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15 best healthy cookbooks: Easy recipes to take with you into 2022

We looked for highly nutritious dishes to help keep your resolutions sustainable

<p>From vegan to gluten-free and low-calorie options, we tested them all </p>

From vegan to gluten-free and low-calorie options, we tested them all

It used to be that new year healthy-eating kicks were framed as punishment for an indulgent December. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom – thankfully there is new breed of recipe books that aim to empower you to make the right choices for you, but which can still help you take advantage of the metaphorical clean slate that January can offer.

We have found a wide range of titles that will give you the inspiration you need to start whipping up healthy – and tasty – meals.

We know that healthy means something different to everyone, so we wanted to ensure we captured this in our round-up. Whether you’re trying to increase your superfood intake, hoping to improve your gut health or just need some new inspiration, we have something for every requirement.

We were looking for nutritious, unique and flavoursome recipes throughout, but we have also included a completely gluten-free cookbook, a number of vegetarian and vegan options and some more niche contenders – check out the Nordic Family Kitchen (£20.61, Amazon.co.uk) and The Latin American Cookbook (£35, Waterstones.com), as each is brimming with vibrant, nourishing meals.

And with our social calendars looking a lot less busy, January can be a great time to get in the kitchen and experiment with different ingredients and recipes. A well-balanced, nutritious diet can boost both your physical and mental health, and from the below cookbooks, we think that healthy eating never looked so appetising.

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How we tested

Over the course of two months, we picked out two or three recipes from each cookbook to sample. We were looking for highly nutritious, healthy recipes including low-calorie meals, dishes packed with superfoods, and those that will get you on your way to five a day. Our top priority throughout was always flavour. The recipes had to be clear on both ingredients and instructions, and we were looking for a bit of creative flair too, whether that was via a fascinating backstory, bright and colourful pictures, or a unique niche.

The best healthy cookbooks for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – ‘Anyone Can Cook’ by Kitchen Stories, published by Prestel: £17.99, Blackwells.co.uk
  • Best for when you’re busy – ‘Freeze’ by Ruby Bell and Milly Bagot, published by Mitchell Beazley: £16.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best for healthy cocktails – ‘Clean Cocktails’ by Spencer Matthews, published by CleanCo. Rydon Publishing: £16.40, Whsmith.co.uk
  • Best backstory – ‘Bo’s Book’ by Chef Day Radley and Victoria Bryceson: £24, Theveganchefschool.com
  • Best gluten-free cookbook – ‘The Gluten-Free Cookbook’ by Cristian Broglia, published by Phaidon: £35, Phaidon.com
  • Best for fakeaways – ‘Pinch of Nom Everyday Light’ by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone, published by Bluebird: £9.54, Onbuy.com
  • Best for sustainable cooking – ‘Nordic Family Kitchen’ by Mikkel Karstad, published by Prestel: £20.61, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for soups – ‘Soup Club’ by Caroline Wright, published by Andrew McMeel: £13.59, Whsmith.co.uk
  • Best for noodles – ‘The Noodle Cookbook’ by Mr Lee’s Noodles, published by Ebury Press Publishing. £15.99, Mrleesnoodles.com
  • Best for simple vegan –The Simple Plant-Based Cookbook’ by Merchant Gourmet, published by Quadrille: £11.95, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for kids – ‘You Can Cook Tasty Food’ by Little Cooks Company, published by Collins: £6.55, Whsmith.co.uk
  • Best for mindful eating – ‘Mind Food’ by Lauren Lovatt, published by Leaping Hare Press: £16.40, Whsmith.co.uk
  • Best for Latin American dishes – ‘The Latin American Cookbook’ by Virgilio Martinez, published by Phaidon: £35, Waterstones.com
  • Best for dishes for fitness – ‘Nourish Cookbook’ by Lorna Jane: £28, Lornajane.co.uk
  • Best for feel-good cooking – ‘Gut-loving cookbook’ by Alana and Lisa Macfarlane, published by Pavilion: £13.59, Whsmith.co.uk

‘Anyone can cook’ by Kitchen Stories, published by Prestel

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Starting out as an app with video tutorials on how to cook, Kitchen Stories has this year launched its first recipe book, celebrating everyday meals and getting us back to basics. If you’re an amateur in the kitchen but keen to learn, this is one for you.

