Dr. John McDougall is one of my personal heroes. After I became a vegetarian in 1988, I dabbled in veganism off and on, trying to cut out dairy and eggs but never having lasting success. When I read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America, I became convinced that my cheese- and egg-heavy diet was hurting cows and chickens, but until I actually tried Dr. McDougall’s low-fat vegan diet, I didn’t realize that the way I had been eating was hurting me as well.
You’d think I would have guessed. After all, I’d become a vegetarian with the vague notion that I might lose some of the extra weight I’d been carrying around all my adult life, but after 6 years, I was heavier than ever. I really wanted to be a vegan, but, at a time when I couldn’t even buy soymilk locally, I didn’t know how. Then I discovered the internet (and it really was a discovery back then) where I found Dr. McDougall’s recipes and diet plan. I gave his program a try and never felt better; the energy and vitality I’d been missing came back and I was able to burn off the excess pounds.
So I am forever indebted to Dr. McDougall. If I’d never found his program, I’m certain that now, in my 50’s, I’d be suffering from diabetes or heart disease or any number of lifestyle-related diseases; though my weight has crept up and down over the years, I’ve managed to keep my cholesterol and blood sugar numbers low thanks to the lessons I learned first from Dr. McDougall. So I’d like to pay him back, just a little, by introducing you to his and his wife Mary’s latest book, The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good!
The Starch Solution is different from any other “diet” book I know of because rather than vilify starches, Dr. McDougall praises them and says that “starches are not only healthy, they’re comforting and filling.” He recommends that the bulk of your calories come from grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Like Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, he eliminates added oils, but unlike Dr. Fuhrman (who limits starches), he also recommends cutting out high-fat whole foods such as nuts, seeds, coconut, and avocado while you are trying to lose weight. He cites a study showing that an ounce of nuts a day does not lead to weight gain but asks, “How likely are you to stop at one small handful?” (Looks like Dr. McDougall knows me well!)
The Starch Solution is not really a cookbook. Though it contains almost 100 of Mary McDougall’s healthy and delicious recipes, the recipe section is less than a third of the book. The majority of its pages are devoted to a thorough explanation of why Dr. McDougall believes in a starch-centered diet and to the success stories of many “Star McDougallers;” end-notes provide references for every point he makes. If you have a question about soy, the glycemic index, salt, sugar, or fat, Dr. McDougall’s answer is there, with scientific studies to back it up.
Because there was no room in the book for photos, the McDougalls contacted me after it was published and hired me to take publicity pictures of 6 of the dishes in the book. I was happy to have a chance to test the recipes, which, I have to tell you, were as flavorful and filling as they look in the photos. If you have a copy of the book, do try the recipes pictured on this page (the brownies and sugar-free ice cream were a big hit with my sugar-loving daughter and niece), as well as the Moroccan Red Lentil Soup, another big hit with my family. And if you don’t have the book, take a look at the McDougall website, where many of the recipes can be found in the newsletter archives. The McDougalls win high marks in my book for always offering the details of the diet plan as well as thousands of recipes online, for free.
One last word: If you’re having trouble following Eat to Live or any other diet that restricts starches, give The Starch Solution a try. I’m a firm believer that, when it comes to weight loss, there’s no “one diet fits all,” and you may find that increasing the amount of starch you eat actually helps you stick with it. One thing’s for sure, the recipes are winners! My family loved these banana-infused pancakes, which contain no added sugar. I loaded them up with fresh blueberries and raspberries for a fresh and festive breakfast that we all enjoyed.
Mary McDougall’s Fluffy Pancakes
Mary’s Note: Sparkling water keeps these easy pancakes light and fluffy. Use all whole-wheat pastry flour for heartier cakes—you’ll be surprised at how light they remain. My grandson, Jaysen, and I prefer these plain, but a little pure maple syrup or applesauce on top is good, too.
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- dash of salt
- 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 bananas)
- 1 cup soy milk or rice milk
- 1/2 cup sparkling water
- 1 tablespoon Sunsweet Lighter Bake (see note below)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup fresh blueberries (optional)
- Mix together the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
- In another medium bowl, whisk the Egg Replacer with 1/4 cup warm water until frothy. Add the bananas, mixing well. Add the soy milk, sparkling water, Lighter Bake, and lemon juice until well mixed. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined. Gently stir in the blueberries, if you are using them.
- Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. When it is hot, ladle pancakes onto the griddle, using 1/4 cup per pancake, allowing space for them to spread. When bubbles form on the surface, use a spatula to flip them over. Cook until lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Serve immediately.
If you can’t find Lighter Bake, prune puree, apple sauce, or even a little extra mashed banana will do.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): about 12 pancakes
Nutrition per serving (1/12 of recipe): 84 calories, 6 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 84.6mg sodium, 136.7mg potassium, 17.8g carbohydrates, 2.1g fiber, 2.9g sugar, 2.8g protein, 2.4 points. (Nutrition info is courtesy of this blog; any errors are mine. --SV)
From The Starch Solution by John A. McDougall, M.D., and Mary McDougall. Rodale Books, 2012. Reproduced with permission.
(Full disclosure: Though I was hired to take publicity photos of recipes from this book, I was not asked to write this post or compensated for doing so. This post does, however, contain Amazon affiliate links. When you buy something through them, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for supporting this site!)