The BDA’s guide to the latest diet and cookery books in 2017

The BDA’s guide to the latest diet and cookery books in 2017

13 January 2017

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) today releases a review of five of the latest diet and cookery books including (in no particular order): Lean for Life The Cookbook; Clean Eating Alice – Eat Well Everyday; How to Lose Weight Well; Tom’s Daily Plan; and Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,500 members.

2017 has seen yet another raft of new diet plans and cook books enter an already crowded marketplace. With all these options available, it is hard for the public to know which of these books will help them live a healthier lifestyle. Whether you are looking to lose weight, improve your appearance or  increase your energy levels, you need to know if advice is based on scientific evidence or whether you are more likely to just lose £££s rather than pounds.  

To help make things clearer, the BDA asked some of its expert dietitians to take a look at five of the biggest new releases.


The Louise Parker Method – Lean for Life: The Cookbook, by Louise Parker

The good

The book focuses on a healthy lifestyle and moving away from ‘dieting’ and ‘fads’, which is very positive. It myth busts some of the ‘clean eating’ trends of 2016 such as coconut oil and gluten and dairy free diets. It has some good tips to support you in a healthy lifestyle and contains some fairly quick, simple recipes that could be useful for healthy meals after work.

The bad

As this is mainly a cookbook, there is minimal information about what constitutes a healthy balanced diet. For example, the author mentions including ‘low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates’ and ‘good fats’ in your diet, but doesn’t expand on what these are or why they may be beneficial. As part of the dietary advice it advises watching your portion sizes but doesn’t describe what appropriate portion sizes look like. The recipes are mainly based on protein and vegetables, and lack a portion of slow releasing carbohydrates such as wholegrain pasta or rice. If you skimp on these slow release carbohydrates, you may not have enough energy to do the exercise that Louise advises in the book and may end up snacking on foods high in fat and sugar instead. Louise does say that this method is not encouraging people to cut carbohydrates out but does say ‘keep carbohydrates on the lower side’. This goes against Public Health England’s recommendations that starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of the food we eat, which is also vital in increasing fibre intake, which is essential for good health.

Overall verdict

The cookbook may be useful for those who already have a sound knowledge of a healthy diet, however it may be quite confusing for others. The idea of long-term lifestyle change is very positive, however more wholegrain carbohydrates need to be included in the main meal, for slow releasing energy.

For evidence-based information on portion sizes and GI, view our FREE Food Fact Sheets:


Clean Eating Alice – Eat Well Everydayby Alice Liveing

The good:

Clean Eating Alice – Eat Well Everyday is the latest recipe book from blogger, author and personal trainer Alice Liveing. It follows her first book, The Body BibleEating Well Every Day relies heavily on the hope that the reader will know Alice’s story however the book gives a brief discussion about Alice’s approach to diet with no mention of the troublesome term ‘clean eating’. Her approach seems sensible with recommendations to make small, long-term and sustainable changes with a focus on enjoyable movement, positive mind-set and a balanced eating plan – no quick fixes here. On the whole the book keeps to a balanced nutrition guideline with no omissions in food groups. The recipes include a broad range of realistic meals and smoothies which seem to be relatively simple, well balanced nutritionally and, for the most part, are made up of everyday and affordable ingredients. Serving sizes are generally for one or two, which is positive.

The bad:

The book contains a short section on nutrition but this provides only very basic information and contains some inaccuracies (for example, Alice states that an apple is a "simple carbohydrate" when in fact apples do contain useful fibre that slows down the absorption of the simple carbohydrates). There is also no "tie in" between the nutrition information section and the recipes so you are left wondering why the recipes provided are anything special when it comes to nutritional quality. 

Overall verdict:

This book is a collection of nice recipes to accompany the initial Body Bible and definitely one for her existing fans. The recipes are clearly written by someone who enjoys food and has a well-rounded approach to healthy eating. However, some of the areas of nutritional advice could do with being updated. Additionally, it’s a shame Alice uses the term ’clean eating’ as it can be interpreted by some to mean the exclusion of some important food groups that can result in deficiencies.

For evidence-based information on carbohydrates and sugar, view our FREE Food Fact Sheets.


How to lose weight well, by Dr Xand Van Tulleken (with recipes by Georgina Davies)

The good

This 200 page book supports the TV programme of the same name, but focuses on what we should be eating. It includes 70 recipes, which take up about three quarters of the book. Dr Xand uses his personal experience of losing six stone alongside his medical training to present a generally sensible dietary plan for weight loss.

The first part presents his “four steps to losing weight well”, all containing sound advice, helping individuals to focus on their personal issues to lose weight successfully.  For example, he asks you to consider “why am I trying to lose weight?” and “what are the main barriers to my success?”

The book is based on calorie counting, avoiding processed food completely and eating food based on one ingredient. There is a focus on eating lots of vegetables and salads. He advises avoiding all nutritional pills, diet pills and to avoid blending or juicing food. He also advocates using a calorie tracker to monitor food intake and activity.