We loved the introduction of this book. Before racing into the recipes, it gave us tips on creating a solid foundation for cookery – knife skills, how to pan fry, which spices and utensils every kitchen should boast. By the time you reach the recipes, you feel armed with skills you may not have had before.

We made a lot of these recipes, simply because they were easy to whip up and absolutely delicious (chicken noodle soup, spinach and black bean quesadillas with quick-pickled onions and the miso pork stuffed eggplant, to name but a few). It’s no-nonsense, hearty grub, and even if we wouldn’t call ourselves a beginner, we learned a lot – and so will you. There are fascinating gems throughout, including 16 simple pesto recipes and a guide to composing the perfect salad bowl.

‘Freeze’ by Ruby Bell and Milly Bagot, published by Mitchell Beazley

Best: For when you’re busy

Rating: 9/10

No longer is the freezer just about oven chips and petit pois, Ruby Bell and Milly Bagot have decided it is time to unearth the potential of your icy drawers. They have created a collection of super-nourishing meals to batch cook, freeze and keep until you’re ready to feast.

For every recipe, they give the full instructions for not just the recipe but how to prepare before freezing, and how to defrost and serve. There’s the classic dishes you may already freeze – a vegetable lasagne with butternut squash and aubergine, or Ruby’s one-pot bean chilli – but prepare to be surprised by the recipes you’d never think of freezing, like the spinach and ricotta cannelloni or the passionfruit tart. We also adored the smoky chicken with chorizo and borlotti beans.

There’s a great section called “family food” which suggests recipes for babies six months and older – ideal for mums batch cooking for their weaning bubba.

‘Clean cocktails’ by Spencer Matthews, published by CleanCo

Best: For healthy cocktails

Rating: 8/10

Former Made in Chelsea star, Spencer Matthews, has been trying his hand at something niche since turning his back on reality TV. Clean Cocktails is his latest book, offering non-alcoholic alternatives to some of our favourite drinks. Whether you’re taking part in Dry January or looking at sobriety as a permanent lifestyle change, this book can help you to change the way you think about alcohol.

As Spencer says: “What I’ve created with this book is the opportunity to enjoy delicious, no-compromise cocktails that give you the sensation and ritual of alcoholic drinks, but without the negative effects of full-strength alcohol.” So we put some of them to the test, using the handy guide at the beginning of the book to make sure we had the right ingredients, glassware and utensils to make the perfect mocktail. Using the CleanCo own spirits, they detail how to make each one. We tried a founder’s favourite, which was a summery, fruity concoction that really tasted like a G&T.

‘Bo’s Book’ by Chef Day Radley and Victoria Bryceson

Best: Backstory

Rating: 7/10

The Vegan Chef School has teamed up with Miracle’s Mission – an animal welfare charity – to produce a healthy cookbook that does not just tantalise the tastebuds but pulls at the heartstrings too. Simple and hearty vegan recipes are sandwiched between epic, heart-wrenching stories from Miracle’s Mission, about beautiful dogs that have often experienced neglect before they were brought into the rescue centre.

Each tale, from Bo to Bugsy, takes you on an emotional adventure in between recipes. Our favourites in this one were the jaffa cakes, which are both vegan and gluten free, and the roti with spiced cauliflower, which takes no time at all to whip up but packs a mouth-watering punch.

‘The Gluten-Free Cookbook’ by Cristian Broglia, published by Phaidon (pre-order for 13 January 2022)

Best: Gluten-free cookbook

Rating: 8/10

While being gluten-free is a staple diet for those with serious health conditions such Coeliac disease, there is a growing trend of ditching the grains for alternatives. Author of the Gluten-Free Cookbook, Cristian Broglia started his cooking career in Parma, Italy, so it may be surprising, given the sheer amount of pasta he would’ve been working with, that he decided to collate a book of 350 gluten-free recipes. Thankfully he did, and the result is spectacular.

Broglia has travelled the world as a chef and this is reflected in his colourful, vibrant and eclectic selection of dishes – from salmon sushi rolls from Japan, to steamed tomatoes from Mexico and a steamed layer cake from Thailand.

