Category Archives: Food


Paula Deen Magazine’s Lack of Nutritional Stats Foils Slice-by-Slice Comparisons

pauladeen.jpgOn the surface, it may seem unfair to compare one of Paula Deen’s infamously rich recipes to nutrition buff Cooking Light magazine’s.

The truth is, it’s hard to know how the two recent cover dishes even stack up, given the lack of nutritional information in the scant, barely three-page spread in Cooking With Paula Deen‘s March/April 2010 issue. The magazine’s website was of no further help, and even searching Food Network’s online archives yielded only serving information.

But in light of readers’ criticism that the once-healthy focus of Cooking Light magazine is shifting toward a diet of occasional indulgences, comparing its pizza recipes to Cooking With Paula Deen’s still has some validity.

The cheesy veggie pizza on Cooking With Paula Deen’s cover wasn’t one of her typical butter-and-cream laden dishes. Instead, several fresh veggies, seasonings and spices give it its flavor.

Cooking Light magazine’s May 2010 cover story and 14-page spread encompassed everything from tips on Neapolitan-style, California thin-crust, grilled and Chicago deep-dish pizza preparation to healthy toppings, store-bought shortcuts, tips and necessary tools.

Cooking With Paula Deen magazine offered only one pizza recipe, and compared to her online magazine recipe archives this cheesy veggie pizza is only a slight variation on similar pizza recipes she’s shared over the years. Despite the lack of nutritional information, her recipe looks to compare closely with Cooking Light’s veggie grilled pizza, which calls for several fresh veggies, herbs and spices.

cooking-light.jpgCooking Light magazine provides caloric, fat, protein, carbohydrate, fiber, cholesterol, iron, sodium and calcium content on each recipe. Looking at just the basics, Cooking Light’s veggie pizza recipe contains 454 calories, 19.7 fat grams and 55.7 grams of carbohydrates. It would be surprising if Paula Deen’s recipe came in under any of these numbers, so it’s probably safe to say her version is at least closest to this one in the Cooking Light spread.

A study recently conducted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Washington state found that 59 percent of restaurant patrons (who ordered a total of 16,000 entrees over the course of the experiment) factored nutritional information into their choices, but only 20 percent chose a lower calorie dish because of it. Under new U.S. health care legislation, restaurants with more than 20 locations will have to post nutritional information. Though magazines fall outside this, it could potentially start a trend.

If Paula Deen’s dish stats are close to or only slightly richer than Cooking Light’s–or even if they’re not–Cooking With Paula Deen could boost its appeal to health-conscious readers if it did include the nutritional information. The aforementioned study indicates even higher calorie readings wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker for most people. Still, readers would like to be able to make an informed decision.


Clean Eating Magazine Offers Readers Another Impressive Healthy Choice

cleaneating.jpgI’ll be honest. Before I got past the cover of Clean Eating magazine, I had my doubts. Published bimonthly, Clean Eating bills itself foremost as a nutritional magazine with an underlying mission of encouraging confident, healthy choices from the inside out.

I asked myself, “How many publications do we need to urge us to make healthier choices? Is one more a sign of a marketplace diluted with this information?” But then I turned the page and was impressed from cover to cover.

Aesthetically speaking, Clean Eating is, well, clean. Large colorful photos, easy-to-read type and crisp layouts make for an engaging simplicity. I was a little surprised to see very few ads, and those can easily be identified. No slick advertorial or content marketing here, meaning Clean Eating is chock-full of recipes and nutritional editorial.

And that editorial is more than just directions and lists of ingredients. Dietary information, shortcuts, storing tips and more give each dish an appealing, healthy depth. Additional editorial focuses on wellness topics, like strategies to get better sleep and recommended workout techniques.

But the overwhelming message of Clean Eating magazine is one of a healthy and eco-friendly approach to food and its preparation. And it spells out these principles near the front of every issue in a section titled “How to Eat and Live Clean.”

Despite the general similarities to other magazines that promote a more healthful lifestyle, I was especially drawn in by these easy-to-consume Clean Eating features:

Bits ‘n’ Bites: Food and nutritional news covering tips on making better choices

Cooking With…: Get to know a celebrity chef and get in on a recipe exclusive to the magazine

Complements: A guide to understanding which foods hold the most nutritional value or the best natural sources for vitamins

Classics Only Cleaner: Your favorite comfort foods or indulgent snacks get a healthy makeover

Kitchen Confidential: Tips on how to choose, store, slice, prep and cook veggies, fruits and other fresh ingredients

Five Fast Dinners: A week’s worth of quick and healthy meals for $50 or less; shopping list with prices included!

