If there's one good thing that came out of this awful pandemic, it's that quarantine forced most of us to learn how to cook. According to a January 2021 survey by the consumer market research firm Hunter, 71 percent of Americans said they planned to continue cooking at home more even once the pandemic was over.
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This is a good trend if you're trying to lose weight, as research has shown that cooking at home can lighten both your waistline and your wallet. A November 2014 study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who cooked at home six or seven nights a week ate fewer calories, less sugar and less fat than those who dined out regularly.
Plus, with the right recipes, cooking can be a great source of stress relief and a lot of fun. The only question is: Because there are so many weight-loss cookbooks out there, how do you choose one?
How We Chose
We tapped a couple of body-positive dietitians to share what they consider to be the best healthy weight-loss cookbooks. We've included their top picks below, which are broken into categories and based on the following criteria:
- Focused on healthy eating rather than quick weight loss
- Include recipes with plenty of fiber and protein
- Spotlight a variety of nutritious foods
- Recipes are accessible for all cooking levels
Best for Reducing Disease Risk
1. 'How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook: 75 Healthy Recipes to Protect Your Well-Being' by Ginger Hultin
"This book is all about optimizing your nutrition to reduce disease risk. It's packed full of high-fiber whole grain and vegetable recipes, which can increase metabolism and help with weight loss," says Cassie Christopher, RD, a body-positive registered dietitian and founder of the Stress Less Weight Mastery. "This is a great choice for anyone looking to improve the quality of their diet."
The book includes two weeks of pre-planned meals and grocery shopping lists to help get you started.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $15.19
Best for People with Allergies
2. 'Nourishing Meals: 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-Free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time' by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre
Cooking at home can be particularly challenging if you or your family members have any allergies.
"In my experience, it can be hard to find gluten-free or dairy-free recipes that both taste good and have the right texture," Christopher says.
Luckily, this comprehensive cookbook — which was co-written by a certified nutritionist and the mother of five children — features 365 recipes that are specifically targeted to people with food sensitivities or allergies.
"I have personally cooked most recipes in this book and can vouch for them," Christopher says. Her favorite? The Zucchini and Pine Nut Lasagna.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $23.79
Best for Vegans/Vegetarians
We all know veggies are good for you. One November 2018 Nutrients study found eating more vegetables helps you lose weight and prevents weight gain. The problem is that a lot of vegetable recipes can be a bit bland.
Christopher says this book is a "good option for vegetable experimentation as the recipes have a lot of spice and flavorings."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $27.30
Best for People On-the-Go
4. 'Healthyish: A Cookbook with Seriously Satisfying, Truly Simple, Good-For-You (but Not Too Good-for-You) Recipes for Real Life' by Lindsay Maitland Hunt
When life gets busy, it can be hard to commit to making a three-hour meal.
Christopher says that "the recipes in this book are full of satisfying fiber and whole grains, which will keep you full for longer." Plus, they leave you with a little extra time on your hands.
This book is also perfect for working parents, because it has many options for meals you can make in advance.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.49
5. '5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food' by Jamie Oliver
"This healthy cookbook elevates fresh, whole foods with simple recipes for busy people," says dietitian Kayla Girgen, RD, founder of Nutrition Untapped.
The book's premise is that each recipe only contains 5 ingredients, so it's great for anyone who's short on time and/or doesn't want to complicate the cooking process. It also includes some wonderful imagery that will delight visual learners.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $16.99
Best for Post-Bariatric Surgery
6. 'The Gastric Sleeve Bariatric Cookbook' by Sarah Kent
This one is written by a registered dietitian — which gets major bonus points — and it's much more than a cookbook, Girgen says. "It includes high-protein recipes with nutritional information, along with various texture progressions following surgery."
She especially recommends it for anyone who's undergone bariatric surgery, as "Kent does a wonderful job of addressing the mental barriers of self-compassion and eating healthfully."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.79
Best for Instant Pots
7. 'The Ultimate Instant Pot Healthy Cookbook' by Coco Morante
"An Instant Pot can be an intimidating appliance to master, but this cookbook removes all the mystery," Girgen says.
This book tells you all about the specific settings and gives you shortcuts for quick and healthy meals like Tomatillo Chicken Chili and Seafood Risotto.
"This cookbook includes easy reference charts to help determine Instant Pot cooking times as well as dietary preferences such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free, recommending substitutions when appropriate" she says. "Each recipe includes nutritional information and clear instructions on which setting(s) to use."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.59
Best for Low-Carb Lovers
8. 'Carb Manager's Keto Diet Cookbook' by Mandy Davis
If you want to kick it old-school, there's nutritional information included for all of the recipes, including net carbohydrates as well as dairy-free and gluten-free identifiers.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.99
Best for Living Your Best Life
9. 'Fit Men Cook' by Kevin Curry
"Consider this the ultimate meal prep cookbook," Girgen says. "Curry's cooking philosophy centers around three requirements: Each recipe must 1) taste good, 2) be calorie-friendly and 3) be easy to prepare (in terms of cost and technique)."
Author Kevin Curry, fitness influencer and creator of the bestselling app FitMenCook, shares his story of overcoming depression and weight gain to build a successful business and lead a healthy lifestyle.
And don't let the title fool you! "This cookbook is tailored for both men and women and includes Kevin's 10 Commandments of Meal Prep and many other tips and tricks for navigating your way around the kitchen," Girgen says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.94
10. 'Eat Happy' by Anna Vocino
Author Vocino, who has celiac disease, provides many comfort food variations minus gluten, grains and sugar, Girgen says.
Vocino provides a very helpful list of gluten-free and grain-free pantry and fridge staples, as well as a variety of low-carb and slow-cooker recipes.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $30.25
11. 'The Mindful Glow Cookbook: Radiant Recipes for Being the Healthiest, Happiest You' by Abbey Sharp
Abbey Sharp is a registered dietitian and the creator of the popular food blog and YouTube channel Abbey's Kitchen. She's previously been described as "Nigella Lawson in a lab coat," and her vibrant descriptions might be just what you need to get you excited about spending more time in the kitchen.
"Abbey does a nice job of contextualizing how healthy food can be a part of living your best life," Christopher says. "After reading the cookbook, you are left wanting to share a yogurt parfait with her."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.64
How to Choose the Right Book for You
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a safe, sustainable weight-loss cookbook, according to Christopher:
1. Doesn't Promise Quick Weight Loss
"Avoid books that are supposed to help you lose large amounts of weight quickly," she says. "A half pound to 2 pounds a week is considered a safe weight loss amount."
Weight loss should always be primarily about improving your health and should be done over time, so don't go for detoxes or crash diets.
2. Recipes Have Lots of Fiber and Protein
Look for books that are full of fiber (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) and protein, as that will boost your metabolism and keep you full longer.
3. Includes Food You Like to Eat
"Start your search with the intention of eating that way for the rest of your life, so you can sustain any weight loss you may achieve," she says.
With that in mind: "Only buy books that look like you will enjoy them," she says. "Getting pleasure from your food is an excellent way to enjoy life."