The bad

As the recipes are mainly based on vegetables and protein, whilst this diet is not promoted as a low-carb diet, essentially it is, which can leave you hungry and missing out on vital nutrients such as fibre – really important for the health of your gut.  Although he encourages individual choice, there are three meal plans, based on eating either one, two or three meals a day. You will most likely lose weight on any of the plans if you follow them – the three-meal plan provides around 1300kcals per day, while the one-meal a day only provides about 750kcals per day – so expect to be hungry, especially keeping in mind that the average male and female needs 2500 and 2000 calories daily respectively, to maintain weight.  A mix and match approach to the meal plans is most likely. On one-meal a day, the diet is also low in several nutrients, but especially lacking in calcium, so we would advise adding some milk or yogurt into the plan if you are going to follow this in the longer term.

Overall verdict:

Overall this book provides reasonably sensible diet advice, although the plan is too low in some vital nutrients such as calcium and fibre to follow long term. If you are a young professional who enjoys food, it may be a good book to give a go, and you might just get some new ideas to jazz up your veg.

For evidence-based information on calcium, view our FREE Food Fact Sheet:


Tom’s Daily Plan, by Tom Daley

The good

Tom’s Daily Plan is filled with pictures of Tom looking marvellously fit and healthy, hopefully encouraging the readers to make some changes in their health behaviour. The book uses many of the fashionable and questionable food and lifestyle trends including spiralising, hacks, protein boosts, and coconut oil but thankfully none of these are over-emphasised. Ingredients are recognisable and most would be found in the nearest corner shop, and Tom nearly completely avoids the addition of difficult to find, expensive, and on-trend “superfoods”.  Most of the meals are high in fibre and many include the addition of seeds, legumes and vegetables. The inclusion of daily exercise workouts is a welcome addition to this recipe book too. Tom’s plan also follows the broad messages of our national healthy eating guidelines which is helpful for people at home struggling with so many conflicting nutrition messages in the media. 

The bad

There is a slight over-focus on protein consumption in this book and some of the recipes could be improved by increasing the fruit and vegetable content.

Overall verdict

This book contains a good mix of vegetarian, fish and meat meals, with high fibre content and most are very easy to prepare and suitable for the whole family. However it would be good to see the inclusion of more fruit and vegetables and less of a focus on protein.

For evidence-based information on fruit and vegetables, view our FREE Food Fact Sheet:

Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet; my low-carb, stay-happy way to lose weight, by Tom Kerridge

The good:

When Chef Tom Kerridge hit 40, he felt that the combination of being older and weighing more did not bode well (especially when combined with fresh fatherhood). However in the last three years he has managed to lose three stone in weight (about 20 kilograms), which is a great achievement especially while still working in kitchens as a chef.

This book is a colourful presentation of beautiful recipes. Kerridge describes his decision to eliminate all alcohol from his diet before adding that he cut out nearly all carbohydrates, and describes his current intakes as below 90g per day. Swapping a “small steak and chips to big steak and greens” is his diet formula, and cutting out all alcohol and starchy and sweet foods is a very effective way to reduce intakes of energy (calories).

The bad:

This is one of many books describing low carbohydrate dieting, but his specific claim that protein foods bring joy (because they contain tyrosine, which convert to dopamine in the brain, which make you happy) is a massive over-promise based on very theoretical concepts. There are no human studies showing that more proteins in the diet translate to more dopamine levels in brain tissue, which lead to better diet adherence. In fact alternative claims based on stronger science supports the opposite: more carbohydrate increases tryptophan levels in brain tissue, which increase serotonin, which may make you content, so cutting out carbohydrates is not necessarily beneficial.

Overall verdict

There are many ways to eat less, and Tom Kerridges’s way works for him. It may also work for others, and his many recipes could be an inspiration to start eating less and eating better. However dopamine levels in the brain are not the explanation and cutting out carbohydrates may make meeting fibre recommendations difficult.

For evidence-based information on carbohydrates, view our FREE Food Fact Sheet:


What’s the BDA view?

The reality is that if something sounds too good to be true, than it probably is and there is no quick fix approach to weight loss and a healthier you, though many products and diet and cookery books are marketed this way.

Be particularly wary of diets that ask you to unnecessarily eliminate foods that provide key nutrients – remember, unless you have a medically diagnosed intolerance or allergy to foods like dairy, gluten and wholegrains, there is no need to eliminate them and doing so could lead to deficiencies in your diet.

Think about a sustainable eating pattern that you can maintain for life – something you can realistically stick to in the long-term, not just for a month or two. This means having a balanced-diet containing a wide variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes.

For FREE advice on a healthy diet and weight loss, visit the BDA’s Food Fact Sheets online:


Notes to the editor:

  • Visit the BDA website at
  • These reviews have not been ordered deliberately.
  • These reviews can be published separately if required. Please contact the BDA Press Office team if you intend to use a single review, as we may be able to provide additional content. Interviews with individual reviewers can be arranged on request.
  • All reviews were conducted individually on books purchased independently by the BDA. The BDA has had no contact with any of the publishers of these books. Titles were chosen based in part on their pre-sale ranking in December 2016.
  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non-Government Organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.


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