Cooking Light: The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook

Change Your Habits & Results Will Follow

Cooking Light: The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook
Photo Courtesy Janet Helm

"Cooking Light: The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook" is technically a cookbook but a more apt title might be "guidebook" because it teaches you everything you need to know about making a total healthy lifestyle change.

We already know what we should be doing to improve our longevity through daily diet and exercise, but actually doing those things is another matter entirely. This book is based on Cooking Light magazine's "12 Healthy Habits," a year-long series about lifestyle changes that offers a 12-month program that will have you eating better and exercising more, one habit at a time.

This is a solid guide to better eating and exercise habits, presented in an engaging and easy-to-follow format. If you're willing to be patient, you'll see results with this as your guidebook.


  • User-friendly design, easy to follow
  • Focuses on building habits rather than results
  • Presents a clear action plan for each habit
  • Lots of practical tips and tools
  • Offers solutions for stumbling blocks you may encounter
  • Encourages patience since habits take time to establish
  • For readers wanting more structure and sample menus, a 6-week plan is provided
  • Promotes trying new things, which can help break down older, less-helpful patterns


  • Long-term plan might be difficult for some readers to stick with

The Value of Healthy Habits

"This is not a diet book," Janet Helm, author and registered dietician writes. "The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook" is a road map to improve your eating and exercise habits. I think the book's greatest strength is that it offers a number of very specific, tangible strategies to establish and entrench healthy daily routines that support eating well and moving more.

In my opinion, so many diet and exercise fall short because they provide all sorts of directives that require lots of thought and attention. Once life gets busy and you're forced to attend to other priorities, you have no structure to keep those healthy behaviors in place. It's valuable to know which choices are healthy, but perhaps more effective to move them from the realm of conscious choice to the bastion of boring habit instead.

The more automatic the action, the more lasting the behavior, because you don't have to weigh whether you want to do it or not; you just do it.

Helm tells me much of the advice is based on new science investigating how habits are formed.

"So many books talk about what we need to do to be healthy: what to eliminate and avoid, and they demonize certain foods," she says. "This book is all about the 'how,' with really specific, concrete steps on how to implement the change into your own life."

So how do you establish strong habits? "The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook" lays out a series of 12 specific instructions, each of which is to be tackled for a period of a month. For example, Habit No. 1 is "Cook at last three more meals per week." This advice is based on the statistic that eating in a restaurant will typically have you consuming 50 percent more calories, and will likely ramp up your consumption of salt and saturated fat.

This chapter offers strategies to prepare better for home cooking, with advice on what items to keep stocked in your fridge and pantry, as well as how to bulk-cook and then freeze for future dinners and how to cooperate in the kitchen with other family members to make cooking from scratch easier.

In addition, the chapter offers recipes - it is called a cookbook, after all - and ideas for new ingredient pairings such as innovative pizza toppings and lower-calorie and varied options for traditional Mexican meals.

Other chapters focus on building a healthy breakfast each day, eating three servings of whole grains for longevity-boosting fiber, increasing vegetable consumption and reducing salt intake. Segments in each chapter offer a "coaching session" from an expert in that area of lifestyle change, as well as quotes from readers that highlight day-to-day challenges in making the new habits stick.

How to Use This Book

Helm recommends focusing on one of the prescribed habits at a time and working on that habit for a full month. While it's not necessary to tackle them in order, some build on others. For example, the first chapter/habit promotes cooking more meals at home, and if you get that practice firmly in place, others, like boosting your intake of vegetables or cutting your salt consumption, might be easier to address. By focusing on practicing each habit for a full month, you'll reinforce the patterns to help you stick with it for good.

Author Helm cautions her book offers no wide-scale quick fix.

"Habit formation is a long-term proposition," she says. "I want people to get off the diet merry-go-round, learn to eat for a lifetime, and establish healthy behaviors to make these habits stick."

For more information about the book, you can go to Helm's website Nutrition Unplugged.

See Also


Janet Helm, RD. Cooking Light: The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook: Great Food and Expert Advice That Will Change Your Life. Oxmoor House. 2012.