Book Review: “Eat This, Not That” by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding


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Overview/Summary

This book is part of a series developed from a column from Men’s Health magazine written by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding.  Touted as “the no-diet weight loss solution,” it provides food swaps from national restaurant chains and supermarket aisles, that promise to save you calories and pounds.  This simple, illustrated guide to thousands of foods and nutritional information also pledges to give you the information you need to make smarter choices when eating out.

In the Eat This, Not That! dedication, the authors call out fast food and chain restaurants who continue to “obscure, disguise and completely conceal the calorie, fat and sodium counts for their food,” referring to this practice as “nutritional negligence.” They mention a few operations, however, who have made it a priority to provide consumers with nutritional information about their food; these include Burger King, Chili’s, and Panera.  The book is divided into eight chapters, along with a thorough Introduction and an Index.  Special topics include foods you should eat everyday, menu decoders, supermarket hints, and kids’ section.

About the Authors

David Zinczenko is a successful editor, writer, business person and television personality. He has authored 14 New York Times best-sellers, with more than 10 million books in print.  Zinczenko currently serves as the Consulting Editorial Director for Men’s Fitness magazine.  Prior to that, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health magazine, a competing franchise. He grew up in Bethlehem, PA, attended Moravian College and later served in the military for the US Navy Reserves.  Additionally, he is the Nutrition and Wellness Editor at ABC News.

Contributing author, Matt Golding, is Chief Editor and Publisher of Roads and Kingdoms, a website that publishes features and travelogues on politics, culture, food, and drink. Previously, he was the Food and Nutrition Editor of Men’s Health magazine.

Critical Analysis – What I Liked Most

The most accessible and easily implemented suggestions in Eat This, Not That! are presented as lists. For example, in the introduction, the authors offer a list of the 10 Top Swaps. I liked all of the suggestions in the list, but these five stood out as my favorites:

  1. Cheeseburger – eat a McDonald’s Big Mac instead of a Burger King Whopper with cheese – save 220 calories and 18 grams of fat
  2. Turkey Sandwich: eat a Subway 6″ sub with cheese instead of a Panera Sierra Turkey sandwich – save 510 calories and 35.1 grams of fat
  3. Burrito: eat a Taco Bell Regular Style Steak Burrito Supreme instead of a Chipotle Steak Burrito – save 736 calories and 31 grams of fat
  4. Chicken Caesar Salad: eat a Panera Chicken Caesar Salad instead of a Chili’s Chicken Caesar Salad – save 450 calories and 42 grams of fat
  5. Donuts: eat a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut instead of a Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Cake Donut – save 130 calories and 6 grams of fat

Another list I really liked is presented in Chapter 1 – 8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day – due to their nutritional punch, as follows:

  1. Spinach                       5. Blueberries
  2. Yogurt                         6. Black Beans
  3. Tomatoes                   7. Walnuts
  4. Carrots                        8. Oats

The Menu Decoders chapter was also interesting in that it explained in plain language the meaning of many culinary terms and how various cooking methods can affect the nutritional profile of foods. The chapter is divided into sections for various types of restaurants: breakfast diner, sports bar, pizzeria, seafood, steakhouse, etc.  This information here is quite insightful, especially if you aren’t familiar with cooking techniques or menu descriptors. For example:

  • at a seafood restaurant, “blackened” fish is a better alternative to deep-frying because it involves using spices to cook the fish on high heat, usually in a cast iron skillet;
  • when frequenting a sports bar, opt for baked potato skins versus fried, which can cost you up to 40 grams of fat per skin!;
  • when ordering salads and sandwiches with protein, watch for the word “crispy” as it is restaurant speak for “fried” – opt instead for grilled or roasted;
  • when you come across “Dal” at an Indian restaurant, order it because these flavorful stewed lentils are an excellent low-fat source of fiber and protein.

For those of you that drink coffee (hot or iced) on a daily basis, you will appreciate the Drink This, Not That chapter, which compares the nutritional profiles of various drinks from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and others.

