Skinny Bitch: Book of Vegan Swaps

by Holly on March 27, 2012

in book review

I try not to swear on this blog…but this time, you can blame it on the Skinny Bitch.

Always blame the Skinny Bitch, am I right or am I right?

If you read food blogs (which I assume you do because you’re reading this right now) and haven’t been living under a rock in the past five years, then I have to believe you are familiar with the original Skinny Bitch book. A smart-mouthed, sometimes foul but kind of charming and to-the-point book by authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin advocating that a vegan diet is the best way to “…stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!”

And in their newest book Skinny Bitch: Book of Vegan Swaps, Barnouin is continuing to inform people on the benefits of a vegan diet with a list of vegan restaurants, menu plans, animal-free swaps for common foods and helpful cooking tips for those looking to transition to a diet free of animal products. Seems pretty cool, right?

(But don’t worry, my Everythingtarian self isn’t going vegan anytime soon.)

Honestly, after spending Sunday afternoon reading the book, I was a bit disappointed.

While I appreciated the list of restaurants, vegan baking tips and list of vegan-friendly beers (I mean, hello! I do appreciate my beer free of animal parts), the bulk of the book – a hefty list of healthy vegan swaps for dairy, meat and other staple products – left me irked. Especially the dairy and meat section.

Swap cream cheese for tofu cream cheese. Swap cheese for soybean and oil-based cheeses. Swap beef jerky for soy jerky. Nothing against soy, but too much of that isn’t a good thing either!

Whatever happened to REAL food? I kinda like real food.

And I also happen to think that if you aren’t going to eat animals, eating fake animals seems kind of weird, no? Instead of focusing on replacing eating hot dogs with tofu hot dogs, let’s teach people how to cook AND eat a vegan diet healthfully. With lots of plants. And nuts and seeds. Whole grains. Herbs. Spices. Beans. Lentils. More veggies. Fruit smoothies. Let’s send them Mama Pea’s¬†or Angela’s blog and get them going, for heaven’s sake!

Overall, this is a decent book for those who are relatively uninformed about food but are looking to make more vegan choices. For the rest of us, skip the book. You know what to do already.

Now pass me my vegan beer please.

It’s YOUR turn! What are your thoughts on the Skinny Bitch phenomenon? Never forget – sharing is caring!


Cassandra @ She Don't Eat No Meat March 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I totally agree with you. Haven’t read this installment yet, but as a vegan, I’d rather not pretend I’m eating animal parts. Just pass me some tofu and beans, please!

Kim March 27, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I agree – I hate the idea of all of these super-processed vegan substitutes that are being used in place of REAL food. I am still a vegetarian (since age 12!) but when I eat pastured, organic eggs and cheese and butter instead of processed junk, I know I am doing my health (and the earth) a big favor. I’ll pass on this book!

formerly crunchy granola gal March 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm

how many times have i written the same thing in your comment section: THANK YOU FOR YOUR HONESTY. and that about sums it up. goodnight. :)

Ginny March 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I’ve picked up this book at the store countless times, but I tend to react negatively when people yell at me (even through a book). What can I say? I don’t take criticism well.

Good idea in theory, and so catchy though!

AndreaClaire March 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I’ve never read any of the Skinny Bitch books and I don’t really care too. I know it’s a petty thing and you should never judge a book by its over, blah, blah, blah but I can’t get past the continued use of a cartoon woman with a completely unrealistic body as the image they wish to project. That chest-waist-hip ratio is ridiculous and I find it kind of insulting that they insinuate with a cartoon that eating vegan is all it takes to have a fantastic figure. Not-a-newsflash: there is a lot of junk food out there which is vegan. You can eat completely processed meals and still be eating vegan.

Like the comments above: eating vegan isn’t necessarily healthier for you if all you’re doing is replacing meat with artificially created/rendered protein items.

And for the record, I pretty much always judge a book by its cover :)

Katie March 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I’m so on board with that – I totally get why people choose not to eat animal products, but if you decide that – just don’t freakin’ eat them!

Bronwyn March 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Yeah, I totally agree about the cream cheese bit… it’s like the people who are vegetarian but live off “chi’ken tenders” or whatever they’re calling “fake” chicken nuggets, I’d rather totally eat real food.
Sometimes I’ve considered going vegan because of the political implications, ie avoiding the most of the overly processed foods that exist, eating whole foods… but then I was thinking about how process vegan “butter” must be, and was wondering if a person could be a vegan-who-eats-butter…

Lauren @ The Climbing Chef March 28, 2012 at 12:57 am

I think the entire idea of “Skinny Bitch” is kind of stupid… no offense. If you want to be a “skinny bitch” than eat a balanced diet, work out, don’t stress and be happy with how you look in any jeans (except mom jeans!). People need to realize that balance is about give and take. If you restrict your eating habits so that you can fit into a size 2,4, 8, etc. you wont keep your weight that size for long. Now that I vented about balance, pass me some wine, bitches :)

Lauren March 28, 2012 at 5:54 am

I’ve never read Skinny Bitch but it’s been on my list for years. I’m afraid if I read it I will want to go back to eating only veggies though.

