CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Millie Snyder, an energetic 71-year-old, wears a lot of hats — weight loss guru, restaurateur, businesswoman, motivational speaker, mother, grandmother, active synagogue member — and she recently added another one, award-winning cookbook writer.
Although from 1985 to 1993 Snyder co-authored a successful series of four “Lean and Luscious” cookbooks — selling over a million copies — with her high school friend, Bobbie Hinman, she felt driven to improve the cookbooks and turn them from “good cookbooks” to “great cookbooks” by making health-minded changes.
Snyder independently revamped the first cookbook in the series into “Millie Snyder’s Lean and Luscious.” The book was published Jan. 30 and Snyder has already won two national book competitions for her efforts. The Great Southeast Book Festival named the cookbook runner-up for “Best Cookbook,” and the Los Angeles Book Festival awarded it an Honorable Mention in its cookbook category.
“I felt it was important to update everything. It was a tremendous amount of work but worth it. I believe you should do it right or don’t do it,” Snyder said. Snyder had her updates reviewed by a nutritionist. The first few pages of the book provide diet and health information, ingredient substitutions and suggested menus.
The 480-page cookbook features over 375 recipes geared toward busy families. It focuses on readily available and affordable ingredients. It was published by Headline Books, a Terra Alta, W.Va. company.
To cooks concerned about getting healthy and staying that way, Snyder makes these recommendations. “Go through your kitchen cabinet and swap out oils for monounsaturated oils like olive oil. Buy the better margarines where hydrogenated oils are not the first ingredient. Fat needs to go in the trash can. The broth is where the flavor is, not the fat. There is a better way to live. Read your labels. If you are using butter, use caution with portions. Begin with a variety of spices and start going lighter on salt. Buy skim milk and light cottage cheese,” Snyder said.
“Don’t announce to your family ‘This recipe is from Lean and Luscious.’ Let the compliments come to you. If you pay attention to your portions and fill your plate with fruits and vegetables and whole grains, you are going to feel better. The number one thing is to slow down and not eat in front of the television. The first step is to buy the right foods. The second step is to start cooking. The third step is to take time to taste what you are eating,” Snyder said.
“When people buy this cookbook, they will see cooking can be fun, delicious, easy, lean and luscious,” Snyder said with a smile.
“My thrust is to put good information in people’s hands. I believe people want to change, they just don’t know how. I’m excited to have the opportunity to be at it again, helping people to lead better, healthier lives,” she said.
“When you learn to cook simply, you become more aware of your amounts. Cooking gives you a better sense of how to portion. You learn from doing, and practical experience is a wonderful teaching tool,” Snyder said.
The Baltimore, Md., native came to Charleston in 1969 to bring Weight Watchers to the area. She retired last year as the longtime area director of the business but she hasn’t slowed down much. She continues to work as a motivational speaker and is the owner of the Shape Shop restaurants in Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown.
She said simply “it was time” about her decision to step down from running her Weight Watchers franchise last year. She decided to focus on working on her new “Lean and Luscious” cookbook and spending more time with her family.
She said her family was raised with a sign in their kitchen that stated: “Today’s Menu: Two choices, Take It or Leave It.” She believes this philosophy led to her children being healthy, non-picky eaters, willing to try a variety of dishes.
Her son Craig Snyder, has two daughters — Allison Snyder, age 14, and Aubrey Snyder, age 10 — and her daughter, Jennifer Mize, has three sons — Jackson Briant, age 13, Holden Briant, age 11, and Hunter Mize, age 8. She said she feels very blessed that they all live in the Charleston area and she said she regularly has “the best sleepovers” with her grandchildren.
Her grandchildren are featured on the cover of the cookbook. Snyder said she tries out recipes on her family and her grandchildren regularly help her cook, especially Holden whom she calls “her sous chef.” Snyder said that he recently told her that he thinks “sous chef” means “slave” in French, not the chef second in command.
Her youthful appearance and energy level she attributes to her “good healthy lifestyle.” She said it was important to her to live her life as she instructed her Weight Watchers members to live — eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. “I have benefited from living what I taught,” she said.
“I hope I can continue to look young, act young and feel young. If I continue to do what I am doing, I don’t see any reason why that should change. In my workout room, I do some physical activity about 6 days a week. I lift weights and I’m pretty strong. I am grateful for the knowledge I have learned,” she said.
“The whole idea is to show people there is a wonderful way to cook that doesn’t cause harm. The steps are simple. Ingredients are readily available and affordable. I am determined to update all the cookbooks. I love what I do and I love people and I want them to benefit from my knowledge,” she said of her plans to update “More Lean and Luscious,” “Meatless Lean and Luscious,” and “Lean and Luscious Favorites” in the near future.
Her progress on the future updated cookbook editions can be followed on her Lean and Luscious blog, LeanAndLuscious.blogspot.com. Through “Lean and Luscious,” she also has updates on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for daily meal ideas, cooking tips, recipes and more.
“Millie Snyder’s Lean and Luscious” is available at her restaurant and food store, the Shape Shop at Patrick Plaza for $19.95. It is also available at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol St., and online bookstores.
Reach Judy E. Hamilton at [email protected] or 304-348-1230.