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How Do I Start Cooking Healthy Meals?

Photo: Morgan Dessalles

Before she co-founded cult wellness and beauty shop CAP Beauty alongside Kerrilynn Pamer, Cindy DiPrima was a stressed-out New Yorker, living what she calls “a very hot-and-cold life of juice cleanses and partying.” But a few years ago, she made the decision to commit to healthy eating under the premise that beauty begins with a good diet.

“I remember one of my dear friends’ mom was macrobiotic growing up, and I was just fascinated by her diet and her commitment to it,” she says. “I was amazed by the idea that that was a choice. You could live a certain way and stick to it.” DiPrima’s own eating habits consist almost entirely of fruit and vegetables these days, an approach she stresses isn’t necessarily for everyone. But there is a way to flirt with her lifestyle, starting with some great health-minded cookbooks. Here are her favorites.

“I think this is a beautiful book for someone just getting into healthy eating because the food is really approachable and delicious, and her palate is just really refined. She does a lot of amazing combinations of flavors. I love the quinoa congee and the curried socca with cilantro-coconut chutney. There are also lots of veggie salads and slaws like her arame-carrot salad with sesame.”

“Alice Waters wrote the book on vegetables and it’s organized alphabetically by vegetables. You look up cabbage and you get a whole chapter of recipes of different things to do with cabbage. I love this book because it really helped me loosen up and figure out really how to cook and not just how to follow a recipe. There’s an eggplant-caviar recipe in there that I’ve made at almost every cocktail party I’ve ever thrown for 20 years, and it’s just a phenom. You can go to the store and buy what looks great and then come home and look at the book and figure out what to make.”

“As a mom just feeding a hungry, athletic dad and two little ones, I don’t think they ever don’t have a batch of her gluten-free muffins in the freezer, and I put them in lunch boxes almost every day. It’s just a great recipe. Really simple, easy, and doable. I’ve used that book quite a lot, I have to say.”

“Mollie Katzen is the original chef and owner of Moosewood Restaurant, which was like a famous vegetarian restaurant from the ’70s in Ithaca. Her original books were kind of cream and dairy heavy and not really at all how I eat, but this newer book is organized in a very similar way to the Chez Panisse veggies book and has recipes based on the vegetable, and uses a lot of amazing Asian flavors. There are these spaghetti squash pancakes and things like that that are great substantial vegetable dishes that can be the base of a meal.”

How Do I Start Cooking Healthy Meals?