Browsing through the ever-growing aisles of cook and nutrition books can be a bit overwhelming as it’s not easy to find a book that will fit your taste, budget and lifestyle. I tend to look for hassle-free recipes made with simple ingredients, where you don’t need to have zillions of kitchen gadgets or raid several groceries and farmer’s markets. So today, I share a 4-in-1 book review, in the hopes of helping you navigate through the world of food literature. Important note: NONE of them are about restriction. No calories war, no « low-fat » nonsense, no fad diet, they all stress the importance of eating, fuelling your body with wholesome and nutrient-rich food.
Healing Foods – Neal’s Yard remedies
Despite reading countless nutrition and health books and browsing for online info, I always go back to Healing Foods, because this is a fantastic and comprehensive resource to keep in your home. It doesn’t just look good on your coffee table, it’s a valuable tool to flick through and find useful information.
A food grimoire, Healing Foods transcribes the genuine power of wholesome nutrition. It’s a very complete source: mixing food recipes (130 to be precise) and explanation sheets, all divided into different sections. The first section showcases the properties of spices, seeds, roots, pulses, fruits, and vegetables. (with over 200 foods explained). Everything is concise, clear and understandable. The layout is neat, everything is very well illustrated, which makes it very appealing and pleasant to use.
What I find particularly clever is the fact that the recipes are not simply divided by type of meals, (breakfast/lunch/snacks etc.) but also divided by function, so you can access specific sections such as the “recipes for eye health”, women and men’s health”, “for energy”, “protein-packed” etc., depending on what you’re looking for.
Favorite recipe: Kale with buckwheat noodles.
Contains fish/meat/dairy recipes but a lot of them are vegetarian-friendly and can be easily modified.
Deliciously Ella – Ella Woodward
One of the most prominent figures of the online “clean eating movement”, Ella Woodward’s popularity is not to question. She doesn’t pretend to be a know-it-all nor an expert chef, her strength resides in the fact that her health and cooking experiences are relatable to a lot of people. Which is the reason why I was very excited when I got her book; her easy-to-whip-up recipes are what drew me to it right away. However, I feel like the book itself is only a timid catalog of Ella’s great blog.
I believe the original version must be more polished than the French version. The French version I have is missing some words and even parts in the recipe preparations. Sometimes it’s not clear if you have to mix ingredients together or not. Even though the recipes are simple and doable, it’s still problematic for a cookbook. Also, the layout could be improved, it lacks pictures of the actual recipes, and the picture quality is rather ‘raw-looking’, but then again it could be an editorial choice since Deliciously Ella is all about real, simple and authentic food, which is the vibe that the book gives off. No glossy and polished food staging pics. To reinforce the genuine and personal aspect, the book features many pictures of Ella herself. Using a core group of ingredients (such as avocados, bananas, quinoa, almond butter, tamari, maple syrup), this approach turns out to be both a hit-and-miss: on the one hand, you don’t need to gather tons of different ingredients to cook and if you love the ingredients you’ll enjoy everything, but on the other hand those not fond of/or allergic to the ingredients mentioned above, may not be able to fully benefit from the book. The dessert/smoothies section for instance, contains bananas in almost every recipe.
To me, Deliciously Ella is the perfect book to offer to someone who’s off for uni soon and will have to learn to live on their own and cook for themselves, because the recipes are simple and introduce you to healthy food habits from the start.
Favorite recipe: Meat-free Bolognese sauce recipe using lentils (brilliant idea, especially for kids).
Vegan, gluten free.
The Clear Skin Cookbook – Dale Pinnock
A nutritionist and medical herbalist, Pinnock has penned several books revolving around medicinal foods. The Clear Skin Cookbook – whose eye-catching title led me to put it in my Amazon basket without questioning – is an excellent condensed guide to skin and what kind of vitamins and minerals are needed depending on your skin woes (from acne to eczema). Pinnock starts by giving an outline of how our skin works, its layers (epidermis, dermis, and subcutis), its function and the different types of skin issues. Each skin type is analyzed and comes with a sheet of recommended ingredients. Pinnock also explains the properties of vitamins and minerals very well, while dispelling some common misconceptions about them – particularly in regards to the term “antioxidant”. The last part of the book features easy-to-follow recipes, most of them containing less than 6 ingredients. A little heads up for those with a sweet tooth: if you’re looking for drool-worthy recipe inspiration, this is not what the book is for.
The book is educational in its approach, the style is clear and concise, which is always terrific for a beginner’s guide. It’s a bit redundant at times, the key concepts are often repeated, however the author acknowledges it in his introduction because it aims to be a basic resource for people who are just starting to look into nutrition.
Favorite recipe: the sweet potato and spinach curry.
Pescatarian and vegetarian-friendly (not vegan).
Eat pretty – Jolene Hart
Beauty editor turned health coach, Jolene Hart highlights the wondrous impact that wholesome and nutrient-rich food can have on our skin. To quote the author, “we write our beauty story with every bite“. While we eat, we can either enhance our beauty capital or sabotage it, depending on our food choices. In the spirit of the Clear Skin Cookbook, Eat pretty is oriented towards food which has the best impact for the skin, and their direct link to beauty. However, I do prefer Hart’s less ‘sensationalist’ title. It is not a cookbook, (as the number of recipes is very limited, serving mainly to illustrate some key concepts of the book), but a comprehensive nutrition guide; with an easy and accessible vocabulary, everything is clear and all the key concepts are featured in her beauty glossary. Hart’s focus is on the ingredients and their properties.
Her ‘Beauty Betrayers’ section is a valuable tool helping you determine the ingredients which aim to sabotage beauty. If you’re particularly interested in the correlation between skin health and food, Eat Pretty is a lovely resource. The highlight for me is the last part entitled ‘Four seasons to eat Pretty’ which explains how we have to adapt our eating habits according to the seasons, stressing the importance of eating seasonal and local. Luckily, there are a bunch of veggies, cereals, fruits and spices that you can keep all year round, so you don’t need to perform a complete U-turn in your kitchen.
Eat Pretty is highly informative, especially if you’re confused about what kind of food to turn to, and – as even suggested by the title – very pretty with its floral and pink layout. Hart also recently launched Eat Pretty, live well, which complements her first book, since it’s a nutrition journal with fill-in trackers and checklists to help you organize your health journey.
Favorite recipe : the cool peppermint cream cups.
Vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Green hunter, wellness junkie and pun maker on the website, I'm on a journey towards a kinder and healthier life. @lizthegreenspirit on Instagram.