Few conversations can bring a bookworm out of his or her shell faster than a request for reading recommendations. Much to my delight, people from all walks of life are now embracing nutrition and wellness with a frenzied, passion-like curiosity. And guess what — they’re looking for something to read! While no one book can bottle up my entire education and experience into a practical, easy-to-read volume, I will happily supply recommendations for those wanting to learn more.
Not to worry — there are no dense nutrition textbooks or food anthologies on this list. Rather, I’m sharing some of my favorite, easy to read book nutrition related books from the popular press. I also included four of my favorite food systems books, for those that want to dig deeper and approach nutrition on a public health scale.
Nutrition & Wellness 101: What to Eat and How to Eat It
The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who Live the Longest, by Dan Buettner // This book investigates cultures around the world that live the longest, emphasizing the importance of achievable, enjoyable lifestyles and habits, rather than extreme regimens. The diversity of traditions represented demonstrate why small choices (black beans versus bok choy) aren’t as important as overall dietary patterns (eating lots of vegetables).
Disease-Proof, by David Katz // Although not every chapter of this book is devoted specifically to diet and food choices, it is a great handbook for anyone striving to take better care of their body. Dr. Katz not only addresses goals that are relevant to living healthier, but also the skills needed to make these goals a reality. (I blogged a longer review in a previous post.)
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan // While not an outright guidebook on what to eat, this is one of the clearest, most beautifully written explanations of the way that our food is grown and processed matters, and why farm fresh food and scratch cooking are wiser alternatives to packaged “health foods” and standard American fare.
French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, by Karen Le Billon // This memoir follows the triumphs (and failures) of a North American family attempting to expand their picky palates and embrace real food (and table manners) throughout their year in France. The lessons can be applied to any life stage, even if you don’t have children. Most importantly, Le Billon reminds us not to lose sight of the big picture. After all, green vegetables cooked in butter are certainly more nutritious than opting for highly processed snack foods with no veggies at all.
Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, by Brian Wansink// Dr. Wansink is a firm believer that “it’s easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind.” This book offers plenty of practical tips to make nutritious choices the easy, default choices, applying data from the author’s behavioral research lab. Picking up from Dr. Wansink’s 2006 book, Mindless Eating, this follow up is even more user friendly, complete with illustrated blueprints on how to makeover your food environment to eliminate the triggers that cause mindless eating and overeating.(I blogged a longer review in a previous post.)
Extra Credit: Exploring Our Food System
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss // By now, we know that fast food and highly packaged junk foods (chips, soda, etc) are bad news. But if you wonder why these foods continue to engulf our communities and tickle our senses, Moss’s expose on the food industry is the perfect place to start.
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber // Celebrity chef Dan Barber’s tome is a refreshingly solutions-based approach to addressing the plagues of industrial food production. From aquaculture to soil health, Barber gets his hands dirty to find the best ways that chefs, farmers, and consumers can come together and get our food system (and our land) back in shape.
Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, by Mark Winne // Drawing from his personal experience in urban food activism, Mark Winne illustrates how truly sustainable food systems should address the needs of all participants, not just the wealthy minority. This book is a humble reminder that reforming our food system is not just a hobby for the well-to-do, but is directly in line with the changes needed to help end hunger and improve nutrition in America.
World Hunger: Ten Myths, by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins // Yes, this is the book that I helped research – an experience that taught me so much about our food economy and food production system. Lappé and Collins go beyond admonishing industrial agricultural monopolies and praising sustainable agriculture – they actually demonstrate that agroecology is in fact better suited to feed a growing population.