Critical Analysis – What I Disliked

The in-your-face presentation of Eat This, Not That! is cheesy and gaudy, making this book seem less than credible. Also, the page layout is overcrowded with miscellaneous facts and figures, splashy charts, annoying arrows, busy bubbles, and a myriad of colors, making it too distracting to actually want to read.  It shouts out promises in boldface font with fake yellow highlights and large red arrows, using far too many exclamation points.  Just take a look at the cover – the entire book is like that.  As a result, it’s difficult to take this book seriously.

In the At Your Favorite Restaurants chapter, the authors list a comparison of better choices within several national restaurant chains.  The problem with this is that not all the restaurants are available to all readers. For example, only 65% of the 60+ chains listed are in my area – that’s 20+ pages of information I can’t use.  If you live in a small or remote location, then you will have even fewer of these chains available to you.

I was put off by the online weight loss plan from the Men’s Health which was advertised in the back pages of this book. I knew there was some catch here – some ploy to get more money! It reminded me of the “but wait, there’s more” chants from those infomercials you see on cable TV in the wee hours of the morning.

Finally, I also noticed that there were no quotes from industry insiders on the back cover, recommending this book.

Verdict – Yes, No or Maybe?

I give this book a weak Maybe, but lean more towards a No.  I liked that there are a few helpful lists which can be incorporated into daily life pretty easily.  I also liked that the authors decode some menu terms which many readers might find unfamiliar.  However, the flashy, somewhat juvenile presentation makes it difficult to take this book seriously. Yes, there is a lot of good information, but it’s hidden among the crazy graphics. While I understand that the hyped presentation is by design, I think they went overboard. Also, much of the content is not applicable to all readers, based on locations of national chains.

I can’t see myself using this book as a regular reference. Instead, I see it as more of a book I might casually flip through to pass the time.  I’m glad that I only paid $1 for it at a library book sale, versus the $19.95 retail price.

If you read it:

Genre: Nutrition
ISBN: 1-59486-854-9
ISBN-13: 9781594868542
Original Publication Date:  12/26/2007
Pages: 304
Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.

Other books by this author (in full or in part):

  • Uncommon Knowledge: Hundreds of How-To Tips from Your Favorite Celebs!  (2000)
  • The Abs Diet Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan (2000)
  • The Abs Diet Eat Right Every Time Guide (2004)
  • The Abs Diet: The Six-Week Plan to Flatten Your Stomach and Keep You Lean for Life (2004)
  • A DIETA DO ABDOMEN (2005)
  • The Abs Diet 6-Minute Meals for 6-Pack Abs (2006)
  • The Abs Diet 6-Minute Meals for 6-Pack Abs (2006)
  • Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide for Women (2006)
  • Eat This, Not That!: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution (2007)
  • ABS Diet for Women (2007)
  • The Abs Diet Ultimate Nutrition Handbook (2007)
  • Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide (2008)
  • Eat This Not That! for Kids! (2008)
  • Cook This, Not That! (2009)
  • Eat This, Not That!: Restaurant Survival Guide (2009)
  • Eat This Not That! The Best (& Worst!) Foods in America! (2009)
  • Drink This Not That! (2010)
  • Cook This, Not That!: Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals  (2010)
  • The New Abs Diet Cookbook (2010)
  • Grill This, Not That! (2012)
  • The 8 Hour Diet (2012)
  • Cook This, Not That!: Skinny Comfort Foods  (2012)
  • Eat It to Beat It: The No-Diet Food Lover’s Plan to Put You Back on the Road to Health (2013)
  • Zero Belly Diet  (2014)
  • The Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet (2014)
  • Cook This, Not That! World’s Greatest Weight Loss Recipes (2014)
  • Cook This, Not That!: Hundreds of quick & healthy meals that can save you 10, 20, 30 pounds–or more! (2014)
  • Eat This, Not That 2015 (2014)
  • Zero Belly Cookbook (2015)
  • Zero Belly Smoothies (2016)
  • AARP Special Edition: Eat This, Not That! for a Longer, Leaner, Healthier Life! (2016)

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