the gym.
The problem is these people are not “nutrition experts” based on education and training regardless of their professional credentials in other areas. But we are nonetheless willing sponges soaking up their often unfounded and unscientific rhetoric.
Whether it’s Dr. Oz recommending an untested supplement or Oprah talking about some new weight loss miracle diet or your personal trainer suggesting that you ditch all grains, we’re ready to jump on just about any bandwagon that promises long life, health and leanness.
Most of us are pretty turned off by the “party line” recommendation to eat lots of vegetables and stay away from fat. Been there. Done that. And it’s boring.
The party line, however, is what really works.
In fact, it’s just about the only eating regimen that offers just what everyone is looking for: health.
The real problem is the way the party line has been presented:
“Eat more of this, less of that, and moderate amounts of these.”
Huh? That’s the kind of advice that makes your head spin. Who among us doesn’t already know that eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans is good for us? Even the Atkins people have modified the diet to include more plant foods.
The science is irrefutable: to live a long healthy life we should be eating lots of plant foods. So do we really need another book that tells us to eat more vegetables and whole grains?
Well, yes, we do. We need an advice book like The Plant-Powered Diet because this one is written by a true nutrition professional who knows her beans from her legumes.
Not only is the author, Sharon Palmer, RD, a nutrition expert by training, she’s also an accomplished writer/editor so you know that the book is well researched and very clearly written. In fact, it’s an “easy read” packed with practical tips to help you make as many (or as few) changes to your eating style as you choose. There’s nothing pedantic about her recommendations either.
The Plant-Powered Diet is really a book about going vegetarian but Palmer realizes that many readers won’t want to go that far so she suggests that you choose a goal that works for you: choose a plant based diet enhanced with lean meats, fish, eggs and dairy (she calls this the plant-powered omnivore diet) or plant based diet that includes dairy and eggs (plant-powered vegetarian) or a purely vegan diet that avoids all animal foods. It’s doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach but one based on making sensible and achievable changes at your own pace.
If you’re interested in nutrition, then you’ve probably already seen charts of fruits and vegetables, grains and beans with their nutrient contents. Nothing new here. But Palmer gives you more than lists. Each chapter ends with concrete suggestions on how to implement the recommendations. How to add flavor without adding sugar and fat, for instance. Or how to make sure you’re getting enough protein (which, by the way, is so much easier than most of us think it is).
Maybe you’re stymied by the idea of preparing a meatless breakfast other than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or oatmeal. Or how to equal the protein in a steak if you choose to replace it with plant foods. Fear not. Palmer has suggestions for you.
I’m especially impressed that Palmer included a chapter on herbs and spices (with a mention of chocolate and coffee). They’re often overlooked in a book of this nature. But Palmer is a “foodie” as well as a dietitian so she knows the value of seasoning her food. Cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, basil and others add flavor to make food more appealing and they contain potent health giving substances as well.
The Plant-Powered Diet is not a weight loss diet book. The author doesn’t promise that you’ll be ten pounds slimmer by the weekend or make outrageous claims about curing headaches or diabetes. This is a lifestyle book. This is a book about how to live a healthier life by making progressively more changes until you’ve reached a comfortable place. Of course, I think we all know that if we eat the way she suggests, we might indeed lose a couple of pounds.
The Plant-Powered Diet is not one of those total kitchen makeover books. No one is telling you to dump everything in your pantry and stock the kitchen from scratch. In keeping with the sensible theme, Palmer offers a ten ingredient plant-powered pantry kit, a list of essentials to help you get started. She follows that with easy meal fixes using the pantry kit. These aren’t recipes but suggestions for combining ingredients from the kit to make a quick meal like taking canned beans, pasta, spinach, seasonings, olive oil to make a quick no fuss dish.
The recipe section includes very familiar dishes with a vegetarian twist. Cacciatore with tofu instead of chicken and an antipasto with couscous and chickpeas, for instance. In fact there are 75 family-tested, kid-approved recipes.
If you’re frustrated with recommendations that are too general or if you’ve tried just about everything with less than spectacular results and you’re willing to try one more time, then The Plant-Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer, RD, is worth a look.
Palmer’s approach is forgiving – do as much or as little as you want. Her knowledge is deep but her writing is straight forward and accessible. This may be the last how-to-eat book you buy.
Sharon Salomon, MS, RD, is a freelance food, nutrition and health writer living in Phoenix, Arizona.