Call me crazy, but I LOOOOOVE cookbooks.   I read them like a book – from cover to cover – because so many times some of the best information is in the introduction.  I recently received the Family Circle Healthy Family Dinners cookbook and while this book is a bit sparse in that area, what is there is phenomenally useful.

First they discuss how the recipes were put together and what makes them “healthy.”  They share that the recipes were created “using the latest dietary and nutritional science available.” The fats and salts in the recipes are kept to a minimum with the goal of not sacrificing flavor. That’s very important to me as my very skinny and very fit husband has recently found his blood pressure was high.  After two weeks of limiting his sodium intake, his bp is back in the normal range, but we want to keep it there.  Any any family, not just older folks like us, should limit their fat and salt intake as both can lead to eating more of it and having weight and health issues.

The dinners in the book are designed to have no more than 500 calories per serving and no more than 18 grams of fat.  Sodium is kept to 800 milligrams or less (still a lot but well below the average).  They also suggest fresh fruit for dessert (although I generally serve it as part of dinner), but they do provide dessert recipes when you want a little something more.  Their desserts are 200 calories or less per serving and 6 grams or less of fat.

So that’s what I like about the book.  Lots of recipes that fit the way my family eats.  Even vegetarian options for me.  I love that I know I can make anything in the book and feel confident that it truly is a healthy options.  “At Family Circle, we are committed to providing our readers with everything they need to make healthy, great-tasting recipes for the families,” says Linda Fears, Editor-in-Chief.  “Family Circle Healthy Family Dinners in the perfect resource for quick, easy and nutritious meals the entire family will love.”

What I don’t like about the book are the pictures.  Half of the recipes are photographed; however, I prefer books that share photos of all of the recipes – first because it gives me a clue about how the recipe should turn out and secondly, because I can generally tell from a photo if my family will enjoy it.  So good photos and lots of them are a must for me.  But the photos published in the Family Circle Healthy Family Dinners cookbook lackluster and uninspiring.  The coloring and lighting are off which makes the food look bland and the props are mostly non-existent.  It’s a shame, because it makes “healthy” food look washed out and boring and I know that’s not the case.  With so many amateur food bloggers taking phenomenal photos of their food, I’m not sure why such a big title turned in such a poor piece of work.

Family Circle Healthy Family Dinners Cookbook

Still,  Family Circle Healthy Family Dinners is a fabulous cookbook on its own and worthy of a purchase for the quality of the recipes and the detailed nutritional information provided for each.  This book is perfect for the first-time cook or seasoned veteran.  Simple recipes like Mom’s Pot Roast with Potato-Cauliflower Mash to more complex flavors like Rainbow Chard & White Bean Casserole should mean that anyone can find a plethora of recipes to make for their family.

Will it make a great gift? Yes.  This is the kind of cookbook your recipient will go to time-after-time. The traditional “gift cookbooks” are more for show.   They’re generally huge tomes that are hardbound and weigh as much as a small child and rarely see the light of day in the kitchen. Plus specially marked books include a FREE one-year subscription to Family Circle magazine (find the card in the back of the book).  If you’d prefer not to get the magazine, you can send the card in for a $6 refund.  But try the magazine, it’s the one magazine I’ve been subscribed to for about 30 years.

I’m keeping this book for myself, but I may pick up an extra for the mother-in-law.  Evidently high blood pressure runs in the family as the father-in-law is on a salt-restricted diet as well.

Title:  Family Circle Healthy Family Dinners – more than 200 good-for-you recipes

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470945028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470945025