REVIEW – Joyous Health, Eat & Live Well without Dieting by Joy McCarthy

12 Jan


Thank you to Penguin Canada for making this review possible!

It’s another new year and we’re being bombarded with calls to try new diets, take new supplements, exercise more and be better versions of ourselves! One of the “food movements” (a certain nutritionist objected to my usage of the term “food trend”) still going strong in 2014 is gluten-free alternatives.* We have a treat for you, dear readers, in the form of Joy McCarthy’s new cookbook Joyous Health, Eat & Live Well without Dieting (Penguin Canada).

Joy is a Toronto based nutritionist. She’s Global TV’s resident holistic health expert. She runs a pretty successful blog and consultation service. I discovered her while I was recovering from my knee surgery. I liked all the little tips she had to help make one’s diet healthier. She turned me onto smoothies and kale in a big way. Her approach to food is: integrate lots of veggies! So while her book is heavy on gluten-free/ vegan options, she doesn’t eschew fatty fish and lean fowl from her recipes.

Recipes we’ve tried:

  • Metabolism-Booster Breakfast Smoothie (p.17): Great way to get your kale in the morning! The portion can easily be halved for one serving.
  • Anti-Bloat Stomach Calming Tea (p.43): A standard in my house for indigestion and upset stomachs.
  • Coconut Flour Banana Pancakes (p.148): Word of warning: the flour needed for this recipe was pretty expensive. These pancakes look great and smelled like the perfect comfort food. The texture was lacking (HoM says it was the gluten that was missing).
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf w/ Coconut Icing (p. 268): I love lemon loaf and this wasn’t what I expected in terms of aroma or mouth feel. It’s a bit dense in texture. I imagine the coconut icing is supposed to add moisture and lightness. I would probably double the lemon juice for flavour next time. I’m not an expert baker but I wonder whether the recipe’s instructions were the best way to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. It’s also not clear whether to hand-whisk/ beat the ingredients or to use a mixer.
  • Walker’s Spicy Brussels Sprouts (p.231): The coconut oil was distracting. I would make this again with a more neutral light oil.
  • Mashed Cauliflower w Goat Cheese (p.244): By far the best recipe we tried. Light, tangy and fluffy. We were surprised to see something so decadent in a book like this.
Walker's Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Walker’s Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower Mash

Things we liked about the book:

  • This book is pleasing to the eye – it’s a walk into the spa/ yoga centre for the eyes
  • All the required ingredients are accessible at a glance in each recipe and putting everything together is pretty simple. It’s a lot of assembly, blending, food processing rather than cooking/ baking techniques
  • I liked that Joy included a mini anatomy lesson in an effort to explain why hydration, fibre, and good fats are so important in promoting robust digestion and overall well being.
  • Like all cookbooks, Joy is creating a plan for a change in lifestyle. She teaches you how to outfit your pantry and how to substitute unhealthy food choices with better ones. If HoM were to (he won’t) adopt this eating style, he’d look to this book.

Things you need to know

  • In recipes that ask for a blender, you’ll probably need a high-powered one (the much touted brand that starts with a “v” and costs a bajillion dollars) to get the best results.  
  • If you’re new to this type of food / way of cooking, you’ll probably need to fill your cupboard with seeds, grains, veggies, and oils. This could be expensive. There’s a recipe for Kobucha sangria, for example, that calls for a bottle of wine and 6 cups of Kombucha. That could get pricey per pitcher. Maybe integrate aspects of this way of cooking into you life slowly or locate the health food stores with the best prices. I have had a good experience at Essence of Life (Kensington Market). 

The #smugcouple isn’t ready to take on gluten-free or vegan eating full-time. We’re weak. But, Joy isn’t really militant about adopting this way of eating. We can get on board with a book that promotes taking the time to love yourself and life by eating fresh, homemade meals. Joyous Health promotes a, “positive mindset,” and “feeling and looking great,” NOT dieting. It could be a great way to start 2014.

*The gourmandes will be wading in on the question of food trends in 2014
** Note: I am a student by trade and in spirit so spoke to two medical professionals (1 RN and 1 MD) regarding gluten-free dieting. All refuted the “cure all” claims of this trend with research and data. There is a seeming correlation between “feeling great,” “weight loss” and the gluten-free diet because suddenly you have to be very careful about what you eat! They recommended getting tested for celiac disease before your shell out big bucks and adopt gluten-free as your life! 


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