Cookbooks for a Healthier Diet?
Can you recommend a good, simple, easy-to-follow cookbook that will help me eat a healthier diet? My cooking skills are at a minimum, and I rarely have a lot of time. Thanks!
Of course, I'm delighted that you ask because it gives me a chance to talk about my new book, "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health" (Knopf, 1997). I've included about 50 recipes in it. Each has been chosen to be easy, simple, doable. And they adhere to the requirements of the diet that I recommend: It consists of eating less fat, less animal protein, more whole grains and other complex carbohydrates, and more fruits and vegetables. In "8 Weeks" you'll find recipes for salmon in parchment, my favorite low-fat salad dressing, grilled tempeh sandwiches, apple-oat bran muffins, and more.
My absolute favorite for a lowfat cookbook is "High-Flavor, Low-Fat Cooking" by Steven Raichlen (Penguin, 1992). Just about every recipe in the book is extremely flavorful. Raichlen collects his ideas from all over the world, so you're not stuck with low-end, boring versions of the same old standards. Raichlen does a great job of using herbs and spices to provide the rich tastes your palate is used to getting from fat. He replaces high-fat dairy products like butter with vegetable stock, nonfat yogurt, and extra virgin olive oil.
Raichlen suggests roasting spices to make them more fragrant, using chiles to boost flavor, and making some substitutions to replace fatty ingredients. Prune purée or applesauce can replace oil or shortening in baked desserts; they deliver the same moistness, sometimes with better flavor. Replace whole eggs with egg whites, which eliminates most of the egg's fat. Two egg whites will knit together a custard or quick bread as well as one egg (add a little extra liquid, too). Choose very fresh ingredients and think flavor.
Before I go on, let me warn you that many cookbooks that claim to be healthy aren't anything near. It's better to use your desire for a healthy diet to rediscover the clarity of flavor from a fresh fruit, the intriguing intensity brought by herbs and spices, and the richness of fresh vegetables thrown on the grill.
Many vegetarian cookbooks are a good bet, such as "The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine from the Celebrated Restaurant" by Deborah Madison with Edward Espe Brown (Bantam Books, 1987). But they often use lots of cheese and butter, so watch out. Sometimes they involve plenty of preparation time, too. "The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet's Low Calorie Cooking" by Pierre (the famed 60-Minute Gourmet) Franey and Richard Flaste (Times Books, 1990) is also chock-full of healthful and quick-to-prepare recipes.
Here are some of my other favorites:
Dean Ornish has put together a delightful set of recipes in "Eat More Weigh Less" (Harper Perennial Library, 1994). These all incorporate his diet of carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. The recipes by major chefs leave out the meat and alcohol, and use few dairy products. They're easy and very flavorful, reflecting Asian, African, and Eastern influences.
Friends of mine rave about "The Pregnancy Cookbook" by Hope Ricciotti, MD, and Vincent Connelly (W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1996). Yes, it's for pregnant women. But anybody could benefit from its wise approach to preparing delicious meals. Rather than focusing totally on fat, it aims for well-rounded nutrition without empty calories.