COOKBOOK REVIEW: A prescription for good eating

“The Nutritionist’s Kitchen: Transform Your Diet and Discover the Healing Powers of Whole Foods” by Carly Knowles (Roost Books, $24.95)

Carly Knowles was living in a remote village in northern Peru without running water or electricity when she had a life-changing epiphany.

A recent college graduate, she was working for a nonprofit whose mission was to help impoverished communities adopt healthier lifestyles. She embraced the challenge of assembling creative combos with whatever ingredients were available: white rice, lard, plantains, lemongrass, and dehydrated meat for special occasions.

But soon enough, the novelty wore off. Deprived of fresh produce and protein, she put on weight and felt increasingly sluggish. She also began to notice the white spots growing on the villagers’ eyes. Bitot’s spots, she learned, are a sign of vitamin A deficiency, a leading cause of blindness in developing nations. A deeper study revealed that this essential nutrient was found in all kinds of common foods, from carrots to kale to eggs.

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“Food as medicine,” she realized, was much more than a catchy headline in a food magazine. What we eat really can prevent disease and heal our bodies. “I was hooked,” she writes in the introduction to “The Nutritionist’s Kitchen: Transform Your Diet and Discover the Healing Powers of Whole Foods” (Roost Books, $24.95).

Knowles is now a registered dietitian nutritionist who counsels patients, teaches cooking classes, and develops recipes for healthy food and cookware brands.

Her first book sets a friendly tone in helping us customize our own healthy eating plans with a sensible strategy anyone can follow. She delves into concepts such as mindfulness, balance, and eco-conscious shopping before showing us how to apply those principles in simple, seasonal recipes. The Spicy Three Bean Chili I served one wintry evening is both vegan and gluten-free, yet satisfying enough to make the carnivores at my table head for seconds. Whole Roasted Chicken with Maple Root Vegetables will be another meal soon.

And the five ingredients for Cashew Butter Stuffed Dates with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt are awaiting me on the counter. I can taste its healing powers already.

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Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at