The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Total Nutrition Cooking – “Meat lover’s special”


Total NutritionBy Alisa Fleming, – To preface this review, I love the topic of nutrition.  Something fascinates me to no end about the unimaginable influence food has on our bodies.  As our primary source of fuel, it can set our day for vibrancy, or sap that last bit of energy.  And…let’s face it…I just plain love to eat.  I will try almost (I said almost) any real food once. 

Needless to say, I was very excited to receive “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Total Nutrition Cooking.”  Not only was it a topic I love, but it was also my induction into the “Complete Idiot’s” world of publications.  I had high hopes, perhaps a bit too high.

I learned from perusing another Idiot’s Guide that this book has the standard format of little tips and comment throughout, summaries, and a very well detailed structure by the author.  Unfortunately, the author took “cute” to a new level, throwing in so many similes, metaphors, and puns, that I was sure she had a thesaurus and phrase book open at all times during the writing process. 

I could see some value in the very baseline presentation of nutrition, focusing mostly on the USDA Food Pyramid.  The author briefly touches on each food group, and gives examples of good foods to eat from within.  This is followed by a chapter (likely should be a book) touching on dietary needs for certain medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.  After this portion, I noticed the book going awry. 

After stating the importance of exercise, the author then gives sample daily menus, which are each nary more than 1400 calories per day!  This may be wise for caloric restriction diets, but anyone who is slightly active will certainly need more.  As well, the suggested menus seem to adhere, as if it is a limit, to the 3 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit per day.  In fact, one day’s menu had just one serving or less of apples, pineapple, blueberries, carrots, and celery.  Not exactly my idea of a “Total Nutrition” day. 

Beyond the fruits and veggies, there was a definite disconnect in the grains department.  The author goes to the trouble of alerting us to the best options, including millet, barley, buckwheat, oats, rye, and more.  Wheat and flour products make their presence known, but out of the roughly 300 recipes, I found just one for quinoa, and several of the other grains were left to the unknown.

Oddly enough, though the author mentions we should consume just 5 to 6 one-ounce servings of meat per day (I am not sure who really eats one ounce servings), this cookbook could be dubbed “the meat lover’s special.”  Of the roughly 300 pages of readable content, approximately 100 pages are for meat specific recipes.  This doesn’t include the fish department, nor the many salads, sandwiches, pastas, and appetizers that just happen to contain meat. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am currently an omnivore.  However, when I think of “Total Nutrition” I think of a book loaded with recipes on how to use fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and herbs, not pork, beef, and venison!  Which brings me to another interesting point…the odd choice of recipes.  Diversity is great, but odds are I won’t be running out to purchase (or shoot) rabbit and goat meat anytime soon!  The author throws odd ingredients like salmon eggs and goat leg without noting why one would eat these things, or where you might actually find them! 

There was one other issue that made this cookbook very user-unfriendly for myself.  Sugar is not used…okay, fine.  However, Splenda is used in great abundance, 2 cups per recipe at times.  Aside from diabetics or the severely calorie conscious, this doesn’t seem like a trade up to me.  She also promotes Benecol, for its cholesterol lowering properties, while completely ignoring that is made with partially hydrogenated oils.  There is also the suggestion of salt substitute throughout, which as noted on the package, should be recommended by your physician. 

So how are the recipes?  Eh.  I know it is an “Idiot’s Guide,” but I really don’t need a recipe to tell me to buy Kashi or Kellogg’s cereal and pour milk and blueberries on it (yes, brands are noted throughout this cookbook), nor do I intend on cooking up any Country Mustard Rabbit anytime soon.  Of those that remained, I would say, just okay thus far.  The two I tested needed to be tweaked. 

To trial a new-to-me grain, I made the Steel Cut Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Raisins.  Though this book is by no means non-dairy, this recipe called for soymilk.  Bad choice.  The first step requires you to boil the oats with soymilk, and then simmer for 20 minutes.  Soymilk is notorious for curdling, and should never be brought to a full boil if possible.  I switched it for almond milk, which worked well.  My oats were done a bit more quickly than the 20 minutes, I think more liquid needs to be used.  Nonetheless, they weren’t bad.

For a second trial, I made the Tuna Bean Salad Sandwich.  It sounded simple enough.  The concept was good, but it seems this author’s idea of nutritious, means bland.  All that the recipe needed was a touch of lemon juice, some freshly ground black pepper, a thick slice of tomato, some rosemary, or perhaps some diced olives to bring it to life.  As is, it wasn’t bad, just flavorless.  Mine is pictured on a gluten-free bread from Kinnikinnick.  The bread was surprisingly awesome! 

Tuna Bean Sandwich

To be honest, I have had trouble finding recipes in this cookbook that I wouldn’t need to tweak just a bit one way or the other.  I am planning to give the Gingered Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Carrots a whirl, though I won’t be using the ¼ cup of trans fat Benecol when I do. 

If you are a big meat consumer, several of these recipes do seem to warrant some merit, such as the Grilled Thai Steak, and the General Lee Chicken with Orange Sauce.  Since the author seems to know her meat, I will be giving these or some others a trial.

It should be noted that all of the recipes are fairly simple, with few ingredients.  From this point of view, they are very easy to customize.  I think this cookbook will go into my reference collection for quick foodie ideas, but not for go to recipes.  Also of importance, this book is not dairy-free.  However, I did find most of the recipes were made without dairy, or were very easy to modify.  Not to many recipes used cheese.

This Cookbook is available on Amazon:

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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