A review of The Health Cookbook by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Health Cookbook
Australian Women’s Weekly (ACP Publishing)
Food Director: Pamela Clark
128 pp, ISBN:9781863968423, paperback, Aug 2008, $22.95rrp (aud)

I think that there comes a point in your life when you have to either decide to live as healthily as possible, or expect to have things begin to go wrong healthwise. You can often get away with things when you’re young – over indulgence, too little fruit and veg and too much junk food – that your body won’t hack when you’re over forty. That’s not to say that children shouldn’t be eating healthy. Healthy habits are the basis for a long, high energy, happy life. Nor is it to say that you shouldn’t occasionally have an indulgence. But understanding good nutrition and ensuring that, in the main, your diet is as healthy as possible, is something that suddenly becomes critical as get older.

As is the Australian Women’s Weekly’s wont, their latest book is very simple to read; written like a lengthy magazine article, and highly stylised. The images are crisp and enticing, and the information set out clearly. The book begins with 36 pages of nutritional information, including wellbeing diet principles, information on antioxidants, fats, foods that fight diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, bowel disorders, osteoporosis, arthritis, and menopause symptoms. There is also information on the most recent food research and special “hero” foods that are particularly rich in nutrients and antioxidants, along with a table of serving sizes, and a weight loss meal plan.
After that, the rest of the book is recipes: breakfasts, snacks, drinks, vegetables, salads, chicken, meat, fruit and teas. All of the items listed are well-balanced, reasonably easy to make, and healthy. Each recipe contains information on the preparation and cooking time, as well detailed nutritional information, and is accompanied by a photograph for inspiration (I always find it difficult to cook something new without a photo for reference). While the dishes aren’t at all complex, many of them are innovative, and will help provide ideas on how to get the whole family eating better. The tofu-zucchini patties for example, contain 3 zucchinis, and an awful lot of high quality protein and fibre, and they can be eaten as an accompaniment or a snack. The Kofta with date chutney and spiced eggplant is just a kind of chicken meatball, but it’s a fancy Indian treat nice enough to serve guests. Take away the chilli, and you can serve it to your children.

I really liked the smaller 20cm size of this book, which makes it easier to work with than a large size book, but it’s still large enough to make a nice gift book and present a great accompanying image for each recipe. It isn’t all savoury either. There are delicious desserts that are healthy enough for a main course, like the berry-muesli baked apples, or the homemade lime, grapefruit or blood orange sorbet.

The key thing with healthy eating is to make it a regular habit. If you eat in the way that this book suggests, you’ll just be healthier, and it certainly won’t feel like a diet or privation in any way. Colourful, easy to make food that is as attractive as it is delicious. What else could you ask for in a cookbook?

About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, and Quark Soup.