Amy (CookingScraps) March 28, 2012 at 5:59 am

Agreed, not only is too much soy not good for you, many of those products have a lot of thickeners, stabilizers and additives to turn them into something resembling food. I prescribe more to Michael Pollan’s idea, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Amber March 28, 2012 at 6:21 am

I find a lot of Vegan/Vegetarian cookbooks focus far too much at trying to create what you used to eat with prepackaged fake food. Anything prepackaged isn’t as good for you are god ole homemade whether it’s vegan or not. My rule: try to eat 5 colors in fruits and veggies every day.

Carolyn March 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

I’m with Lauren @ The Climbing Chef! Eat real foods, not fake ones!

I picked up the original Skinny Bitch at my annual office book sale (selling donated books for charity) for a buck. I could’ve done so much with that dollar! I found the book condescending and all about using artificial sweeteners, fake fats, fake meat, fake cheese, fake everything! The book should’ve been called “Fake Skinny Bitch” with all the crap they recommended eating. It reminded me of my disdain for that Hungry Girl person too. I’ll stick with being a Healthy Bitch, thankyouverymuch. :)

Why not eat REAL FOOD in moderation? I’m off being 100% vegetarian and now just try to be a vegan/vegetarian until dinnertime. Unless the lobster roll food truck is parked outside my building…then all bets are off! ;)

Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon March 28, 2012 at 8:49 am

I haven’t read either of the books so I guess I’m not REALLY in a position to make a judgement. But, swapping cream cheese for tofu cream cheese and beef jerkey for soy jerkey? Do we really need to buy a book to tell us that? How about some make it yourself, creative alternatives? Like you said, I think I’ll stick to some of my favorite vegan blogs for tips.

emily (a nutritionist eats) March 28, 2012 at 9:21 am

I really enjoyed the original book, and it definitely made me think about meat and dairy more, but I was super disappointed with the second – Skinny Bitch in the Kitch for the same reasons…they had “vegan” recipes that were basically just recipes with the dairy and meat swapped with highly processed fake meat and dairy. I agree – if you want to eat meat or dairy – eat the real thing! If you want to eat a vegan diet – eat the real thing!

Robyn @ Blueberries and Oats March 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

I only ever read the first Skinny Book bitch and was happy I’d only borrowed it from the library instead of paying money for it. I too felt the same way you did. They talk about people eating so much junk and then give you a list of processed food they consider not junk. I’m all for real food.

Tamar March 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

I’m so glad you brought this up! I don’t believe for a second that using soy substitutes for everything is healthier, and I don’t like supporting the government subsidies for soy so that we can continue to put it in absolutely everything! I’m all for tofu. I’ve been eating it since I was a kid. Soy sauce is great. Edamame are (is?) delicious. But processed soy has already invaded so many foods that aren’t even vegan, and it’s just too much. Swapping something that isn’t processed for something that is just can’t be a good health decision, as far as I’m concerned.

glidingcalm March 28, 2012 at 11:06 am

great review!! I’m all about clean, minimally processed foods! some vegan substitutes have mile long ingredient lists!

hugs! YOU DA BEST.

Lindsay @ The Reluctant Runner March 28, 2012 at 11:53 am

YES YES YES! Thank you! I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve read this opinion! I was a vegetarian when the first book came out and thought it was going to be awesome, but when I looked at their meal ideas, it was all fake versions of non-vegan foods. Soy, soy, soy. I was so disappointed. Their motto of “stop eating crap” is so hypocritical. There is definitely space in any diet for junk sometimes, like the occasional tofurkey if you’re vegetarian/vegan, but it’s so awful for your health for you to replace all your meat with fake meat. Real food is the way to go no matter what kind of diet you have!

Elizabeth March 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I LOVE THIS POST! That is really all I have to say.

Andrea@WellnessNotes March 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I really don’t understand the focus on fake meat and cheese in some vegan diets. And I definitely think too much soy (especially highly processed soy) isn’t good for you… We have been eating a lot more plants. We get them from our CSA or the farmers’ market from farmers we trust. We do eat eggs, some dairy, cheese, and a little meat, so maybe that’s why I don’t even consider the fake meat and cheese. But since eating a lot more plants, I really don’t feel like recreating traditional dishes but really enjoy the plants and making them the star of our meals, and usually plants are awesome just the way they are without very much done to them…

Uncle Tommie Timbertoes March 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I’m the guy who lives under the rock. If it tastes good I’ll eat it, no mattter what label is on it.

