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healthy cooking -- cookbooks

I've decided to launch into healthy cooking -- for at least one or two months, focusing on whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits as a major part of my diet (and less meat and fat)

I've always cooked for flavor (with occasional forays into vegetarian cooking), but as my AARP invitation has arrived and I, er, have some extra pounds, I've starting thinking I would start cooking differently -- based on healthy foods as ingredients rather than backwards from a cookbook I like.

I have found several books that do not read as medical texts, but contain recommended foods and have what appear to be good recipes. I'll list them below, and would welcome your advice and suggestions.

New Mayo Clinic Cookbook
New American Plate cookbook by American Institute for Cancer Research
12 best foods cookbook: over 200 delicious recipes featuring the 12 healthiest foods, by Dana Jacobi
Spices of life: simple and delicious recipes for great health by Nina Simonds
Superfoods by Michael Van Straten

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  1. I find that the old fashioned ethnic cooking can be very healthy, especially the one dish type.

    1. You really don't need a book. Healthy is relative. Right now the bandwagon is pushing a diet of high carbs and low fat as healthy and that may not be right for your body. You need to find out what is best for you. I donated all of my Eating Well etc. cookbooks and have ditched the pasta, sugar, potatoes, sugar, rice, sugar, pasta, sugar etc. It was making us fat and unhappy. I keep mentioning sugar because it is so prevalent in so many foods. I almost never drink oj that is a glass full of sugar, bananas? Oh no, more sugar there and too much to make up for the postssium you get there. AARP has been after me to join for a number of years, back when I was buying in to the so called "healthy" diet Our MD convinced us that was so so wrong and though he practices as a family MD he has a bariatric specialist background. We are much "healthier" as a result. I'm not saying do this but examine what you are eating. Read lables. See what foods effect your blood sugar levels, are you hungry again after eating some particular food? If so that food needs to go away. Start really paying attention to what you are eating and how it affects you. You might be surprised.

      Do I cut out all simple carbs? No but I am really careful about them. 1 square of 70% chocolate can satisfy me better than a whole bar of milk chocolate, sometimes I buy 1 med. potato and we split it, I may occasionally make a bit of rice and we split it, not even a 1/4 C. raw total cooked. Read lables religiously and watch for anything in it that ends in 'ose' like fructose, sucrose, lactose etc. all are sugars and of course the much discussed HFCS, high fructose corn syrup.

      1. I, too, like that Mayo Clinic cookbook. Also, they have one they co-wrote with Williams Sonoma a couple of years ago. Both books have very simple recipes.


        1. I'm a big fan of Eat, Shrink & Be Merry - it's not so much a textbook/guidebook of healthy eating. It's more a recipe book incorporating many different flavours and cuisines and all of the recipes happen to use healthy ingredients.

          It doesn't advocate cutting food groups or combining certain foods or anything like that, but I've really enjoyed it. :)

          1. Stop reading labels. Buy food that doesn't have them. Fresh foods don't. The more you avoid processed foods the healthier you will be.
            All the "healthy eating" cookbooks have a point of view that may not be right for you. I found that I wasn't going to read and follow anybody's instructions for very long. I had to find my own path - what worked for my life. Mostly, I had to stop listing to the noise. Atkins, South Beach, low carb, legumes, whole grains, vegetarian, yadda-yadda. The latest health fad. Who ever decided that anyone can eat 10 almonds for a mid-afternoon snack?
            Candy is right. Fruit juice is a glass of sugar. Whole grains and legumes can be calorie disasters. Some vegetarian dishes have more fat than a good steak.
            Surprisingly what I settled into is probably best described as a modified diabetic diet even though I'm not diabetic or even pre-diabetic. Like Candy, I avoid "pasta, sugar, potatoes, sugar, rice, sugar, pasta, sugar" and bread, concentrating on veggies and lean meats. I eat real butter, cream and cheese but don't have problems with weight because the food satisfies me. Avoiding the -ose (sugars) foods keeps my blood sugar stable and I don't get tired or hungry between meals.
            If you are willing to cook, you are halfway home. Simple grilled meats with interesting marinades to vary the flavors. Steamed or roasted veggies, changing with the seasons. Great salads with homemade dressings. You don't need cookbooks, just ideas.
            There are so many things in the markets today that you don't have to have the same thing twice in a month if you don't want to. You won't get bored but you'll get healthy

            1. While I understand the cautions in this threads against following some crazy diet trends, personally, I think having a new cookbook is helpful if you're trying to change some habits and add some "lighter" recipes to your repertoire. Plus, having a new cookbook is fun.

