Reviewed by Liz Goldenberg MPH, RD, CDN
Liz is with NY Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell College of Medicine of Cornell University, Department of Surgery, New York
Dr. Eldo Frezza brings us Slim the Italian Way: A Weight Loss Surgeon’s Guide to Losing Weight.
He shares with us his “modified Italian diet” and his goals to make eating both a pleasant and healthy experience. The book is meant for all those trying to lose weight. It is for the casual dieter as well as for the weight loss surgery patient. Dr. Frezza is a weight loss surgeon who was born and raised in Italy and is now practicing in Texas. The book is part cookbook, part nutrition primer, part diet advisor, and part useful appendices.
Dr. Frezza’s book is just as he calls it—a guide. It is thorough, covering all the areas that a weight loss book should. He often shares his personal opinions and experiences, which are nicely reminiscent of his family and childhood in Italy, though not always scientifically substantiated. For example, he asserts that eating in the Italian style will make you feel more full, and that carbonated beverages dilate the stomach, which may cause us to overeat.
However, to his credit, he heavily intersperses advice with useful and proven data, statistics, and practical information, such as explanations of the different types of dietary fats, the necessity of portion control, how artificial sweeteners can play a role in our beverage and dessert choices, and the importance of exercise. He even gives us constructive advice for eating out. For those readers who are undergoing surgery, an appendix details his diet plan in each of its four phases.
At times the reader may be confused by his assertions of good and bad foods. Most nutritionists, this writer included, prefer to avoid the terms good and bad when it comes to foods, but instead prefer to portray the message of balance. Dr. Frezza does both. He at times recommends eating good carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat pasta (although we do not see this type of pasta in any of his six pasta recipes); at other times he tells the reader to avoid bad fruits, such as mangos and pineapples, and limit high carbohydrate vegetables like beans and broccoli. We are told that instead of focusing on counting calories, we should instead emphasize making healthy food choices. Perhaps this is why he does not give us the nutritional analysis of his recipes, while most dieting cookbooks do include this information.
Still, the book gives us practical lower calorie options for our favorite foods: Using salsa instead of ketchup, and cooking vegetables in chicken broth instead of oil or butter. While Dr. Frezza does not advise counting calories, he does helpfully include in the first appendix a Calorie Content Table and The Food and Drug Administration table on calorie saving food substitutions (page 50).
The book is at its best while discussing recipe substitutions and holiday eating. Slim the Italian Way demonstrates the profound differences in fat and calories between holiday meals—truly eye-opening for anyone who has ever found him or herself at the Thanksgiving table surrounded by vast amounts of goodies. Dr. Frezza continues to impress in his recipe section.
We loved the “Fettucine with Salmon” (page 92), even though we found it a little light on salmon and had to cut the fish into cubes as the strips fell apart easily. It was so flavorful that we forgot about the parmesan cheese that we had put out just in case! The “Tuna and Bean Salad” (page 101) was a quick and easy-to-prepare lunch, but we had to ignore the recommended seven ounces of tuna since we only know of tuna cans that are 6ﬁ ounces (1/2oz of which is oil or broth). We also decided it looked a bit dull (tuna and white beans) so we added some celery for color. For dessert, we chose the “Italian Pound Cake” (page 126). It was a little sweet but light, fluffy, and satisfying. Perhaps by using milk in place of orange juice, as per one of his helpful and plentiful recipe suggestions included beside each of his recipes, it would be perfect next time.
In summary, Dr. Frezza’s book is an enjoyable ethnic experience, and all nutritionists would agree with this book’s primary message—that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to permanently change your eating habits. Reading his book, Slim the Italian Way, is certainly a wonderful way to start on this road.
Slim the Italian Way can be purchased at www.cine-med.com for $18.95.
Category: Book Reviews