These days, with exciting new recipes just a click away, we've come to rely less on old-school cookbooks and more on computers, apps and mobile devices for finding delectable dishes. Technology can be a great tool for reaching your nutrition goals and connecting with an online community, but there are times when it's just nice to relax and flip through the pages of an honest-to-goodness cookbook in search of healthy eating inspiration. Plus, when you're throwing together ingredients in the kitchen, it's often easier to refer to a hard-copy recipe instead of scrolling down a screen.
But what's the best way to find the right cookbook for you? If you've ever perused the culinary aisle at the bookstore or taken a spin through Amazon's library, you may have found it impossible to narrow down the smorgasbord of titles. We know your time is precious, so we've compiled some of the most highly recommended cookbooks for several of the most popular eating plans.
1. South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook by Arthur Agatston, M.D. (2005)
Thousands of SparkPeople members follow the South Beach diet. This commercial weight-loss diet features meal plans that are lower in carbs and higher in protein, along with healthy fats.
Registered dietitian Kathleen M. Zelman recommends Agatston's cookbooks on WebMD. "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."
Best of all, the recipes are super simple and easy to follow. This edition includes 200 recipes that use 10 or fewer ingredients and require 30 minutes or less of cooking time.
2. The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen (2016)
SparkPeople's registered dietitian, Becky Hand, is a big proponent of the Mediterranean diet. With an emphasis on veggies, olive oil, seafood and healthy grains, the diet has been linked to many health benefits, including lower risk of heart disease, decreased risk for certain types of cancers and a longer life expectancy. Hand even put together this guide for eating a Mediterranean diet for heart health.
When you'd rather have a book version, try “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook.” It's packed with 500 kitchen-tested recipes for main dishes, sides and appetizers, along with tips, explanations and comparison charts.
3. Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by Diane Sanfilippo (2016)
Sometimes called "the caveman diet," the Paleo diet is based on foods that our ancestors would have hunted and foraged, such as meat, seafood, veggies, fruits, eggs, nuts and seeds. Processed foods, added sugars, dairy, grains, soy and legumes are discouraged on this plan. While other diets focus on carefully counting calories and nutrients, Paleo is all about eating the recommended foods until you're satisfied.
In this sequel to the original “Practical Paleo” cookbook, a nutrition educator offers three 30-day meal plans and 40 new recipes. Each recipe includes a full-size color picture, prep and cook times, modification ideas and suggested serving sizes. The book also dives into the science behind Paleo, and how personalized meal plans can help alleviate medical conditions.
4. The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon (2014)
Whether you've already embraced the vegan lifestyle or you're just curious about the benefits of a plant-based diet, a great cookbook can be hugely informative and inspiring. There's a reason why "The Oh She Glows Cookbook" has thousands of five-star reviews—this debut cookbook features more than 100 wholesome recipes, including many gluten-free and allergy-friendly dishes.
From one reviewer: "Every recipe I made has been delicious. Beautiful pictures for each recipe, step-by-step instructions and they use lots of fresh, plant-based ingredients. Lots of creative and interesting recipes, not like a boring 'Vegetarian 101 cookbook' that has everyday dishes you would expect."
5. Gluten-Free, Hassle Free, Second Edition by Marlisa Brown, R.D. (2013)
While gluten itself isn't unhealthy or harmful for most people, some choose to avoid it due to food sensitivities or intolerances. Giving up gluten altogether can be a daunting prospect, as the protein makes an appearance in everything from breads and pastas to cereals and packaged snacks. By arming yourself with an awesome cookbook, though, you'll find it much easier—and more delicious—to embrace the gluten-free lifestyle, if that's your choice.
This cookbook's subtitle sums it up: "A Simple, Sane, Dietitian-Approved Program For Eating Your Way Back to Health." It's packed with more than 140 easy recipes, plus tips for finding hidden gluten, modifying your favorite foods and understanding nutrition labels.
6. Everyday Diabetes Meals: Cooking for One or Two by Laura Cipullo, R.D. and Lisa Mikus, R.D. (2017)
A diabetes diagnosis doesn’t have to throw your diet into a tailspin. Two registered dietitians teamed up to create this specialized cookbook with 150 diabetes-friendly recipes for meals, snacks and desserts. Each recipe was created with singles and couples in mind, and meets the American Diabetes Association’s recommended standard carbohydrate allotment.
You’ll also get valuable information on living with diabetes, avoiding potential complications and understanding the connection between inflammation, obesity and diabetes. The authors even provide a handy 14-day meal plan to get you started.
7. Good and Cheap: Eat Well for $4/Day by Leanne Brown (2015)
If you’re still under the assumption that eating healthy has to be expensive, this budget-friendly book begs to differ. Recommended by registered dietitian Ilana Muhlstein, “Good and Cheap” includes more than 100 delicious, nutritious and economical recipes. It was created for people who have to watch every dollar, particularly those living on the U.S. food stamp allotment of $4 a day. Plus, with the purchase of every book, the publisher will donate a free copy to a person or family in need.
8. The Clean Eating Cookbook & Diet by Rockridge Press (2013)
Not sure what the clean-eating craze is all about? In the simplest terms, it means eating foods that are whole (unprocessed) and in their most natural state.
Consider “The Clean Eating Cookbook & Diet” your ultimate guide to a clean diet. It’s packed with 105 recipes made from natural, unprocessed ingredients, along with all the information you need to embrace a clean eating lifestyle. Get tips on stocking your kitchen for clean cooking, learn what foods to avoid and score a 14-day meal plan to get you started.
Which of these cookbooks would you like to try first? If you already have any of these, we'd love to hear what you think!