Book Review: Just Tell Me What to Eat! by Timothy S. Harlan, MD

If you like deprivation diets, then this book is NOT for you. Rather, Just Tell Me What to Eat! The Delicious 6-Week Weight Loss Plan for the Real World is so chock full of deliciously healthy recipes, I feel as though I'm getting away with something every time I crack open the book. Who wouldn't want to follow a 6-Week Weight Loss plan that not only delivers the goods, but does it in a way that leaves you feeling satisfied.

Written by Timothy S. Harlan, MD--a.k.a. Dr. Gourmet--Just Tell Me What to Eat! is a simple, medically-based, 6-week plan that cuts through all the confusing diet trends and gets straight to the bottom line: your daily prescription for what to eat and why-and exactly how you can do it. As both a physician and a chef, Dr. Gourmet is uniquely qualified and has counseled thousands searching for weight-loss answers.

This unique combination shines throughout the book. In each chapter you'll find informational boxes entitled either Dr. Tim says or Chef Tim says. I found out a lot of things I didn't know by reading these little nuggets. For example, Dr. Tim says....Use Oil Sprayers, and Chef Tim says...How to Make a Chiffonade. Now I want to buy an oil sprayer and chiffonade everything.

Just Tell Me What to Eat! includes eighty recipes, shopping lists, nutrition tips, cooking techniques, a weekly meal plan, a daily meal plan, and a food diary to make the diet easy to incorporate into everyday life. For even more guidance, readers are instructed to go to his website:  The website offers more flexibility in that it allows you to create your own menus and weekly shopping lists. Also interrelated with the website, and a component unique to Just Tell Me What to Eat!, is a lengthy list (starting on page 237) of convenience meals that were reviewed by Dr. Gourmet tasters and came out with good ratings. You can read complete reviews of the good, the mediocre, and the downright bad at

The chapters are broken down by 6 weekly goals, plus two additional bonus weeks in Chapter Seven, as dieters are gradually educated about healthy eating. Specifically what to eat for breakfast and lunch are covered in Chapter One. Due to this chapter, I am now addicted to one of the breakfast options: a cup of cereal blended with 1/2 cup of yogurt. Holy delicious! Dinner recipes, or pantry meals, are included for each day throughout the book, along with a convenience food alternative, and a restaurant meal alternative. Pantry meals are obviously preferred over convenience and restaurant meals, but Dr. Gourmet recognizes that, in the real world, there isn't always time to cook, and his plan prepares you in advance for those busy days. Readers are also taught how to adapt their own recipes so that they're low in the quantity of calories consumed, but high in the quality. These recipes emphasize key flavors with less calorie dense dishes. Fewer calories and more flavor = delicious food = weight loss. This equation makes me like math.

In the book, Dr. Gourmet explains that a chef once told him that the definition of gourmet was when all of the flavors of the ingredients in a particular dish were easily distinguished. His recipes are created based on this ideal and are a balance of flavors, not one individual ingredient. These gourmet recipes include delectable foods from a variety of cuisines including Italian, Mediterranean, Spanish, French, and American. They range from Pizza with Thai Peanut Sauce and Scallops, to Mac & Cheese, to Eggplant Parmesan with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil.

There are even recipes for healthy desserts such as Crème Brulée and Chocolate Cheesecake. The recipes sound elaborate but most of them can be prepared in less than thirty minutes, and those that cannot, make enough servings to save for the next day's lunch or dinner. I recommend the Pan-Grilled Broccoli (see below). It's surprisingly scrumptious.

As with every honest, realistic approach to weight loss, exercise is recommended. Keep in mind, this is real world practical guidance (this guy's a doctor!) and not a book written to cash in on a fad. Just Tell Me What to Eat! encourages readers to exercise for thirty to forty minutes a day, five days a week. I am a runner, but any activity that you enjoy is suitable and some of those recommended include walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, aerobics, weight lifting, Pilates and rollerblading.

So does the plan work? In order to be successful in any weight loss endeavor, you have to be honest with yourself about your habits and submit to the actions necessary to change. Reading the book alone will not shed pounds. In fact, if you take just one thing away from this book it should be: Action equals results.  If you're looking for a simple, medically-based action plan, then Dr. Gourmet's delicious prescription was written for you.

Pan-Grilled Broccoli
This recipe can be multiplied. This will keep fairly well if chilled immediately.
Cooking time 25 minutes

Nutrition Facts
Servings 2
Serving Size 4 Ounces Broccoli
Calories 39
Calories from Fat 4
Total Fat <1g (1%)
Saturated Fat 0g (0%)
Trans Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 44mg (2%)
Total Carbohydrates 8g (3%)
Dietary Fiber 3 g (12%)
Sugars 2g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A (14%)
Vitamin C (169%)
Calcium (5%)
Iron (5%)

*Parenthetical percentages refer to % Daily Value

  • 8 ounces broccoli spears
  • Spray olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Place a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
  2. Trim the bottom inch of the stem from the broccoli. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the tough outer layer from the stems.
  3. Heat 1 quart of water over high heat in a large saucepan or stockpot fitted with a steamer basket. When the water is boiling, place the broccoli in the steamer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the spears begin to lose their firmness. Have ready a bowl filled with 2 quarts of ice water.
  4. Remove the broccoli spears from the steamer and plunge into the ice water. When the spears are cooled, remove from the water and drain.
  5. When the pan is hot, add the broccoli, spray lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for about 5 minutes and turn to sear well. Make sure that all the spears come in contact with the pan. They will take about 15 minutes total baking time and should be turned every 3 to 5 minutes

June 15, 2011 Hardcover $25.00 310 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-7382-1452-8 Diet / Health

Article first published as Book Review: Just Tell Me What to Eat by Timothy S. Harlan, M.D. on Blogcritics.