Eating healthier can be brutal, but it doesn't have to be. One of the hardest things to overcome when you're trying to change your diet? Falling back into old habits. When you're tired, it's so much easier to just call and order some takeout than make something for yourself.
One thing that can help: A cookbook packed with recipes that will make you actually want to cook for yourself, and give you the ability to tailor your foods to match your dietary needs. Here are some of the Reviewed.com staff's favorites that will empower you to make better choices, whether you're looking to learn to cook for yourself, cook with your kids, adjust to a dietary restriction, or make a radical lifestyle change.
The Whole30 paleo program has caught serious fire in the last couple years for its no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to eating better. This cookbook is a recipe-rich guide to your first month on the Whole30 program, which encourages you to stop counting calories, stop weighing yourself, and instead make healthy food choices while eschewing things like lactose-rich dairy, grains, and added sugar.
While elimination programs like Whole30 aren't for everyone, the recipes in this book are very good, which underscores the program's mantra that eating right "is not that hard." Just know that the authors don't go in for paleo-friendly alternatives like pizza; the authors compare such substitutions to "sex with your pants on," meaning all it will do is make you wish you had the real thing.
People love this Skinnytaste cookbook because its recipes produce great-tasting food that can realistically be made any night of the week. This cookbook also includes a number of slow cooker recipes, which are ideal for those among us who get home late but still want to eat nutritious, delicious food.
Some of the highlights from this book include dishes like fettuccini alfredo with chicken and broccoli that is somehow only 420 calories per serving. Whether you're counting calories or just want some fresh ideas, Skinnytaste is a great addition to your cookbook collection. Bonus recommendation: Skinnytaste's Fast and Slow cookbook for slow cookers, which is perfect for busy home chefs.
Moosewood in Ithaca, NY is a world-famous vegetarian restaurant, and this cookbook includes hundreds of the most popular recipes that have come out of its kitchen. While vegetarian cooking can seem like a turn-off to meat-eaters like myself, I've been to Moosewood several times (my wife worked there in college) and I absolutely love it.
We have this cookbook at home and it's one of our favorites. We are particularly fond of the sweet-potato and black bean burrito recipe, as well as the vegan chocolate cake. Whether you're a vegetarian or you're just looking for some plant-based alternatives, this is a must-own.
Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is an all-time cookbook classic, and this 10th anniversary edition neatly revises a lot of the content and adds significantly to the 1998 original. If you're only going to own one cookbook, this is the one to get. Every chapter begins with some basic recipes and some easy-to-understand explainers that will teach you essential skills all home chefs should master.
While not every recipe in this book is low in calories, mastering key cooking techniques helps you better understand what goes into your food. Get a handle on that and it becomes much easier to make healthier choices when you're preparing your next meal.
Sticking with the healthy, weeknight-friendly theme, Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson is a go-to cookbook for when you want a healthy meal in a hurry. This book is beautifully photographed and packed with awesome recipes like the sushi bowl and the crowd-pleasing "beans and greens."
One of the best aspects of this book is the attention it pays to things beyond the recipes, including healthy alternatives to the cheap, processed oils, flours, and sweeteners found in most kitchens. It helps you successfully build out a healthier pantry ahead of time, which means you can make a healthier meal without making an extra trip to the grocery store.
If someone in your life bakes bread with this book, you probably already know about it; this is an all-time classic from the 1960s and an excellent guide to baking your own sweet and savory breads, rolls, and pastries. While bread is definitely outside what most people consider "healthy cooking" these days, it has its place in moderation.
The wholesome bread recipes found in this book are perfectly tuned, even for beginners, and baking your own bread usually means you're getting a more wholesome product, with fewer preservatives than you get with most store-bought breads. Best of all, the book's zen-like approach to baking will give you a greater appreciation for an unfairly derided staple food.
This Jamie Oliver classic is about as down-to-earth as it gets when it comes to cookbooks. The book itself is a bit older, but the recipes are accessible and super adaptable. This approach allows you to learn a few key dishes and then riff on them to produce healthier alternatives that you're comfortable making.
As you'd expect from a more generalist cookbook, the recipes here cover a wide range of tastes and recipes like beet tagliatelle with pesto, mussels, and white wine seem particularly popular. As with most of our picks, it's less about picking recipes that are only super healthy, and more about establishing a more wholesome, sustainable diet for yourself.
Calling this one a "cookbook" seems like a bit of a disservice. While this book does feature over 100 recipes from Richard Olney's time in France, the book centers around the kitchen of Lulu Peyraud, owner and operator of the Domaine Tempier vineyard. The book is rich with details about home life there, with a long history of the region and little tidbits revealing just how deeply the culture there revolves around the kitchen.
As one Reviewed.com family member put it, "This book largely set the template for how I eat today. It's not a vegetarian cookbook, but the vegetable recipes are so outstanding that they've taken center stage on my table for over almost 15 years. The Crespeu (or flat omelette) recipes were the first to catch my eye and they're still in my weekly dinner rotation."
Whether by choice or on doctor's orders, more and more people are finding themselves removing gluten from their diets. Several of our staff and their loved ones aren't allowed to consume gluten, so we're well aware how heartbreaking it can be to have to avoid your favorite foods. This book by the master experimenters at America's Test Kitchen is a true lifesaver, and essential reading for anyone who can't have gluten.
So why is a book with donuts on the cover in a list of healthy cookbooks? Because the rise of gluten awareness has led to a vast array of gluten-free products on store shelves, many of which are packed full of extra sugar and fat to improve flavor. This book teaches you how to make tasty, gluten-free alternatives to many of your favorite foods without nearly as much junk. Volume 2 also includes many dairy-free recipes, since there is a high correlation between Celiac disease and lactose intolerance.
10. Pretend Soup
Getting young children to be excited about eating wholesome, home-cooked food can be brutal. When just about every kid's favorite foods are ice cream and pizza, cauliflower and fresh fruits just don't have the same appeal. Pretend Soup is great for people who want to teach their children the value of cooking at home, with kid-friendly recipes that involve mostly whole foods like fruits and veggies.
Written by esteemed cook book author Mollie Katzen, this book can give young kids a greater appreciation for all foods, including vegetables. The recipes aren't always super healthy, but the perspective is, and that's what counts.
Chef Jamie Oliver's 2015 book is already among the most popular books for those looking to cook more and eat healthier. As with our other recommendations, it's less about ultra-low calorie recipes and more about making balanced, healthy choices that you and your whole family will enjoy.
One of the (sadly unique) features of this cookbook is the inclusion of nutritional breakdowns for things like calories, proteins, fats, and servings of fruits and vegetables. That may dim your enthusiasm for some of the more indulgent recipes, but it's a real help if you're counting calories or trying to translate a recipe for a weight loss program.