Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Healthy" Books for 2015

So ... healthy eating is a ticklish topic, because one person's healthy is another person's poison. And of course, people with allergies and sensitivities have to avoid foods that the average person can eat every day of the week.

These six books cover a wide range of healthy topics. Maybe one of them will resonate with you.

By Amy Shirley

Apparently there's a television show about Lizard Lick Towing in North Carolina. If you've see the show, you know what it's about. If you're me, you're just looking at this like a cookbook.

As far as gluten-free cookbooks go, this one has the things you expect to find - a custom gluten-free mix, followed by quite a number of recipes that make use of the mix. Many of the recipes have a southern slant, like biscuits and gravy, cornbread, cobbler, and hush puppies.

Besides the recipes that were revised to make the gluten free, there are also a number of recipes that are naturally gluten-free, like mashed potatoes, beef tips with rice, and deviled eggs. The interesting thing about that last one was that it called for a gluten-free mayonnaise and recommended Hellman's. I didn't realize that any mayonnaise had gluten - so I guess that's a good reminder to make sure all packaged ingredients are totally gluten free.

As far as photos, they're all grouped in one section rather than throughout the book. They're not the best photos I've ever seen, but they're certainly not the worst.

If you're looking for a gluten-free book and like southern food, this could be a good addition to the bookshelf.

By Nick Nigro and Bay Ewald

Of all the organized diets, the Mediterranean Diet is the one that I think I might actually be able to stick to for more than 15 minutes or so. The diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but it's not vegetarian - meat, seafood, and dairy are also allowed.

You could make pretty much any recipe in this book, and no one would point to it and say, "hey, this is diet food." It's just simple good food with a Mediterranean slant. There's not a lot of pasta or white flour, but the book does have recipes for homemade pasta dough using either all-white flour or half white and half whole wheat flour. There's also a pizza dough recipe with the same options.

There are a few recipes that aren't quite traditional, like zucchini lasagna and barley risotto. But even so, most folks aren't going to feel deprived or think it's diet food - they'll just think it's just an interesting variation.

This is a small, thin book, but it's got some great looking recipes.

Speaking of looking, the photos are nice. Not hanging-on-the-wall art, but they're attractive photos of appealing food.

By Mandy Levy

Calorie accounting isn't really a cookbook, although it does have some recipes. And it's also not a diet book in the traditional sense of telling the readers to avoid certain foods or food groups. Instead, it's more of a food-math book.

The book tells the reader to keep track of calories consumed and calories used to come up with a plan for losing weight. You can certainly eat that chocolate bar, but you'll need to do some treadmill time to burn it off.

Much of the book is Mandy's own experiences, what she ate and what she avoided, and how she made it work for her. Needless to say, this sort of diet works for weight loss. Whether it works for health in general depends on your food choices. The good thing is that you never have to give anything up entirely. The bad thing is ... well, doing all the tracking.

If you've tried other diets and you're still looking for one that works, you might want to take a look at this one. And, as a bonus, it's kind of funny.

By Jo Pratt

In this book, healthy food is defined as food that will "make you feel full of vitality and not full of guilt." In other words, this isn't a book full of comfort food. But it's also not following any particular diet theme. It's more about making all the foods on the plate work together.

Recipes for proteins are accompanied by salads, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and other good-for-you ingredients. There are plenty of spices and herbs to make everything super-flavorful. While the recipes aren't terribly complicated in terms of technique or the number of steps, the ingredient list for most of them are fairly long.

But! For many of the recipes, you're really making two recipes to make a complete meal. So, for example, there's a frittata and a salsa. Or a protein and a noodle dish. Or fish with a watermelon salad. Not everyone is going to make both parts of the meal, even though they're designed to work together..

This book also includes a chapter with some interesting desserts.

Photos in this book are quite attractive, if that's something that sways you one way or another when making a purchase.

By Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis is an established southern cookbook author who has a track record of producing top-notch books. This is the first one (that I'm aware of) that has focused on lighter cooking.

If there's any cuisine that could use a little lightening, it's southern cuisine, for sure.

Some of the recipes include lighter ingredients, like lowfat or lighter cheese, mayonnaise, or similar ingredients. Others, like the baked onion blossom, change the cooking method from frying to baking. Dirty rice gets a re-do that's less fatty and includes collard greens to lighten it up.

Meatloaf and chili get a remake by using turkey, while mac and cheese includes broccoli and uses whole wheat noodles. Cornbread is stuffed with vegetables, including okra and peppers. There are also lovely salads and braised vegetables that are great for lighter eating.

While there are some recipes here where the lower-calorie options might be more noticeable to some folds (I really dislike lowfat mayonnaise, for example), other recipes don't really point to themselves and claim their healthiness. That cornbread looks really interesting with all the vegetables - I might have to try a variation of that soon.

If you love southern cooking and want to see what an established cookbook author has done to lighten up the dishes, this is the book for you.

As far as the photos, they're lovely and make the food look delicious. They're not as highly styled as some books - props are minimal, an the focus is on the food. It's a style I happen to like in a cookbook.

By Candice Kumai

The author says that this book is about eating real food, prepared deliciously, and that good eating isn't about trends. But the book does delve quite clearly into currently trendy things like super greens (hello, kale!), super food boosters, and cleansing. There's also a chapter about smoothies and juices.

As might be expected, the recipes do include a lot of greens, amino acids, coconut oil, olive oil, and raw honey. And a whole lot of kale and arugula. While it's not really a diet book in the sense of weight loss, it does follow rules for eating certain foods.

This type of eating is certainly popular these days, so if it's a lifestyle you want to embrace, this is the book for you. And the photos are definitely pretty.

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