Top 10 Healthy Cookbooks: A Dietitian's Picks

A healthy cookbook is a gift that keeps giving all year long.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Looking for a gift that will help bring good health to friends and family all year long? A cookbook that inspires cooks to whip up healthy and delicious cuisine is the perfect gift for those you love this holiday season.

Choosing the right healthy cookbook can be a daunting task, with thousands of titles to choose from. To help you narrow the field, whether you're looking for a cookbook for yourself or loved ones on your gift list, I offer up 10 of my own favorites (below).

When I choose a cookbook, I look for those that feature lots of photos, easy-to-follow recipes that look and sound delectable, nutrition information on all recipes, wholesome ingredients, and a focus on cutting fat, sugar, and calories. My goal is to find recipes that taste fantastic and leave my family and friends amazed at how delicious healthy cuisine can be.

This list is by no means inclusive of all the wonderful cookbooks that give the gift of good health. So peruse the aisles and look for cookbooks that match your interests (or those of someone on your holiday gift list) and that make you want to go straight home and whip up a recipe.

1. Healthy Beef Cookbook by Chef Richard Chamberlain and Betsy Hornick (2006, John Wiley & Sons, $21.95)

This cookbook features casual to elegant appetizing recipes using lean cuts of beef in proper portions (no steak-house-sized cuts here). Some of its strong points: simple, straightforward instructions; dishes that use wholesome, readily available ingredients; and cook's tips that provide user-friendly guidance to both novice and experienced cooks.

2. Sonoma Diet Cookbook by Connie Guttersen, PhD, RD (2006, Meredith Books, $24.95)

Guttersen is a registered dietitian and chef who teaches at the Culinary Institute of America. Her recipes are perfect for anyone who wants to learn to be more creative and to experiment with different foods. Often employing zesty Mediterranean, Asian, or Latin flavors, Gutterson uses spices, herbs, and cooking techniques to enhance flavor without extra calories. Extras include recipes from Sonoma chefs, as well as holiday and gourmet recipes for entertaining.

3. The New Holly Clegg Trim and Terrific Cookbook by Holly Clegg (2006, Running Press, $29.95)

Clegg is committed to developing healthy, user-friendly recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes. Her Trim and Terrific series features favorite and classic recipes prepared with a healthier twist. She includes answers to frequently asked questions, a dictionary of terms, menus, quick tips, food facts, diabetic exchanges, and symbols to designate vegetarian and freezer-friendly recipes. This book is for the everyday cook who is looking to serve the family or entertain friends with healthy, yet easy, cuisine.

4. Fit Food - Eating Well for Life by Ellen Haas (2005, Healthy Living Books,$16.95)

Haas, founder of the web site, is devoted to promoting healthy eating, healthy cooking, and an active lifestyle. This cookbook features simple-to-make recipes from the web site, with an emphasis on 21 "fit foods." Chefs across the country have contributed mouth-watering recipes. This cookbook makes it easy to discover the joy of healthy eating -- and you won't even need your glasses with the large print.

5. Healthy Homestyle Cooking by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD (1994, Rodale Press, $27.95)

This cookbook has been on my shelf for years, along with the companion Healthy Homestyle Desserts. Tribole learned the secrets of making over recipes as the Recipe Makeover columnist for Shape magazine. Here, she shares her expertise with over 200 tasty recipes for family favorites.

6. South Beach Diet Cookbook by Arthur Agatson, MD (2005, Rodale, $25.95)

Agatson has helped so many people lose weight with his South Beach Diet. And it's hard to believe you're on a diet when you sample the cuisine from this book, including yummy desserts as well as recipes from leading chefs in Miami. Beautiful photographs, shopping lists, and a guide to a well-stocked pantry are just a few of the extras found in the cookbook. The recipes are easy to prepare, with a limited number of ingredients.

7. American Dietetic Association Cooking Healthy Across America, edited by Kristine Napier (2005, ADA, $24.95 softcover/$45 hardcover)

This is the perfect gift for anyone who wants to master creative cuisine from all corners of America. Professional dietitians and culinary experts share their love of food with this collection of regional recipes along with helpful tips. The recipes are also easy to prepare.

8. 5 a Day: The Better Health Cookbook by Elizabeth Pivonka and Barbara Berry, (2002, Rodale, $15.95)

For anyone looking for creative ways to work more fruits and vegetables into their menus, this cookbook offers hundreds of appetizing options. Some of the extras include tips on how to store produce, microwaving, simple ways to add fruits and vegetables into meals, getting kids to like vegetables, and a week's worth of menus.

9. The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook (Oxmoor House, $34.95)

My copy dates back a few years but continues to be a dog-eared favorite. This cookbook (one of many fine ones from Cooking Light) features step-by-step guides, menus, splurge-worthy ingredients, top 10 things you didn't know, and essential kitchen tips and tools.

10. The Phytopia Cookbook by Barbara Gollman and Kim Pierce (1998, Phytopia Inc., $17.95).

What I love about this cookbook is how the authors have made healthy eating so colorful and adventurous. It's not necessarily a vegetarian cookbook, but close. It contains seafood and chicken dishes but the majority of recipes feature the "phytochemicals" found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD and the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Published December 7, 2006.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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