Weekend Cooking: 400 Calorie Fix by Liz Vaccariello and Mindy Hermann

400 Calorie Fix: The Easy New Rule for Permanent Weight Loss! 400 Calorie Fix: The Easy New Rule for Permanent Weight Loss by Liz Vacariello and Mindy Hermann
Published by Rodale Books

Research shows that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to control caloric intake while maintaining an overall healthy diet and exercise plan. 400 Calorie Fix has a new secret to controlling calories – keep all meals at or around 400 calories. By doing this, a person can eat anywhere from three to six meals each day depending on individual needs. This book explains the science behind this rule, explains how it can be applied to any person’s individual situation, and then gives tons of examples of 400 calorie meals, in terms of restaurant meals, frozen food type meals, and meals to cook.

I hesitated to review this book because I don’t actually believe in diets, nor am I actively trying to lose weight. But the reason I was attracted to the book in the first place was the beautiful color photographs and healthy-looking recipes, so I should at least talk about it for those reasons. The whole concept of eating 400 calorie meals does make sense to me, and I can see how it would be helpful if trying to control calories to keep 400 calories as a general rule. Personally, this approach means nothing to me because I typically don’t eat huge portions anyway and most of the suggestions they made for what really is in a 400 calorie meal is about what I would eat without thinking about it. So while I didn’t love the concept of the book, I did enjoy several things about it.

The section on fast food/restaurant food was helpful to me, but not overly so. I think it does have a lot of information that other readers might enjoy, though. Basically what this section does is explain what types of meals fit roughly within the 400 calorie framework at various restaurants and fast food places. Personally, I don’t eat much fast food and when I go out to a restaurant I’m looking to enjoy my food and not count calories, so I doubt I’ll be using this section. But for people who don’t do a lot of cooking, for whom eating out is the go-to meal option, this section looks to be very helpful. What is nice is that there are specific choices one can make from tons of restaurants, and this section is very detailed in that way.

The cooking section is what I found the most value in. I found several recipes to try, and it is always nice when I find a cookbook I know will include healthy, relatively easy recipes. The vast majority of the recipes in this book fit that criteria, which I loved. I would like to share with you one of the recipes I made, which was delicious (my hubby even liked this and he is the most picky eater I know) and fits in the 400 calorie framework for those interested in following this diet/lifestyle.

Oven-Baked Chicken Fingers


1/4 cup lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup panko
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch thick strips


1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Chop the peanuts in a food processor until find. Place the peanuts, panko, and chili powder in a large resealable plastic bag or container. Shake to mix.
3. Whisk together the egg and mustard in a large bowl. Add the chicken and combine until all strips are covered. Place the strips in the plastic bag or container with the panko/peanut mixture. Seal and shake until all strips are well coated. Place the strips on the baking sheet. Bake until the coating is crisp and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

The recipe suggests serving the chicken with baked sweet potatoes, which I did, giving this meal a total calorie count of 410. It was super easy to make, very quick, and I was able to whip it together without complaint after a long, exhausting day at work. It was delicious and filling and such a great alternative to regular chicken tenders. My husband and I both loved it. I love to dip my chicken into ranch, so I used a low-fat ranch dressing as my dipping sauce. Keep in mind if you are trying to count calories to add the calories for whatever you dip the chicken in and also whatever you add to the sweet potato! (I just use a little butter on mine.) But overall, I would recommend taking a glance at this book if you want to look into a more healthful, low-calorie eating and cooking philosophy. And definitely make this recipe if you like chicken tenders!


20 thoughts on “Weekend Cooking: 400 Calorie Fix by Liz Vaccariello and Mindy Hermann”

  1. Any cookbook that has simple, yummy recipes is a good one in my mind. And I like the fact that the diet premise is exactly the truth: the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. Period.

    I’m going to try that chicken and sweet potato meal. Sounds good. I’ll be substituting pecans for the peanuts.

    1. That’s exactly why I felt comfortable reviewing this “diet” book – it’s not really a diet, it’s just science on how to actually lose weight. And there are plenty of easy and healthy recipes here, which is always a plus! Let me know what you think of the chicken fingers with pecans – sounds delicious!

  2. I had a similar experience with a diet/weight loss book that I read last year. I’m not big on diets, but I enjoyed the book for the easy, healthy recipes it contained.

    At least the premise of this one is realistic — no magic pills or formula — just eat healthy with portion control in mind.

    1. Yes, I have found this to be the case before too. A few years ago I reviewed a “flat belly diet” cookbook but what I wanted to get out of it was easy and healthy recipes, so I ignored the “diet” stuff about it. I just hesitate to review these kinds of books sometimes because I really hate the whole concept of dieting. It just doesn’t work! Be healthy, be active, and you will be fine – that’s my philosophy, anyway.

  3. I’m with you. I don’t eat a lot of fast food and when I go out to eat I want to enjoy not stress out and feel guilty. But the recipes would be nice to have.

  4. I was going to say, “what are you doing? You certainly don’t need a diet!” but then I read the review and saw what had attracted you to this book. Because I have diabetes, most of these books are sort of off limits to me, but I can use the ideas for lighter calorie meals in conjunction with the way I have to do things, so this sounds interesting. I do happen to love chicken fingers, so this recipe has gotten my attention. Great post!

    1. LOL Heather! I know I don’t need a diet. But I can always improve on the health factor in my life, that’s for sure. I didn’t know you have diabetes! That would make these kinds of books difficult to use, but I am sure you could find some stuff in here that would be useful for you. Let me know if you try the recipe and what you think!

    1. It’s great if you eat out a lot, especially at fast food type places. There are a LOT of common chain restaurants featured in the book, with what menu options are better than others.

  5. I like this concept and kind of happened on it accidentally when I was losing weight. Thinking about it more deliberately might help with maintenance. I just requested it from the library!

  6. Hello, i believe that i saw you visited my blog so i got here to return the choose?
    .I’m trying to in finding issues to improve my site!I guess its ok to make use of a few of your ideas!!

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