December 23, 2010


Walt Disney World with Kids, 2011. By Kim Wright Wiley. Fodor’s. $18.99

The Cheater’s Diet: The Sneaky Secrets to Losing Up to 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks Eating (and Drinking) Everything You Love. By Marissa Lippert. Plume. $16.

     Given the cost of a single meal, snack or souvenir at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Kim Wright Wiley’s annual Walt Disney World with Kids is not only a must-have for families but also a really inexpensive “how to cope” book. The 2011 edition, which includes the latest phone numbers, Web site URLs and much more, is so packed with useful information that anyone contemplating a family trip to this ever-popular tourist attraction should really read the book before putting down a deposit – then carry it along while traveling and consult it often. From advice on the best times of year to visit Walt Disney World and the best amount of time to stay, to suggestions on choosing hotels (with lots of cost information, plus recommendations or complaints from families who have stayed in the available places), to specifics on seeing the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Animal Kingdom and more, Wiley’s book is focused on travel with kids, specifically recommending (for example) “Great Off-Site Hotels for Families” – not simply hotels that may receive good ratings but may cater more to businesspeople or single travelers. Wiley has obviously “been there” (repeatedly, in fact), and her writing shows it: “If an attraction holds appeal for only one or two family members, there’s no need to drag the whole crew along.” “Head for the most crowded, slow-loading attractions first. …Ride as many of the big-deal rides as you can in the morning, when waits are shorter. …[If necessary] try again during the parades, or during the last hours before closing.” It is hard to encapsulate just how detailed and well-focused this book is – there is something good to know on every page. “The princess character meals at Epcot are popular but not as well-known as those in the Magic Kingdom.” “Although Muppet*Vision 3-D tested highly among kids ages 2 to 5, some parents reported that children under 2 were unnerved by the sheer volume of the finale.” “Guests give Disney chefs major (trans-fat-free) brownie points for their willingness to address specific dietary needs.” In addition to these and many, many other narrative comments, the book contains highly useful tables, such as “Quick Guide to Full-Service Restaurants in the WDW Hotels,” with star ratings based on families’ reactions to each establishment, information on costs and suitability for kids, and brief comments on specific foods offered and the pluses or minuses of particular choices. Chapters on “Disney After Dark,” Disney cruises, Universal Studios and other Orlando attractions complete a book that is chock full of information that will save you money, point you in many right directions and away from some wrong ones, and make sure that the overwhelming and exhausting experience of visiting Walt Disney World with children is much easier and more pleasant than it would otherwise be.

     Marissa Lippert’s The Cheater’s Diet is more conventional, less exceptional and less distinctive, although it does contain some good advice and a number of attractive recipes. This book, which gets a (+++) rating, over-promises in its lengthy subtitle and really does not tell readers how to eat and drink everything they love and still lose weight. That is physically impossible, and Lippert, a registered dietitian in New York City, knows it. For example: “A good glass of wine is one of my favorite indulgences, but one or five too many a week (or a night) will zap your weight loss efforts in a flash.” In other words, even if you really love wine and really love drinking it in significant quantities, you have to cut back and consume it in moderation – the exact advice you will get from any number of diet books (and any number of nutritionists). Portion control (which is scarcely a new discovery) is integral to Lippert’s recommendations: “Stick to an ounce of cheese at a time.” “The French eat bread, cheese and wine nearly daily, yet somehow they’ve magically managed to stay much slimmer and much healthier than their U.S. counterparts. It isn’t magic, it’s called quality and quantity of what you’re nibbling on.” And so forth. Lippert’s book is full of perfectly reasonable recommendations: know your triggers so you can find ways to avoid them, create “cheat and eat” meals in which “you’re still being cognizant of portion sizes,” consume “mostly real, fresh, single-ingredient foods,” and so forth. Sprinkled throughout the book, rather than collected in a single section where they might be more readily accessible, are recipes of all sorts – poached halibut, poached salmon and several types of poached eggs appear in the same chapter as minestrone soup, for example. Lippert has organizational reasons for presenting the recipes this way, and readers who decide to follow her dietary recommendations exactly as she presents them will find the chapter-by-chapter recipes helpful. But others, who may want to try some of Lippert’s ideas but not all – or in a different order – will find themselves flipping pages back and forth constantly or repeatedly searching the index (there is no list of the recipes themselves). The Cheater’s Diet is packed with good advice and solid information (“Stop Stress Eating without Depriving Yourself and Make a Comeback after Overdoing It,” as one chapter title puts it); but there is little in the book that is truly new, and anyone naïve enough to pick it up in the belief that it really is possible to eat and drink everything you love while still losing weight at a good pace is fantasizing. It can’t be done – and Lippert knows it, no matter what the cover of her book says to the contrary.

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