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Cookbooks with healthy AND delicious recipes?

This has never been a particular interest of mine, but my dear mother-in-law has been diagnosed with heart problems and has been counseled to adopt a low-salt, "healthier" diet (i.e. lay off the pork bacon and ham at three meals a day, you old-school Iowa lady!). Does anyone know of an inspiring cookbook which might be useful to her?
Thanks very much in advance.

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  1. "loan" her a copy of deborah madison's "vegetarian cooking for everyone." she'll either go for it or not. if she goes for it, give it to her. it's full of recipes that can be used as sides or foundations with meat or fish mains, but also has some great sections about cooking soups, whole grains, desserts, etc. if your mil has never considered a meal w/out tons of cholesterol-laden meat, this book will be a useful gateway drug as well as a handbook for cooking foods which may be unfamiliar. this book often gets a good response even from very "old-school" customers because most recipes don't require a trip to a health food store or an ethnic grocery store, which they're just not ready for, maybe.

    hey even if she doesn't go for the book, you'll get a copy out of it. it should really be in every good cook's library, veg or non-veg.

    3 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten

      I love that book as well. Great choice.

      While not a cookbook per se, Paul Pitchford's Healing with Whole Foods is an AMAZING resource. There's a lot of information about heart problems in it. There is also a section in the back with recipes. For Americans, it's a totally different way to think about food.


      1. re: soupkitten

        This book (VCFE) is one of my favorites - and she can top the dishes off with some meat or fish if the thought of no-meat meals makes her cringe (I have a very mid-western father, who has to have some type of meat at every meal and recently developed similar health issues as your MIL). Another standard in my house is Jack Bishop, The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook - plenty of veggie centered delicious meals!

        1. re: patz

          I also like VCFE. Another of my favorite healthy books is Totally Dairy-Free Cooking by Loius Lanza. Each recipe has nutritional info and you can easily sub real (low-fat) milk/cheese if the dairy part isn't an issue. The 3 potato mash is a house favorite, as well as a grilled shrimp recipe.

      2. Modern Vegetarian Kitchen--Peter Berley

        1. Eat Right, Eat Well the Italian Way by Edward Giobbi and Richard Wollf. Mr. Giobbi is a renown Italo-American artist who has won the James Beard Award and is a culinary professional. Dr. Wollf is a cardiologist who has broken down the nutritional values of each recipe. I have a first edition of this book and have been cooking from it since 1985. It's delightful to read Mr. Giobbi's comments and stories as well as a delight to eat the dishes he writes about.

          1. Best Light Recipes from the editors of Cook's Illustrated.

            1 Reply
            1. You might want to get her a subscription to either Weight Watcher's or Cooking Light magazine. Both have sensible and good-tasting recipes that don't rely overly much on gimmicks to make food healthier.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DanaB

                The Cooking Light suggestion is good. It doesn't feel like a diet magazine and the photos are nice, especially if you are trying to "inspire" a big lifestyle change.

              2. www.bonniestern.com Bonnie has done a series of cookbooks for the Heart & Stroke Foundation and I have two - Complete Heartsmart and Heartsmart for Friends & Family. Every recipe we've tried so far we like and they fit the low fat low sodium guidelines your MIL has been given. We picked up both books from Chapters but I'm not sure they're available in the US.

                From experience, she will have more success making small changes at first: milk instead of cream in her coffee, skip the butter on toast etc... Her palate is quite used to the high fat and high sodium diet she's been eating all these years so this will be a major adjustment for her. Kudos to you for supporting the change :)

                2 Replies
                1. re: maplesugar

                  Thanks to all for your responses - am mulling over the possibilities - thanks maplesugar for reminding me of Bonnie Stern (am Canadian but live in NY, also my husband's family lived in Ottawa for a while and have fond feelings toward things - and people - Canadian).

                  1. re: buttertart

                    You're welcome. I thought you might be Canadian with a name like buttertart :)

                2. What a nice daughter-in-law you are! If she's an old-style cook, she'd probably like The Best Light Recipes (as mentioned above). The recipes are very "traditional Americana".

                  Cooking Light is OK - there are several cookbooks available - but in the books I have, the recipes rely largely on artificial sweeteners and artificial fats (like that icky-tasting non-fat sour cream). Plus, there's very little for whole grains. So it's not so much an inspiration as a crutch for those "bad" recipes she might be craving. But maybe the more recent recipes are better.

                  Eating Well - there are several cookbooks as well as the magazine. This is my favorite, because the recipes don't rely on artificial fats and sweeteners, but is less "traditional" than the others. In fact, some recipes are downright gourmet and exotic! But I gave an Eating Well cookbook (Good Carbs, Good Fats) to my traditional sister-in-law, because of the emphasis on whole grains, multiple vegetables, and other elements of a healthy diet.

                  As for the low-salt part, search chowhound for some good tips and words of support. It's hard, but it can be done (I'm working on this goal myself).

                  Best of luck to your mom-in-law!


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    2nd the Eating Well recommendation.

                    I own nearly all their books (you can procure out of print ones on amazon - I suggest EatingWell Desserts- it's GREAT).

                    Their website is also awesome.. and has most of the recipes from the magazine, but I still order the mag because it has awesome articles & is just plain nicely put together.

                    1. re: reannd

                      3rd eatingwell. They really don't feel like diet cookbooks,

                  2. My lastest favorite is Whole Grains Everyday Every Way by Lorna Sass.

                    1. Mollie Katzen's cookbooks (Enchanted Broccoli Forest is my favorite, in particular for the way it's all hand-written with charming line drawings) but also the Moosewood ones) are another option.

