New year nutrition books: avoiding the hype

It’s the time of year when a raft of new nutrition and diet books takes over the display at Waterstones, plugging brand new and innovative ways to eat, live and lose all the Christmas pounds.  I usually buy a selection as I like to see what people are touting as the next big thing in diets, mainly so that I can advise my clients that whatever writers are pushing, it’s usually too generic to be of much use to someone with individual needs and requirements. When asked what someone needs to do to become healthier or reduce body fat, my answer will always be ‘it depends’, because I don’t know your health and diet history, lifestyle, eating preferences or goals.

This year, I have got my hands on the new Amelia Freer, Cook Nourish Glow, James Duigan’s new addition to the Clean and Lean stable of titles, and Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite.  I have very few qualms about recommending these titles, as they tend to stay away from the ‘superfood’-crazy books that seem to keep appearing, using copious quantities of expensive ingredients like coconut oil and acai powder.  The recipes are for the most part accessible, and you can opt out of using the expensive protein powders and supplements recommended without really affecting the outcome. Erskine’s recipes in particular are comforting and delicious, made with strong flavours drawn from Korean cuisine to spice things up. Who could resist baked porridge on a cold winter morning or one of her one pot slow cooked stews?

duigan freer erskine

I am however unlikely to buy the new Ella Woodward or Hemsley + Hemsley, because I haven’t cooked much from their previous titles. I don’t have time to make my own bone broth (just call it stock, please!) or afford some of the more recherché ingredients. I also can’t be bothered to activate my nuts.  Woodward’s recipes are tooth-achingly sweet for me, using huge amounts of dates and maple syrup in everything.  Even one of my nutrition clients who chose it as their free book (part of the three month programme provision) decided it was too high in sugar for them to cook from, and that’s saying something.  I do have a soft spot for Sarah Wilson, as refined sugar really doesn’t have a place in our daily diets, so I might give her new title, Simplicious, a whirl when I have got over the cost of Christmas!

However, one thing you need to bear in mind when you encounter the almost evangelical fervour that surrounds these books and their authors, is that Woodward and Wilson in particular used dramatic changes in their diets to combat serious illnesses: the rare Postural Tachycardia Syndrome for Woodward and Hashimoto’s for Wilson.  These writers are naturally going to be pushing the diet that solved their problems as the way forward for more people to be healthy.

I am absolutely not rubbishing these authors; many of their readers have made very positive changes by using their recipes and principles.  All I am saying is you don’t need to adopt one person’s view, especially if their health history is very different from your own. If you don’t have particular health problems, remember that simply eating more vegetables, listening to your body so that you only eat when you are genuinely hungry, and cutting back on refined, processed foods is a huge step forward in being healthy, as is getting moving every day. You don’t need to go crazy with expensive, specialist ingredients or buy into what worked for someone else, but may well not work for you.

Please use these books for inspiration and to get yourself into the kitchen – I’d love to see you all cooking more meals from real ingredients and feeling good. But please don’t just buy into a marketing campaign without thinking about what your individual requirements are – until my own nutrition book comes out, of course, and then I will expect you all to be following it religiously 😉  Happy cooking!