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You Are What You Read

Back when flower children were earning the nickname "granolas" for their healthy eating habits, nutritionist Nikki Goldbeck was handling public relations for a food company. "In doing that, I realized how skewed the public's perception of nutrition was," she recalls. "What we were learning [about nutrition] was what the food manufacturers were sending out to us." And that was information good for the bottom line, not consumer health, she says.

Goldbeck thought everyone should know what the hippies, ever wary of the "establishment" line, had already figured out: natural foods, good; processed foods, bad. So with husband and coauthor David Goldbeck, she published The Supermarket Handbook, which appeared in 1973 -- long before nutritional labeling -- and directed consumers toward healthy alternatives.

Compared to 30 years ago, people are hyperconscious about diet today. "[But] because of all of the nutrition sound bites out there, people are confused," says Nikki.

With their latest book, The Healthiest Diet in the World, the Goldbecks hope to end the confusion. In putting together the 550-page volume, they relied on up-to-date research and Nikki's 30 years as a nutritionist and health-food chef. David, a former lawyer, helped research, organize, and edit.

The book offers a comprehensive plan for healthy eating. This, of course, requires changing bad eating habits. David says, however, that "we're not saying that if you eat meat you're going to go to hell."

The authors don't begrudge meat-eaters a steak now and then, but the book is decidedly pro-vegetarian. "Part I, Goldbeck's Golden Guidelines" points out the nutritional value of eight basic food types; "Part II, In Nikki's Kitchen" is 230 pages of recipes; and "Part III, Mentor" suggests how to put the guidelines into practice.

The Goldbecks have had plenty of practice. Handbook sold nearly a million copies, and their cookbook Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine (1989) was very successful. Diet, David says, "offers enjoyable ways" to eat food that otherwise sounds unappetizing: tofu, for instance. Nikki suggests freezing it, which transforms the slimy substance into something that has the consistency of -- what else? -- chicken.

Banana oat-bran muffins and creamy walnut pesto sound more appealing, but some folks scoff at the Goldbecks' veggie and grain suggestions altogether. David offers this advice: "As Janis Joplin once said, 'You can opt for the short, flashy life.' We're not forcing anything on anyone."

-- John Ferri

Nikki and David Goldbeck will conduct seminars based on their book The Healthiest Diet in the World at 2:30 p.m. February 6 and 13 at Wild Oats Community Market, 2501 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $20. Call 954-566-9333.

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John Ferri

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