              The Mayo Clinic (which is not in any way related to the fad "Mayo Clinic" diet from the 70's) is one of the most respected medical institutions in the country, if not the world, and they've done a good job, I think, of trying to steer people away from diet "fads" and more towards balanced eating.

              Instead of focusing on fads like "low carb" eating or whatever, the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook encourages you to eat a well-balanced variety of foods, including whole grains, healthy fats, lots of fruits and veggies, as well as legumes and lean proteins while keeping your overall eating plan within the food pyramid over the course of not just a day, but over a week. It really emphasizes moderation, rather than tries to steer you towards certain "magic" ingredients and completely away from "evil" ones.

              Every recipe comes with a full-color photo and nutritional info, including relating the portions in the recipe to the food pyramid.

              I bought mine directly from the Mayo Clinic website, along with a book called "Healthy Weight for EveryBody," and "Fitness for EveryBody." If you buy the 3 together, you get one free, so the whole set only costs you $43.00. If you're trying to embrace some new, healthy habits, I think the set is a great value.


              My main complaint is that the cookbook is soft-bound, which is a pain to use in the kitchen.

              The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook, which is a couple years older (and hard bound!), has a slightly different emphasis in that, in addition to sidebars on nutrition, it also has sidebars on cooking techniques and ingredients, like zesting citrus and cleaning leeks, in an effort to help you learn how to add flavor in healthy ways. Again, lots of full-color photos.

              Another cookbook I like a lot, that I've had a million years (copyright date is 1989), is "Mediterranean Light--delicious recipes from the world's healthiest cuisine." If you don't have a lot of experience cooking this kind of cuisine with these ingredients (which I don't), it makes it very accessible.


              1 Reply
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I like the Mayo Clinic cookbook, and am thinking of buying on Jessica's Biscuit/ecookbooks for $22. BTW I believe it's hardcover, which I always prefer for cookbooks.

                I like the structure on types of foods to eat for a balanced healthy diet with emphasis on vegetables, fruits and grains (no Atkins here!). Do rather than don't. I've been cooking for flavor rather than nutrition, and I want to center my cooking more on healthy foods and then add the flavor.

              2. The WholeFoods Market Cookbook has lots of tasty, healthy recipes. Each recipe has calorie/nutrient information which is helpful as well.

                1. Hello,

                  Try anthing by Anne Lindsay or Bonnie Stern...both registered dieticians that focus recipes on low-fat, heart-healthy cooking.

                  THey also don't follow crazy fad diets like low-carb, atkins, etc. etc. etc.

                  The books focus on balance, fresh produce, whole grains..which includes pasta, rice etc. Each recipe also give calories, % Daily values.

                  I also know that the Anne Lindsay books indicate carb exchanges for diabetics.

                  Good luck!


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: j2brady

                    I have used both of these authors for years and they are quite good. I would also suggest Moosewood Low-fat Cookbook. It's really excellent and nothing in there will make you feel deprived !

                  2. I have Spices of Life by Nina Simonds. I didn't buy it for health reasons. I bought it after a review in the local paper and testing a few of the recipes. The few recipes that I've tried, have been huge hits, both in deliciousness and preparation. I also have a lot of recipes bookmarked to try, but forgot about the book until you mentioned it.

                    The book focuses on using fresh ingredients with a lot of spices to bring up the depth of flavors. This way, ordinary, semi-boring ingredients get jazzed up.

                    My favorite recipes are:

                    Minty Snap Peas (pg. 223) - the snap peas are wonderful. I've had dinner guests specifically request them for a meal.

                    Vietnamese Hot and Sour Scallop Soup (pg. 87) - this recipe is wonderful. The flavors all hit the palate, with the lemongrass constrasted with fish sauce, sweet scallops, tangy lime juice and the crunch of bean sprouts.

                    Now I have to re-acquaint myself with this book.

                    1. Peter Berley's books are fantastic. Yes, he is a vegetarian chef, but "Fresh Food Fast" (which is a bit more under the radar than his others), is full of quick menus for the home-chef. I'm not a big recipe-follower (I usually read them for ideas, and then tweak to my tastes), but everything I've made from this book has been fantastic the first time out. I also like that it is arranged seasonally. For winter: try the lentil soup. For spring/summer: the asian cucumber salad is so easy I'm ashamed for not thinking of it myself, and is a lovely lighter variation on the usual creamy cucumber salads.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Ottawa

                        I own two Peter Berley cookbooks: The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and Fresh Food Fast. I dabbled, but now I'll have to make a genuine foray into them.
                        I'm a big fan of cookbooks arranged by season. If I ever write one, that's how it will be structured.