14-Day Meal Plan: Two weeks’ worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, shopping lists and a few recipes

Superfoods: Recommendations on ingredients packed with nutrients and disease-fighting power


No Respect: Dads Get Rodney Dangerfield Treatment From Most Food and Cooking Magazines

foodnetwork_june.jpgNearly every May issue gave us brunch ideas, table settings, flower arrangements and desserts to make Mother’s Day all about Mom. But with Father’s Day just a few days away, I’m wondering if food and cooking magazine editors have filed away all their Dad-related ideas for next year.

Maybe quiches and flowers aren’t Dad’s thing, but doesn’t he deserve something more than grilling tools for his special day? Most food and cooking magazines apparently don’t think so. A disappointingly few publications gave Dad his due, and some of those required grilling–presumably requiring him to put that tong and spatula to good use, even on Father’s Day. Give the guy a break!

Glancing at several June 2010 covers, I suppose I could see how a menu for dear old Dad could get lost in the mix; “Easy, light summer eating,” “The summer life,” and “Best grilling recipes ever,” they declare. All have a plethora of meals perfect for Father’s Day entertaining even in the absence of acknowledging it.

But, like Mom, shouldn’t Dad get a little culinary pampering? Bon Appétit magazine and Food Network Magazine are among the precious few that think so. In its June issue that begins and ends with grilling–50 burger variations’ worth–Food Network’s special treat for Dad was… (drum roll, please) a cookout.

Its menu of Glazed Double-Cut Pork Chops, Smoky Corn on the Cob and refreshing pale ales was more low-key weekend grilling fare than a special occasion meal, unless of course your guy is a little more laid back or low maintenance.

For the more refined paternal palate, Bon Appétit magazine combined an appetizer, a cocktail, an entrée with two veggies, wine and dessert, but missed the mark–at least just a little. Where Food Network Magazine at least devoted a two-page spread titled “Father’s Day Cookout,” Bon Appétit pieced together a list from its June issue and titled it “Father’s Day” in its Menu Guide.

Its combination of dishes–Grilled Bruschetta with Teleme, Honey and Figs; Harissa-Marinated Top Sirloin Tips; Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad; and Strawberry Shortcakes with Balsamic and Black Pepper Syrup–is most impressive, even if it is buried in the back.

If your Father’s Day plans fall somewhere in between these two options, don’t give up. Like I said, a range of menus to satisfy a variety of tastes can be found in this month’s food and cooking magazines. But a little respect, please: Just don’t give Dad a set of grilling tools, then expect him to prepare his own special meal.


The Thin Ad Line: Pros and Cons for Food Magazine Advertorial and Content Marketing

foodnetwork_june.jpgAs an admitted cookbook junkie, I tend to err on the side of the more the merrier when it comes to the number of recipes included in my favorite food magazines. But I can’t decide where to draw the line when it comes to advertorials, or what is called content marketing–ads that engage a reader with recipes or coupons with the aim of furthering the reader’s experience through the purchase of a product.

Pro: Quantity, quantity, quantity. Like I said, I love recipes. No matter that I don’t have the time, the need or the waistline for 50 different cookie, pancake or burger variations, I still want the option–and the directions–to make them all.

Con: Obviously, readers turn to food magazines for recipes, and if they’re like me, they prefer getting lost in Food Network Magazine’s creative ideas or Every Day With Rachael Ray’s cooking tips and tricks. But the maze of advertorial and content marketing makes it hard to navigate and determine which recipes are the magazine’s and which are the advertisers’.

What I would consider a hazy or at least muddled advertising-editorial boundary is attributed in part to Food Network Magazine‘s sizzling success with the strategy. I can’t say that I disagree with the effectiveness of the approach, but objectively, the journalist in me has to wonder how far this trend will go. Is this just the apex of a slippery slope for magazine editorial?

bonappetit_june2010.jpgJust recently, Bon Appetit magazine pushed its advertising boundaries a little further by selling the space where it prints its page numbers–what traditionally was considered as editorial space. Blame it on the bad economy, but Kraft was able to purchase ten corner ads in the June 2010 issue. Each features a different dish with the page number in a much larger font size.

Pro: To be honest, I didn’t think the corner ads were that intrusive or confusing–at least not as much as deciphering between recipes in ads and recipes in editorial in some magazines.

Con: In this instance, I can’t shake the seeming abandonment of editorial principles here. This says that editorial space, once sacred ground defended by objectivity, is for sale to the highest and most creative bidder. I realize that ads and advertorials are necessary to fund publishing ventures. But maybe it’s time to reaffirm or reorganize the attitudes toward advertising and editorial, which may be easier said than done in a recession.