Nicole March 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I feel the same way!!!! While I’m not 100% vegan, I cook only vegan at home – whole foods! (I give myself a little more leniency at restaurants when it comes to cheese, etc.) I have never had any desire to try those soy hotdogs – I mean the ingredients seem almost as gross as a real hot dog (no offense to anyone who eats and loves hot dogs)… or any of those other fake meats. It almost seems to defeat the purpose of being vegan, which to me, is to lead a healthy, plant based, whole foods based diet. Vegan titles or no titles, while I found Skinny Bitch to be semi-amusing and informative, there are much better books out there to guide someone to plant based eating.

Megan (Braise the Roof) March 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I completely agree on all of this. There’s a vegan restaurant in Chicago, and they serve…(wait for it)…chicken wings. They’re formed tofu or something on a stick. I mean, if you’re vegan, why would you try to make your food LOOK like an animal? Counter-intuitive, no? And processed food is processed food. Our ancestors (who didn’t have our overweight problem) ate animals, but little/no processed food and they didn’t have as many diseases, and that’s no coincidence.

Hillary March 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I like your honesty, per usual. I hate the concept of replacing food with more fake food; like you so simply and wisely put it: eating vegan won’t do you any favors if all you’re doing is eating, well, crap.

Kim March 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I just want to chime in here on the reason why people who don’t eat meat will eat meat substitutes. I know people think it’s illogical, but when you love chicken patties but don’t want to eat a dead chicken, the soy kind brings the flavor you want without the dead animal aspect. I don’t even eat meat substitutes anymore, but I certainly understand why people – especially new vegetarians – like them.

Christine @ Savoury Traveller March 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

This is my husband’s favourite speech about one strain of veganism. If you’re going to eliminate certain foods from your diet, just eliminate them. Accept that hot dogs are no longer part of your world and move on to exploring all the cool, innovative dishes using real food in new ways that you CAN have.

Katharina March 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I’ve never read the original Skinny Bitch.. or this one, but I’m with you on eating real food. When I first delved into being a vegetarian I ate a lot of cheese and “fake meat” products. I was making a lifestyle decision but not with a responsible and thoughtful approach. With the title “Skinny Bitch” it makes me wonder if their intent is to truly raise awareness about cruelty towards animals to produce food. Sounds more like they are feeding a culture obsession of being skinny. But maybe that’s also their satirical voice (from what I’ve heard). I think incorporating lots of “fake meat” ideas doesn’t step aside from the idea of thinking of that you can only get protein from “meaty” things. I agree with you, that there are more creative people out there that could make more of a positive impact. Whole foods for the win :D

Dena @ 40 Fit in the Mitt March 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I read the 1st book, but I don’t think I ever made one of the recipes

Katie M. March 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I agree with your commentary about the Skinny Bitch books. I haven’t read this particular book because their prior books I felt weren’t awesome. I understand there are some foods people feel they can’t live without. I try to avoid soy products so most of the substitutes I can’t use. But why not appeal to people by making awesome foods that taste so great you won’t miss the dairy, meat, and eggs?

Kait March 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm

All I have to say is AMEN. :) I think that these transition foods are great when you are, well, transition, but in the long-term feel they have just as negative an effect on our bodies as animal products.

Lindsey March 29, 2012 at 2:18 am


I’m (mostly) a vegetarian (<– only a little more so than you), and a large part of that is because I find it so perverse how detached/ignorant from meat we all are, and yet it seems equally (or more) bizarre to eat mechanized little pieces of fake food.

I think you'd like this quote:
"I prefer butter to margarine, because I trust cows more than I trust chemists"
Joan Dye Gussow

Kalee March 29, 2012 at 11:16 am

LOVE your post today! I see so many people substituting fake foods in place of real food under the guise of being vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, paleo, whatever… I’m all for all of those lifestyles as long as it’s not an excuse to eat processed food like substances. Real veg and fruit, real food is where it’s at!

Lauren March 30, 2012 at 7:43 am

Great post! I totally agree with your review. When I flipped through the recipe section of the book, i found myself trying to come up with substitutes for her ingredients that felt were healthier and more in line with how i eat. Thank you for your honest review and your food philosophy. Even via the Internet, it feels freeing!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours March 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I can see what you mean about wanting more “real food” ideas rather than processed foods. Thanks for taking the time to read and review this one for the tour.

shah'ada @ from 280 to 26.2 April 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm

this is my beef (haha) with skinny bitch. i’m a vegan WHOLE FOOD eating gal. for me, swapping out processed animal stuff with processed plant stuff kinda defeats the purpose (i mean, arguably, one in my opinion is still better than the other, but the line is much thinner). but, they still get props for being catchy and bring awareness to the table. thanks for the review – i briefly debated purchasing, but now it seems like most of the information can be gleaned from the web!

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