Mag Review: Cooking Light

August 26, 2011 at 5:19 am | Posted in Deliciousness, Things I think | Leave a comment

Up until recently, I never got the whole “lite cooking” phenomenon. I thought, if you’re going to make or eat something delicious you might as well go all the way–full fat, full everything. And then, in October 2008 we got married, and I very quickly gained the Newlywed 9 (or 10, or 11). I wasn’t overweight, per se, but my clothes barely fit.  I was miserable at my sister’s wedding, where my bridesmaid dress, ordered months before, barely zipped.  Near the end of June 2009, my husband and I bit the bullet and signed up with a personal trainer at our local Bally’s.  It sounds cliche, but our trainer, Tina, really changed the way we approached fitness.  For someone who loves food as much I do, it was not easy to hear that a big part of what we’d be working on was changing our eating habits.

For 3 or 4 months, I kept a daily food journal.  My goal was supposed to be somewhere between 1300-1500 calories daily, based on my personal needs.  I had never counted calories before, and it wasn’t easy.  The number of chain restaurants who don’t publish nutritional information is frustrating, and for those that do, actually seeing that information is mind-blowing!

Enter Cooking Light magazine.  I knew I had to change the way I cooked if I wanted to be continued to be motivated to eat healthy.  One night at Borders (RIP), I happened to pick up a copy of Cooking Light.  The cover featured pizza (my all-time favorite, next to pancakes!) and the issue highlighted comfort foods made healthier.  I was hooked.

There are several features that I really like.  The first is Super Fast–meals that can be made in 20 minutes. And the best part is that they really CAN be made that fast (I’m looking at you, Rachael Ray). *EDIT* I started this post awhile ago, and, having cooked my way through many issues since, can say that this is not always true.  Many of the 20 minute meals call for prechopped ingredients, which are either hard to find or are much more expensive, and at least for my wallet, not an option.

There’s also a Dinner Tonight section that offers weeknight meals that can be made in 30 or 40 minutes, for nights when I feel like putting forth a little more effort 🙂 My one gripe with this section is that while recipes for an entree and a side dish are provided, only the nutritional information for the entree is provided.  So if the chicken is 370 calories, I want to know what the potatoes are going to cost me too! *EDIT* I must not have been the only one with this complaint.  Happily, this feature has been updated to also list the nutritional info for the sides.

This magazine is definitely geared toward women, with a fitness/beauty section that sometimes feels a little out of place (an article about highlights, really?), but I do enjoy perusing the food-related shopping feature for gift ideas (for others and myself).  This year they’ve been featuring a different healthy habit each month and educating their readers about ways to incorporate that idea into their lifestyle.  For example, eating more (sustainable) fish, or going veggie once a week.  It’s a nice reminder not to focus on just one thing (counting calories or eating lots of fiber), and that being healthy is multi-faceted.  Mark Bittman also has a column focused on using less meat, which I always look forward to.

It’s now been two years since I first began cooking from this magazine, and I still look forward to each issue’s arrival in my mailbox.   I’m no longer strictly counting calories, but I am trying to eat mindfully.  Every month, I can always find at least a handful of recipes that I’m inspired to make.  While I frequently try new recipes, many of my standbys and favorites are CL recipes.  I’ve got my mom and sister on the CL bandwagon as well, which is fun. It’s nice to compare which things they’ve tried vs which things I’ve tried, and we enjoy sharing any tweaks we’ve made. In two years, there have been repeats: I’ve sometimes wondered how many versions of pizza margherita they can publish, and recently in two back-to-back issues they featured a veggie pizza that was almost identical save for a couple of small changes.  Overall, though, I’m still finding many new recipes and ideas to try and enjoy.  Cooking Light has saved me many times from just ordering a pizza or falling back into my old ways of just cooking anything and not thinking about how nutritional it is.  As long as they continue to innovate, they can count me as a friend and subscriber.


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