5 Cookbooks for When You Want to Cook Healthy Food Fast

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Sarah Nicolas

Staff Writer

Sarah Nicolas is a recovering mechanical engineer, library event planner, and author who lives in Orlando with a 60-lb mutt who thinks he’s a chihuahua. Sarah writes YA novels as Sarah Nicolas and romance under the name Aria Kane. When not writing, they can be found playing volleyball or drinking wine. Find them on Twitter @sarah_nicolas.

As someone with a couple annoying food allergies, I end up cooking most of my own meals at home, even before the pandemic made eating out more difficult. I try to eat healthy, whole foods including lots of vegetables and stay away from processed foods laden with additives (some of which I’m allergic to). I tend to eat what I call a “Paleo Plus” diet, which means I make a lot of foods from paleo recipes and then put them on top of rice or put cheese on top of them — or both, honestly.

But those kinds of meals often take a lot of time to prep, so I’m always on the lookout for healthy meals I can make quickly. Here are five cookbooks I turn to when I don’t want to spend all night in the kitchen.

Hungry Girl Fast & Easy by Lisa Lillien

There are dozens of recipes in this book that take 10–15 minutes to put together. Since we always eat with our eyes first, I love that this book has a picture of every single recipe. From one-pot recipes to mug cakes to sheet pan meals, there are a lot of great veggie-loaded options here. There’s even a section that lists all the no-cook options. Plus almost all of the recipes are made with ingredients you can find in almost any grocery store, which is great because I live in a rural area.

KOREAN PALEO by Jean Choi cover

Korean Paleo: 80 Bold-Flavored, Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes by Jean Choi

I feel best when I can stick to mostly paleo foods and bibimbap is a go-to for a simple and satisfying meal, so this book is a natural choice for me. Jean Choi has designed paleo versions of meals from her family’s cookbook. Some recipes are definitely more complicated and take more time than others, but there are a some simple gems in here. You’ll also find a guide to condiments and ingredients in the back of the book.

Fit Men Cook: 100+ Meal Prep Recipes for Men and Women by Kevin Curry

Not only are there some great meal prep recipes in here, they’re delivered with a dose of high energy and positivity. I often make the air fryer German pancakes, which was the first recipe I tried in this book. One day I’m going to borrow a waffle iron and make those Southern-Inspired Banana Corn Waffles. Bonuses include tips on how to meal plan and grocery lists.

Budget Bytes cover

Budget Bytes by Beth Moncel

The Budget Bytes blog is a go-to for me, and Beth’s cookbook is a must-have. Her recipes are always delicious, simple, and inexpensive without sacrificing anything in the way of health — the author has a degree in nutritional science. Bonus: You’ll also save money. Beth is the reason I have chopped veggies ready to go in the freezer in case of a stir-fry emergency.

Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo Hardcover

Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong

I often turn to paleo recipes when my body’s feeling off and I need a reset, and I turn to Nom Nom Paleo for a lot of those recipes so I was thrilled when the team came out with this book. It offers make-ahead meals for those busy weeks, info on using pantry staples and leftovers to improvise, and emergency super-fast meals.

I turn to these cookbooks when I’m tired but want to avoid takeout that might set off my food allergies, so I hope they’ll help you cook wholesome food more often at home. And if you add (more) cheese to all the recipes, let’s just say I am certainly in no position to judge.