Marketers love my mom. They phone, send her snail mail, populate her inbox, and come at her with more and more promises, thinking eventually she may say yes. Like my mom, many older adults are the targets of scammers trying to sell hope. Maybe in that way older adults are similar to people trying to lose weight – the promises sound so appealing.
I wrote my first diet for a national women’s magazine many years ago. Ever the conscientious dietitian, I made sure to include balanced meals and snacks with foods that supplied enough vitamins and minerals – I included kale before it was trendy – and provided a sensible number of calories. As magazine editors did at the time, the team overseeing my article met to conceive of a cover line for my story and came up with “Lose 20, 30, 40 Pounds by Summer.” I was crestfallen to see my carefully crafted diet reduced to an empty promise.
Fast forward to today, with years of articles and books behind me. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but the cover lines, covers and promises assigned by marketing teams don’t really tell the story of what’s inside. One of the best-selling books I worked on was “400 Calorie Fix: The Easy New Rule for Permanent Weight Loss.” Liz Vaccariello, then editor-in-chief of Prevention, was the lead author. I never expected people to think that 400 calories meant 400 calories per day. Actually, the eating plan was built around 400 calorie meals, with readers choosing from three to five meals each day, depending on activity level and whether they wanted to lose or maintain weight. And the most important lessons in the book, in my opinion, were on managing calories when eating out. It takes careful planning to limit restaurant calories to under 1,000, let alone 400.
I’ve crunched numbers for books that showcase weight loss success stories. While stories are inspirational, results are highly individual and usually not replicable. Again, people who looked beyond the cover promise could find solid guidance on how to put together meals that didn’t overshoot calories, especially when eating out.
The Ultimate Volumetrics is the straightest-talking book I’ve worked on. Dr. Barbara Rolls, a world-renowned researcher at Penn State University, based the book on her extensive research on hunger and fullness, and I was honored to be her “with” on the book. No outsized promises on the cover, just call-outs for feeling fuller on few calories and simple, science-based strategies for losing weight and keeping it off. Dr. Rolls’ research shows that eating “low energy density” foods that don’t have a lot of calories for the amount of food – think soups and green salads – fills people up and helps them eat less, often without realizing it. The book should have been a runaway best seller like Dr. Rolls’ first book, but it came out the same month that Borders Books closed. Still, the Volumetrics philosophy continues to be named among the best approaches to weight loss, most recently by U.S. News.
I thought of Volumetrics last week when I was inspired to make a pot of white bean and escarole soup. We had come off of a couple of weeks of holiday parties so it was time to eat more healthfully. Also, I heard a lecture on “brining” beans before cooking to make them creamier yet firm and I had to give it a try. We used a vegetable-broth base, like Dr. Rolls recommends, plus white beans and slivered escarole, plus cheese tortellini to make the soup a bit heartier. Everything went into the slow cooker midday and was ready by dinner. The recipe isn’t in Volumetrics but it upholds the book’s philosophy.
White Bean and Escarole Soup for Barbara
Makes 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth, preferably reduced sodium
2 cups cooked or canned, drained white kidney, navy, or cannellini beans
1 bunch escarole, about 12 ounces
10 twists McCormick Italian Blend (grinder)
1 cup dry or frozen cheese tortellini
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup shaved or grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the crockpot.
- Add the broth, beans, escarole, and Italian Blend to the crockpot. Turn the heat to high, cover, and cook for about 3 hours, until the escarole is very soft.
- Add the tortellini and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes for frozen and 30 minutes for dry.
- Season to taste and garnish with the cheese.