Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Lola Berry’s Beauty Food
By Lola Berry
ISBN: 9781760552671, Paperback, Oct 2017, 176 pages, $24.99
The ‘wellness industry’ can be extremely faddy, full of dangerous mis-advice or commercial agendas underwritten by the billion-dollar beauty industry. I like to take care of myself as much as the next person though, and eating healthily and staying fit, I often enjoy recipe and health blogs – almost as a guilty pleasure. I’ve been following Lola Berry’s Instagram posts for a while now and with her down-to-earth self-deprecating approach to health, it’s hard not to like her. Clearly I’m not the only one. Berry’s eight cookbooks have sold over 200,000 copies in Australia and she’s got more than 100,000 Instagram followers. She’s a regular guest nutrition expert on TV, and I’ve always found her recipes easy to follow and tasty. Though Berry herself has not been without criticism – mostly grouped up with more general criticisms of her industry, I haven’t seen anything on her pages that hasn’t seemed like plain good sense from a working nutritionist who knows her stuff. Beauty Foods is more about recipes than advice, and generally avoids super-expensive fads, focusing instead on ingredients available in any supermarket, and recipes that even a clumsy cook that can’t measure anything like me, can make. The softcover book is just the right size with a solid card cover and thick matte pages, making it attractive enough for a gift.
The book contains fifty food recipes, eleven beauty treatments, and information about “hero ingredients” and why they’re healthy. Large format colour photos make the book easy-to-follow and many of the recipes contains tips on how to modify, store or substitute. It is a little unusual to group food and cosmetic recipes together, and though the book’s structure into different parts of the body, eg recipes for skin, nails eyes, face, and hair doesn’t work so well for the food recipes (I’d rarely be choosing what to cook based on what part of the body it’s especially good for), it does make it easy to find recipes for masks, nailcare or skincare.
As might be expected from the owner of a smoothie bar, some of the best recipes are for smoothies, including a delicious gingerbread smoothie that makes a wicked substitution for eggnog. There are also a number of really good, easy bliss ball recipes and healthy desserts. The food has a definite Paleo slant, with an emphasis on gluten and sugar-free, though nothing is overly complicated and it’s very easy to modify these recipes to suit your own dietary needs or tastes. Some of the recipes that I’ve tried and have fast become my favourites are the Vegan sushi rolls, the Choc-coconut raw mousse (which was a big hit this Christmas), and the Skin-booster salad which I could eat every day. In terms of the beauty recipes, I continue to use the Turkish delight body butter every day as it’s fantastic for the skin, smells amazing, and doesn’t require fancy ingredients you can’t get at the supermarket. The Youth elixir is also a great recipe and though ingredients like shea butter and organ oil are a bit dearer and harder to get (I found everything on eBay), this oil is much less expensive than buying a high-end anti-aging oil and lasts for ages.
Most of Berry’s tips are useful, if a bit commonsensical, but the travel tips are particularly valuable and obviously developed through a lot of personal experience and testing. There’s very little in this book that’s faddish, nor does Berry position herself as a know-all guru or provide any didactic guidelines on what not to eat (other than avoiding lots of refined sugar – no surprise there). Beauty Food makes a particularly good gift for a teen looking to make their own recipes for skincare and simple food like smoothies, veggie bowls, and bliss balls. The warm, upbeat presentation and emphasis on fun, high energy self-care is just right for younger readers who would likely have heard of Berry already, and Berry’s sensible approach to eating regularly is healthy and balanced. Older readers will probably cherry pick the recipes, but there’s still fun and inspiration here that will of regular and ongoing value.