Readers already complain about having to sift through too many ads to unearth magazine editorial. Blurring the lines may confuse some into acceptance, while driving others away. What do you think might happen?

My Clipped Recipe Awards: Top Magazines for the Cooking-Challenged

admit it. I’m not the best cook in the world. In fact, I hardly cook at
all. I’ve used my Crock-Pot twice in the past eight years and the last
time I fired up the stove was about three weeks ago–to scramble an
egg. I’ve always been a grab-it-and-go kind of gal. Translation: My kind of meal is anything I can pull out of the refrigerator and unwrap or zap.

Cooking is an area where I find most women’s magazines
intimidating. Oh, I’m just as tempted by the mouth-watering dishes and
luscious confections as the next reader, but one glance at the long
list of ingredients, multiple steps and hours it takes to put it all
together, and my resolve turns to Jell-O. I doubt my attempt could ever
live up.

So when I find a magazine that demystifies cooking and
teaches me how to make tasty meals that are fast, easy and somewhat
healthy too, I say a silent prayer of gratitude. My cooking phobia may
not represent the majority of readers who have women’s magazine
subscriptions, but I’m convinced that there are more of us out there than
most food editors realize. For their recognition of and service to the
cooking-challenged, the following magazines take top honors in my

First Place
Woman’s Day magazine:
For putting the spotlight back on simple but scrumptious combos like
peanut butter sandwiches with sliced strawberries, and mashed potatoes
with pesto; for setting realistic expectations by listing both prep and cooking time; and for noting how much money a dish cooked at home saves compared to the same meal ordered out

Second Place
Ladies’ Home Journal magazine: For
breaking down the basics of baking a pizza and illustrating how to make
different concoctions by switching up the crust, sauce, cheese, veggies
and meat; for explaining the Mediterranean diet by categorizing its eight main food groups and dividing them into recommended portion sizes per day 

Third Place
First for Women magazine:
For suggesting protein-packed meals with minimal ingredients and quick
prep time; for providing tips on how to salvage a disastrous dish; and
for sharing secrets on finding healthy menu items at fast-food

The prize: These publications win my loyal readership and earn my promise to clip their recipes and perhaps even test them in my kitchen.


Rachael Ray vs. Good Housekeeping: Bad Journalism or Something More?

goodhousekeeping_july2010.jpgBy now you may have read that perky celebrity chef Rachael Ray isn’t so thrilled with being a cover girl. Not for any other magazine than her own, that is. So when Good Housekeeping magazine sprung the surprise that she was the face of its July 2010 issue, well, let’s just say she wasn’t so perky anymore.

Critics seem to chalk up Rachael Ray’s blood-boiling reaction to greed or a melodramatic attempt by one or both magazines to spur on some extra sales. Is it possible? Sure, but it sounds as if the skeptical reading public is just building walls to protect themselves from potentially being duped.

At the heart of this debate is the use of unauthorized images and recycled quotes to piece together a “current” Good Housekeeping cover story, which calls up some serious ethical journalistic dilemmas. For one, the images came from a photo shoot specifically done for Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine. And the cobbled together quotes from previous interviews? Let’s just say a college student failed my journalism course for doing the same thing.

Looking at this issue from a marketing perspective, I can fully understand Rachael Ray’s flat-out refusal to be the cover girl for what could be considered a competitor. As the face of her own self-titled magazine every month, she is her brand, and she’s made it quite successful with 1.7 million subscribers per issue to her credit.

So why run the risk of confusing–and perhaps disappointing–fans and would-be readers by plastering her face on anything but her own popular publication? Just think how you’d react if the packaging of your Diet Coke contained another low-calorie soda.

There is another piece to this debate that is more important than marketing and maybe even more sacred than journalism, and that is the seeming abandonment of common courtesy. If Rachael Ray shot down Good Housekeeping’s cover request, why didn’t the ladies’ magazine accept her position and aim a little lower?

A consensual interview with the chef whose name is synonymous with 30-minute meals would have been no less powerful or entertaining if her mug wasn’t the first thing you saw when you picked up the magazine. If Good Housekeeping were really only trying to capture Rachael Ray’s personality and passion for cooking, would it matter whether her face was plastered on the cover?

And if Good Housekeeping weren’t a lifestyle news publication, I could perhaps be a little more forgiving. But because common courtesy, ethics, empathy–whatever you want to call the moral compass directing the coverage–seems to be absent, I’m afraid this is about something much more serious than bad journalism.