Best (Easy to Read) Nutrition and Wellness Books

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.

Best Easy-to-Read Nutrition Books (according to a Dietitian)

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.

– Kelly

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Healthy Habit Skillpower for the New Year + Book Recs

Healthy Habit Skillpower for the New Year + Book Recommendations

The beginning of January is a magical time in the health world. Kale smoothies are more exciting than dessert. Running 26 miles looks fun. Salads are the norm. But sometime between the winter blizzards and the Valentine’s Day candy, the new year’s magic starts to wear off.

Disease Proof by David KatzMany people have the desire and motivation to adopt a healthier lifestyle, they simply lack the way. That’s where building skillpower comes in. While deciding to make more nutritious food choices is an important step, just as important is coming up with a game plan for how do it. One great book that teaches this strategy is Disease Proof, by Dr. David Katz.

In this book, Katz not only addresses goals that are relevant to living healthier, but also the skills needed to make these goals a reality. For example, see this excerpt from chapter 9 about how to eat healthy outside of the home…

Excerpt from Disease Proof

Each chapter features a different challenge, and then expands on how to adopt the skills that are relevant to healthy behavior change. For anyone that wants to live healthier, but doesn’t know how to begin or why they can’t seem to make it work, Dr. Katz’s book is a great place to start.

SlimByDesign-RevCover2Another book filled with strategies for a healthier life is Slim by Design, by Dr. Brian Wansink. His approach to healthy eating is as follows:

“For 90 percent of us, the solution to mindless eating is not mindful eating–our lives are just too crazy and our willpower’s too wimpy. Instead, the solution is to tweak small things in our homes, favorite restaurants, supermarkets, workplaces, and schools so we mindlessly eat less and better instead of more.”

This book offers plenty of practical tips to make nutritious choices the easy, default choices. After all, Dr. Wansink is a firm believer that “it’s easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind.” In other words, it is easier to eat healthy foods when you stock your refrigerator with your favorite nutritious meals and ingredients, rather than with soda and junk food. Keeping yummy, nutrient rich food around the house is the key here, as Wansink warns that empty kitchens can make you fat because they cause you to eat elsewhere.

How are you planning to live healthier this year?

– Kelly

Sustainable Aquaculture Video and Book Recommendations

Despite the fact that many species of fish are endangered and over-fished, seafood has been gaining attention as a potential solution to feed a growing population. Coming up on the blog I have an interview with a local fishmonger and fellow gastronomy student who knows a thing or two about responsible aquaculture. Until then, here a few video and book recommendations to tie you over…

Sustainable Aquaculture Video Recommendations:

To learn more about the pros and cons of farmed fish, check out this entertaining TED talk from witty Chef Dan Barber.

Since moving to Boston, I have had the pleasure of seeing Chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver speak twice at various events. In the TED talk below, hear his take on the sustainable seafood movement.

Sustainable Aquaculture Book Recommendations:

sustainable aquaculture book & video recommendations

In Four Fish, author Paul Greenberg focuses on America’s four favorite fish (salmon, seabass, cod, and tuna) to explain how aquaculture morphed into it’s current state, and offers suggestions to set us on a more sustainable path.

Sustainable Aquaculture Video & Book Recommendations

The Perfect Protein, by Andy Sharpless, is a relatively new release (May 2013) that explores the role of seafood in feeding our growing population. With a foreword written by former President Bill Clinton, this pick has been getting lots of buzz.

Sustainable Aquaculture Video & Book recommendations

If you enjoyed Barton Seaver’s TED talk above, then check out his first cookbook, For Cod and Country.

Check back soon for the interview!

– Kelly