The book has a helpful guide showing if the dishes are also dairy-free, nut-free, vegan, vegetarian, take 30 minutes or less, or have five ingredients or less – we found this incredibly helpful and makes this book a must-have for anyone living with intolerances. Gluten-free cooking has never been so fascinating and if you’re experimenting with abstaining, you absolutely need this book.

‘Pinch of Nom Everyday Light’ by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone, published by Bluebird

Best: For fakeaways

Rating: 8/10

Part of the cookbook elite, Kate and Kay have created a series which offers a range of simple and fun recipes, with a focus on high-protein, low-calorie meals.

Everyday Light suggests lighter options for some of our favourite meals, including “fakeway” alternatives to fish and chips or curries. There's a great section on batchcooking, which is ideal for anyone who feels they're too busy to create healthy dinners.

Nearly half of the recipes in Everyday Light are vegetarian, with many gluten-free dishes too, and they let you how many calories are in each recipe. For a winter warmer, try the spring vegetable soup which is packed with herbs, and for those with a bit more time on their hands, we loved the stuffed squash, which has the amazing Mexican flavours.

‘Nordic Family Kitchen’ by Mikkel Karstad, published by Prestel

Best: For sustainable cooking

Rating: 7/10

There’s something remarkably elegant about this book, with its beautiful photographs and stylish front cover, and we were instantly captivated by Mikkel’s story. He and his family grow their own vegetables and herbs on their farm in Copenhagen and have fresh eggs from their chickens every morning. He’s passionate about foraging and teaching even the youngest chefs about nutritious, sustainable dining. We cooked up the elderflower and rhubarb pancakes one morning and they made for a unique and luscious breakfast, particularly the unreal lemon verbena sugar. Try out the crab bisque too.

‘Soup Club’ by Caroline Wright, published by Andrew McMeel

Best: For soups

Rating: 8/10

On a cold and crisp day there is nothing better than a big bowl of veggie-filled soup, overflowing with nourishing, nutritious value. And that’s something Caroline Wright knows a thing or two about.

In 2017, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was told she had just a 5 per cent chance of surviving. With two young sons, she was thrown into turmoil. And when she realised her weakness from the cancer made it near impossible to cook, she called on her community in Seattle for help. What followed was a conveyor belt of soups and stews landing on her doorstep.

Miraculously, Caroline survived the brain tumour and as soon as she recovered, she returned the favour to friends and began making them soup as a sign of her gratitude. The resulting Soup Club is a marvellous repertoire. Our favourites included the Greek soup mashup, Alabama summer garden soup and asparagus, dill and lemon soup.

‘The Noodle Cookbook’ by Mr Lee’s Noodles, published by Ebury Press Publishing

Best: For noodles

Rating: 6/10

Inside this book is 101 healthy noodle recipes, devised by Mr Lees Noodles, which is a brand that’s passionate about using the very best ingredients in its dishes. The book is comprised of dishes from across Asia, sectioned off into Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese, and each starts off by listing and describing every different type of noodle – we had no idea there were so many varieties (sweet potato noodle and mung bean noodle were new to us).

We headed straight to Vietnam and with wok in hand, we set about creating the chicken and lemongrass noodle soup with green peppercorns – a dish with zingy flavours, absolutely bursting with goodness. We’d recommend the banh mi baguette.

‘The Simple Plant-Based Cookbook’ by Merchant Gourmet, published by Quadrille

Best: For simple vegan

Rating: 8/10

We are quite sceptical when recipe books claim to be “simple”, particularly when it comes to a specific dietary requirement. But we can happily say that Merchant Gourmet – a brand known for its sachets of grains and lentils – has achieved delicious simplicity with this plant-based book.

Using the staple ingredients of lentils, chestnuts, quinoa and wholegrains, Merchant Gourmet has pulled together some dazzling recipes which would make you start to question why you ever needed meat. The cashew caesar salad with grated walnuts and puy lentils was delectably creamy and the quick green giant couscous risotto, from the very helpful 30-minute midweek meal section, was an absolute winner. There’s a chapter on one-pot meals and sweet treats too. It’s vegan food that’s easy to put together and packed with nutritious value.

