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Book Review: Substitute Yourself Skinny: Cut the Calories, Keep the Flavor with Hundreds of Simple Substitutions! by Chef Susan Irby

If you know your current weight and would like to maintain it, it’s easy to find out how many calories you should eat per day. I maintain my weight by counting calories but I do so rather cavalierly.

If I ingest 1615.9 calories per day, I will neither lose nor gain weight. My idea of calorie counting works like this: I can have sixteen 100-calorie packs of snacks and all the Diet Snapple I want and I won’t gain. That’s not exactly how I eat, but just as Weight Watchers assigns values to foods, I give snack-pack values. Every food is the caloric equal to “x” bags of Nabisco “100 cal Oreo Thin Crisps.”  I have maintained my weight by regularly over- and under-estimating the number of calories in the foods I eat.

Scientifically, this method of dieting does not work. Unless you actually know how many calories are in a substance, you can’t keep track of them. For example, “that doesn’t look like it has many calories” is like saying “I’ll bet there’s not more than 150 calories in a banana split.” Sugar-free Jell-o doesn’t look like it has many calories and it doesn’t. But regular Jell-o looks exactly the same, and it has lots more calories. The world just isn’t fair. Not that it matters; I don’t eat Jell-o.

The “Bikini Chef,” Susan Irby, has a new cookbook, Substitute Yourself Skinny. My method would be to cut out pictures of Victoria Beckham’s body and attach them to photos of me. Susan Irby’s suggestions are better.

Irby presents 175 recipes in which she has substituted lower-calorie, lower-fat food items. To my way of thinking, it’s only logical that if you eat the same amount of the same dishes you’ve always eaten on a daily basis, but they are lower in calories, you are going to lose weight. Chef Irby teaches you how.

When reviewing the calorie counts for some of the dishes she prepares, I thought “hey, that’s amazing!” But the point is that the dishes aren’t as hefty as they were with their original ingredients.  To lose a pound a week, you need to cut 500 calories a day (or five 100-calorie snack packs). If you are not obsessive, and are interested in losing weight or maintaining your current weight, you could easily cut five hundred or so calories out of your daily intake by using these recipes. Losing four pounds a month painlessly might be a good solution for someone who isn’t interested in a rapid, massive weight loss, but rather in being healthy.

Okay, so what does Chef Irby have to offer? Julienned carrots? Steamed carrots? Diced carrots? Raw carrots? Mashed carrots? Forget about the carrots. If the relative sweetness of food is your guide to good eating, start at the back of Substitute Yourself Skinny. Tiramisu, banana pudding cake, éclairs, cheesecake, brownies, and strawberry shortcake are just a few of the dessert recipes offered. 

Eating a 225-calorie dessert may not sound like good weight-loss or maintenance advice, but if you eat that instead of the 600 or 700 calorie dessert that you would normally eat, you can see how the calorie savings will add up.

Many of Chef Irby’s suggestions are common sense, such as substituting low-fat sour cream for regular. The value in Substitute Yourself Skinny is that it is full of such information, and it is used in new recipes and combinations you may not have imagined.

One of my favorite recipes is for a baked bloomin’ onion (“everything’s bloomin’ with delicious onions and bacon). I loved bloomin’ onions when Outback first introduced them as a menu item. Bloomin’ onions, however, don’t love me.  Incredibly greasy, they don’t sit well, although I have a feeling they sit forever (at least on the thighs). I do love onions, but don’t eat many fried foods.  Irby’s recipe pares the 576 calories  per serving in the original down to a mere 36. Heck, you could eat the whole onion (I save even more, because I skip the bacon)!

About Miss Bob Etier

  • Lynn Voedisch

    I’m one of those naturally thin people who everyone hates. (Pause while people throw things at me.) However, some medication has been putting on some surprising weight, so I suppose I should pay attention to this.
    One of my favorite subs I learned when I couldn’t eat sugar due to a nasty systemic candida infection. In other words, yuk! I subbed stevia for sugar. It was terrific and I never missed sugar at all. My favorite stevia product is Truvia, which mixes stevia (a natural substance found in a South American plant) with a fruit sugar to create a no-calorie granular product that looks and tastes exactly like sugar. I love the stuff.

  • Jeff Forsythe

    I despise, scorn, detest, abhor and loathe you Lynn. You are a blooming affront to normal people worldwide.

    Mr. Forsythe

  • Lynn Voedisch

    Guess I’ll stay on the medicine forever so people will like me. ;-)

  • Stuart Reb Donald

    I love Susan Irby’s recipes; they are so good you’d never guess they were healthy!

  • Stuart Reb Donald

    Oh, and Jeff, dude, try decaf.