                        1. re: NYchowcook

                          Oh, speaking of seasonal cookbook, the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Cookbook is wonderful and is organized by season. I haven't tried many of the recipes yet, but, it really is a celebration of fresh, in-season produce.


                          1. re: NYchowcook

                            I'm finding that seasonally-arranged books are the ones I use the most often too. Nigel Slater's kitchen diaries is a favourite. Am contemplating Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen and Annie Bell's A Year in my Kitchen for my next purchase. Do you, or do any other 'hounds, have any comments on them?

                        2. "a new way to cook" by sally schneider focuses on methods of making our most loved foods healthier... nothing is banned not even bacon fat...but it is in the way it is used which makes it better than the "old way" we cooked.
                          it is very interesting.


                          1. I think "World of the East Vegetarian Cooking" by Madhur Jaffery is the best cookbook out there, including from a healthy eating perspective.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: steinpilz

                              This is an EXCELLENT book. It was one of the first cookbooks I owned in my early 20s and I still use it often and love it!

                            2. Just stumbled over this thread, and I had to thank you all for all the wonderful cookbook suggestions! I've been trying to introduce some more variety into my diet, and I can't wait to check out all of these books.

                              1. Loony Spoons series is quite good. I've used and modified recipes for years.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chezlamere

                                  That is a good point as well! It might be worth learning how to modify regular recipes.

                                  There are many good websites on this if you google it. I have also figured out a good many tricks for this...ie. using potato, bread, rice to thicken a soup rather than cream, replacing oil/butter with fruit purees, using olive oil rather than butter etc.


                                2. On the recommendation of Leite's Culinaria, I bought this cookbook for my mother for Xmas. Looking through the book, it looks really good and has great tables for explaining differences in all the whole grains and how to cook all of them. The recipes are not only whole grains but whole grains with meat, etc and it looks like a fantastic cookbook.

                                  Whole Grains Every Day
                                  Every Way
                                  by Lorna Sass


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: celeste

                                    It IS a fantastic cookbook. It's sitting on my kitchen counter right now. Lots of info on using uncommon whole grains. Delicious recipes No weird "diet ingredients." I scored some fresh local, naturally-raised pork chops last week, and made the Quinoa and Chili-Scented Pork Chops with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing -- fantastic!

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      I liked the quinoa picadillo. Easy, quick, healthy, reheatable, makes a lot, and very, very tasty.

                                  2. Hello,

                                    I too made the decision to eat healthier a couple years ago. I've made the switch to whole grains in all my recipes and I am always trying to add fruit and vegetables into recipes.

                                    This website is a great resource for healthy recipes. Even the dessert recipes have added fruit and vegetables and are all whole grain.



                                    1. Well, this is probably more textbook-like than you want, but I often refer to Eating Well for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil. It has some recipes, is written (mostly) in a conversational style, and has thoughtful recommendations that a seasoned cook can easily put into practice. He co-wrote a cookbook as well, but that didn't resonate with me as much. You can also find recipes on his website, drweil.com.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jjones21

                                        Deborah Madison writes her recipes with an eye to nutrition-- and her cookbooks are just marvelous. They constantly inspire me to eat my veggies. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is my Joy of Cooking...

                                      2. As one that has lost a significant amount of weight I would caution you to be realistic about what you will or won't sacrifice. The posters that have suggested that you use fresh quality ingredients are correct. The flavors are more pronounced and ironically more fulfilling than processed foods. In essence you eat less and will lose weight assuming you don't overindulge in other areas. I think Julia said it best, eat what you like but in moderation.

                                        Make exchanges, enjoy your cheese and chocolate but simply purchase better products and you will notice a huge difference. Increase your water intake and when you're craving soda opt for an Italian soda instead. In other words mix it up. I don't suggest that you forsake sugar completely as some radically do and I can assure you the weight does return if you ever start consuming it again. I believe food is meant to be enjoyed and eating for pleasure makes all the difference.

                                        As for books, look at used bookstores and Zooba.com. The latter does carry one of Deborah's books and many of the others suggested for only $9.95 a piece without tax or shipping. Whatever you decide I wish you much success on your quest for a healthier lifestyle.

                                        1. My favorite source for helathy recipes is Cooking Light magazine. I have a few copies of Eating Well, but CL is the one that sees the most use.