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Should You Follow Cookbooks?Cookbooks are a very helpful resource to have in the kitchen. There's something wonderful about being able to crack open a book and find hundreds of recipes on all sorts of delicious foods. You can find creative new ideas or simple meals that are easy to prepare in a hurry. Cookbooks can make your life easier.
The Big Question: Are Cookbooks Healthy?When you open a cookbook, you'll find that most recipes focus on flavor over health. For example, the desserts are heavy on butter, cream, and sugar. The savory dishes often include fried and deep friend ingredients. Yes, the food is MUCH tastier, but how healthy is it? If your goal is to eat healthy, should you be following cookbooks?
The Fatty Dangers of Following Cookbook RecipesLet's be clear: cookbooks are intended to present recipes that are delicious, but not always very nutritious. Flip through the Joy of Cooking or any other non-specialty cookbook, and you'll find hundreds of recipes that focus on ingredients that add flavor without providing nutrients. The serving sizes are usually much larger than you'd expect, with more calories of starch, sugar, and fats than you need. The end result of following cookbooks precisely is that you eat more than you should. Over time, this can lead to weight gain—fat and sugar adds up to a hefty waistline.
Low Nutritional ContentMost of the recipes in cookbooks also involve very little in the way of nutrition. Take the HUNDREDS of pasta and rice dishes in your average cookbook. They are primary starch, with very little meat or veggies to add nutrients. The sauces used to top the various dishes have no veggies and are high in sodium. The nutritional content of your average cookbook isn't too great—the focus is all about being delicious!
Is Your Health at Risk?
And that's not the only danger of cookbooks. A recent study from N.C. State University found that only 8% of recipes provide information that will help cooks to prepare their food safely. Information like meat cooking temperatures (to avoid bacteria), how to recognize when the food is properly cooked, and so on. So few cookbooks provide the information necessary for health and safety when cooking with eggs, meat, shrimp, pork, and poultry.
The Secret: Use it for InspirationEverything we've mentioned above has led to one conclusion: cookbooks are a good way to get inspiration for your meals, but they're not the ultimate resource for eating healthy. Cookbooks can give you awesome ideas for new flavor profiles or new combinations of ingredients. You can find recipes that will help you to add spice and variety to your meals. However, you shouldn't follow the cookbooks precisely. The ingredients used in the various recipes and the cooking methods don't always lead to healthy meals.
Make Your Own Healthy RecipesInstead of following cookbook recipes to the letter, use them to make your own healthy recipes. For example, find your favorite stir-fried rice dish and add more veggies, mix in brown rice, and use low-sodium soy sauce. Instead of deep frying your favorite hot wings recipe, try baking them before tossing them in the sauce. Look for ways to add more veggies to your recipes and improve the nutritional content of your meals. More fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants, and less sugar, starches, fried foods, and empty calories. Cookbooks can help you to find an assortment of recipes, but it's up to you to adapt those recipes to what you know about healthy eating principles.