The best cookbooks for eating clean, going gluten-free, nixing sugar, and more.
As Health's food director, I read a lot of cookbooks, and I can happily say that 2016 was an excellent year for healthy cooks—no matter your definition of "healthy," or your skill level in the kitchen. So whether you're shopping for yourself or are in search of a thoughtful holiday gift, consider one of the following cookbooks. They're filled with all kinds of healthy recipes—gluten-free, Paleo, vegetarian, you name it—that will help you eat a clean, balanced, and delicious diet.
1 Eat Complete by Drew Ramsey, MD
Cooking for brain health may not sound sexy, but when you see the truly delicious ingredients that psychiatrist and nutrition expert Drew Ramsey recommends, based on 21 essential nutrients, you may just do a little happy dance (like I did). Oysters (and lots of wild seafood in general), grass-fed meat and butter, tons of fresh organic vegetables, hearty soups, refreshing smoothies—even if you aren’t interested in the specific nutrients Dr. Ramsey prescribes for brain health, you’ll still love these recipes, and so will the recipient of your gift. (Check out our Facebook Live video with Dr. Ramsey, and see for yourself how delicious his food is.)
2 Whole World Vegetarian by Marie Simmons
Take vegetarian food global with this book, which not only offers international cuisine (from South American black-bean stew to Mediterranean Beet-Tahini Puree to a Serbian pepper sauce), but adds various interesting twists along the way to elevate the dishes even further. Veteran food writer and cookbook author Marie Simmons brings her abundant experience to this love letter to world cuisine, which has enough pizzazz to appeal to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. (Get a preview with some of the recipes we excerpted in the July/August issue of Health: Green Beans with Miso-Sesame Sauce; Tahini and Beet Puree; Cold Potato, Beet, Carrot and Pea Salad; and Tomato, Cucumber and Green Bean Salad.)
3 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous by Lisa Leake
The second book by massively popular blogger Lisa Leake (of 100 Days of Real Food) is ideal for your friend or loved one who wants to eat healthier but isn’t really sure how or where to begin. Leake’s approach, showing readers how to make their favorite dishes without the use of processed food, is the perfect “gateway drug.” She offers recipes for every meal of the day (homemade granola, citrus salad with crispy quinoa, fish tacos, sloppy joes), along with snacks and desserts, to appeal to the whole family, including packed lunches for kids and adults, shopping lists and meal plans. It’s a straightforward book that offers real solutions and tasty recipes to make over and over again.
4 Eating Clean by Amie Valpone
Pick up this book for the already-avowed vegetable lover who wants to add some really delicious but unfussy recipes to their repertoire, or for that friend who wants to eat healthy but thinks veggies are boring. Blogger Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple takes simple pantry ingredients, adds a few that are unexpected (but not esoteric—hello, marjoram and chickpea miso), and creates dishes that are satisfying, veg-forward, and tasty. (We excerpted it in our April issue; check out the recipes for Sunrise Nori Wraps with Spicy Tahini Drizzle, Lemon Basil Millet Burgers, Golden Bell Pepper Soup, and Coastal Carrot Fettuccine.) Her recipes are also gluten- and dairy-free, but you won’t miss either of them.
5 Fresh Fish by Jennifer Trainer Thompson
This is the perfect gift for the cook in your life who finds fish intimidating. Along with 175 delicious recipes that showcase all the ways to cook it (poaching, braising, baking, grilling, etc.), author Jennifer Trainer Thompson offers useful tips for how to buy the best fish, how to clean it, and much more. To see just how simple yet gourmet the recipes are, look at these, excerpted in the May issue of Health: Grilled Salmon With Tomato-Basil Relish, Shrimp With Spicy Ginger Noodles, Ginger-Lime Scallop Ceviche, and Sole in Papillote.
6 The Short Stack Cookbook by Nick Fauchald and Kaitlyn Goalen
If you’re already familiar with Short Stack Editions’ beautifully designed, digest-sized single-subject cookbooks, then you know why a longer, full-sized Short Stacks book is a perfect gift for any cook. Organized into chapters based on 18 thoughtfully curated ingredients (including apples, Brussels sprouts, lemons, kale, Greek yogurt, and hot chile peppers), it features creative and innovative recipes by chefs, food stylists, and editors (including me. Full disclosure: I’m a Short Stacks author; I wrote volume 16: Peaches, and contributed three recipes to this book). Its punchy design also makes it a standout and a pleasure to flip through and cook from.
7 Whole Food Energy by Elise Museles
If you have a friend or loved one who’s always on the go but still wants to eat healthier, here’s the perfect book. With more than 200 recipes for easy snacks and quick meals, all featuring wholesome ingredients, plus strategies for eating healthfully on the run, it’s a must for the go-getter on your gift list. (Check out these healthy snack recipes we excerpted from the book in our June issue: Apricot-Vanilla Cashew Bars, Zesty Orange Chocolate Energy Balls, PB&J Power Bars, Lemon Drop Energy Balls, and Chocolatey Oat-and-Nut Breakfast Bars.)
8 Celebrations by Danielle Walker
For the gluten-free, dairy-free and/or Paleo eater in your life, this book will be their favorite gift. The third book by best-selling author Danielle Walker of Against All Grain offers favorite holiday and celebration dishes (stuffing, birthday cupcakes, and lemon bars, to name just a few), made allergy-friendly but no less delicious. The 125 recipes, organized by occasion (Christmas, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day), make it possible for anyone following a grain-free diet to enjoy traditional dishes (and they’re so tasty, even those not following such a diet will enjoy them).
9 Superfoods Superfast: 100 Energizing Recipes to Make in 20 Minutes or Less by Julie Montagu
Nutrient-packed, delicious meals in 20 minutes or less? If that seems as possible as seeing a unicorn, you’re in for a treat. Known as The Flexi Foodie, author (and yoga instructor) Julie Montagu shows that you can eat well for your health and your tastebuds without driving yourself crazy. Think: Not just avocado toast, but Avocado and Lime Yogurt Toast with Chilli—but it’s still on the table in 10 minutes. Or try her Creamy Zucchini and Sage Soup (excerpted in our September issue), a tasty hot lunch that’s ready in 18 minutes.
10 Everyday Whole Grains by Ann Pittman
The cook on your holiday list who’s always jumping on the hottest trend will love this comprehensive guide to grains by Ann Pittman, executive food editor of our sister magazine, Cooking Light. Pittman details everything you need to know about farro, quinoa, kamut, amaranth, sorghum, and more, then uses each one in traditional and modern ways, in everything from breakfast dishes to stews and soups to pizza and desserts. (Check out the recipes we excerpted in our October issue: Kamut Salad with Roasted Cauliflower; Freekeh-Turkey Sloppy Joes; Quinoa, Feta and Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms; and Cheesy Sorghum and Shaved Squash Pilaf.)