‘You Can Cook Tasty Food’ by Little Cooks Company, published by Collins

Best: For kids

Rating: 8/10

If you have trouble sparking your kids’ interest in cooking, You Can Cook Tasty Food is a good starting point. Its rainbow chart for nutrition and a colourful guide explaining the difference between real food and processed makes healthy eating suddenly seem a lot more fun to youngsters.

The recipes, which are all clear and succinct, include banana and chocolate bites, healthy fish fingers and veggie-packed burgers. They’ll have your brood happily helping out in the kitchen in no time.

‘Mind Food’ by Lauren Lovatt, published by Leaping Hare Press (pre-order for 1 February 2022)

Best: For mindful eating

Rating: 6/10

This brand new recipe book out in February is promoting a healthy diet, not just for the physical benefits, but for the proven positive effects that food can have on our mental health. Mind Food is inspired by years of research on how food can boost our mood.

Using entirely plant-based recipes, author Lauren Lovatt has composed a flawless selection of recipes from breakfast to dinner, dessert, drinks and beyond. Some of the ingredients may be difficult to source from your supermarket and you may need to take a trip to a wholefoods market or store.

We tried the polenta chips recipe with a punchy red pepper ketchup and then the smoked mushroom and celeriac tacos – an aromatic dish with unique flavours. They are guaranteed crowd-pleasing recipes for hosting.

‘The Latin American Cookbook’ by Virgilio Martinez, published by Phaidon

Best: For Latin American dishes

Rating: 6/10

Let your mind and tastebuds travel with this book. Author and chef Virgilio Martine returned to Peru in 2009 to open his restaurant, Central, which has now appeared on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list for almost a decade.

He takes inspiration from all corners of Latin America, from Belize to Argentina. After salivating over almost every single dish, we tried the Tucuman-style steak empanadas and the Guatemalan tamales, and both were divine.

Don’t be put off by the complicated names – most of the recipes are pretty simple and use ingredients that are easy to find in your grocery store. While it’s difficult to travel at the moment, you can lose yourself in the vibrant wonders of Latin America with this first-class book.

‘Nourish Cookbook’ by Lorna Jane

Best: For dishes for fitness

Rating: 6/10

Intended to be the “fit woman’s cookbook”, Nourish is by Lorna Jane, a fitness and health fanatic based in Australia. Equipped with advice on how to adopt a more healthy, active lifestyle, the book also focuses on exercise and hydration as well as a specially selected array of gut-friendly recipes.

Some include ingredients may be difficult to source in a supermarket – bee pollen and micro herbs, for example – but a trek further afield will find these superfoods. The book’s happiness tonic was a wonderful way to start the day and the kale, black rice and raspberry salad is packed with nutritious elements with still retaining powerful flavours. Every recipe is oozing with nourishing, fulfilling and tasty ingredients.

‘Gut-loving cookbook’ by Alana and Lisa Macfarlane, published by Pavilion (pre-order for 6 January 2022)

Best: For feel-good cooking

Rating: 6/10

Identical twins Alana and Lisa started their careers as DJs but when they took part in a piece of research on twins and how much gut health is determined by genetics, they pivoted into the world of food.

They grew a team of scientists, nutritionists, dieticians and doctors whose expertise culminated in the foundations of Gut-loving Cookbook. Each dish has been carefully constructed to include variety, fibre and ferments – their top three markers which they say are the most important for a healthy digestive system. A thorough introduction also brings you up to speed on the science of gut health and offers ideas on how to “glow up” your food cupboard, including which spices and ingredients every kitchen should have.

We loved the kimchi grain bowl, a spicy dish that is ready in just 20 minutes, and part of their “gut lunch” chapter. Other recipes include the beetroot burger with root vegetable chips, and a whole chapter on sides and sauces, including a chocolate hummus.

The verdict: Healthy cookbooks

Healthy eating is so often seen as a bore, but we hope we have shown you that this is far from the truth. Kitchen Stories’ Anyone Can Cook is a fantastic starting point for anyone unsure about their culinary skills, but for those more experienced, try The Latin American Cookbook or Merchant Gourmet’s The Simple Plant-Based Cookbook recipes.

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