                      I also like Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking". Some of the ingredients are harder to procure (farro took me forever to find, and I live in Los Angeles), but totally worth the effort in searching for them. I made a vegan chocolate mousse from the book for Thanksgiving, and it turned out to be a big hit.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jacinthe

                        You might want to think twice about Mollie Katzen, at least her older stuff. I have her original Moosewood cookbook (not the anniversary edition). Katzen herself admits she was combating the perception that vegetarian food = rabbit food; hence a lot of the recipes overcompensate with eggs and cheese. From what I have seen, her more recent recipes might be good for your mother-in-law, as would several of the books authored by the Moosewood collective.

                        Does your mother-in-law like ethnic food at all? For instance, if you went to a Thai restaurant together and she liked it, you might give her a Thai cookbook. She probably needs more all-purpose books too, but I think other cultures can help people see that animal foods don't need to be the basis of a meal.

                        1. re: jjones21

                          Good point re eggs and cheese.
                          Actually my biggest hurdle in finding something appropriate is her aversion/allergy to garlic.
                          Ethnic food is OK as long as it's my or my Bengali sister-in-law's versions of same, sans garlic!

                      2. I'd suggest getting her a handful of no-salt seasonings from a place like Penzey's. It's easier to adjust the seasoning and portion size in the foods you already cook than to jump from ham'n'bacon to The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. That's a big jump! Not one that a lot of people over the age of 30 make very willingly.

                        1. One to think about might be A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider. Lots of creative ways to cook without a lot of fat (so you really don't miss it.)

                          It may not work for someone who likes to cook in traditional old-school ways, but is definitely a good book and worth a look.

                          1. I assume since your MIL is a good ol' Iowa cook (my favorite kind!), she will probably go for a more approachable cookbook ---

                            Moosewood is a great one. I have the LowFat Moosewood - there are some quirky recipes, but most are good featuring lots of veggies and whole grains.

                            Jane Brody's books are also pretty good.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: stellamystar

                              I second the suggestion of Jane Brody. (Though I always add salt to her recipes, LOL.)

                              1. re: stellamystar

                                I also love the Moosewood Low-fat. And have found that just a little bit of ham or bacon makes the recipes even better!

                              2. This is a really good cookbook;


                                No photos, but good recipes, and a lot of interesting tidbits all through the book. Worth reading just for that.

                                1. I mentioned this in another thread, but thought I might chime in here, too, that the New Mayo Clinic cookbook (Mayo Clinic as in the world-renowned research hospital and not in any way associated with the "Mayo Clinic" diet of the 70's) ,although a skinny little book, has some nice recipes that focus on healthy eating. It won a James Beard award for "healthy focus" cookbook in 2005. It has a whole section of its website devoted to "healthy" recipes, segregating the recipes by "low fat" and "heart healthy" etc. Here are links to the "low sodium " and "dash" recipes on its website: http://mayoclinic.com/health/low-sodi... http://mayoclinic.com/health/dash-die...

                                  They are having a deal that if you buy the cookbook and their "healthy weight" for everybody book, you get their "healthy fitness for everybody" book, plus a bunch of their pamphlets, free. I really have found the "healthy weight" book to be informative, though all of the recipes there are from the "new mayo clinic cookbook," so there are no "new" recipes in it. http://bookstore.mayoclinic.com/healt...

                                  Best of luck to your mother-in-law!


                                  1. I am always looking for yummy, high quality cookbooks that also include nutritional information and have some healthy recipes. Some of my favorites:

                                    Vegetable Heaven, by Patricia Wells
                                    the Sally Schneider cookbook (mentioned by others)
                                    Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich
                                    Perfect Light Desserts, by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim

                                    If she likes to bake, the last two might be particularly helpful for inspiration.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: The Cookbook Addict

                                      What have you liked in Vegetable Harvest? My husband pretty much banned that book about halfway through the cookbook of the month, but it wasn't cheap and I wouldn't mind making more use of it if there are dishes that have worked well for you. I think our general issue with it was that a lot of the vegetable dishes were very bland.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        I wasn't that fond of V.H. either--I gave my copy away.


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          What was it about VH that you didn't like? I was thinking of purchasing it, and was actually about to recommend the Provence book by Wells to the OP (because it has several meat dishes, and seems generally healthy) - was it significantly different from the other Wells cookbooks in terms of the quality of recipes?

                                          1. re: patz

                                            Some thoughts here from when it was cookbook of the month:


                                            My overall take on it was that it is definitely much lower in both fat and flavor than her other books, and the latter just not because of the lack of fat in recipes. There were definitely some winners, which you can find perusing the COTM threads (and I linked to a bunch of online recipes that could be tried out before buying the expensive book). A lot of the dishes just ended up being "blah" and didn't pass the healthy AND delicious test at our house.

                                        2. re: MMRuth

                                          We loved the leeks vinaigrette, the zuchini carpaccio and the tomato, avocado and basil salad. I think this cookbook is stronger for its summer recipes (not that surprising, I guess, for a low fat book?). It is not as strong as her other cookbooks, I don't think, but it is certainly lighter...

                                      2. Check out Food Cures by Joy Bauer. Not a traditional cookbook, but every recipe I've tried has been wonderful. The Ratatouille with Parmesan Couscous rated an excellent by my husband, Turkey meatballs, meatloaf and shepherd's pie were great too... I am a dietetic student so this is actually one of my favorite books. I loaned my copy of this book to my father in law (who is also a beef/pork three meals a day kind of guy) after his quadruple bypass, he ended up buying his own copy. Lots of info, menu suggestions for all meals, and better than that, excellent recipes... Although the recipes are split up into health chapters, just about all of the recipes are good for most issues (excepting diabetes or gluten allergies which need particular special consideration).