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Be a Better Cook

The Joys of Eating Clean

Joy McCarthy, holistic nutritionist and author of Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting, explains why eating clean will make you glow from the inside out and fill your days with abundant energy and happiness.

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Describe your relationship with food.

My approach to food is to keep it simple, eat real food and cook my own food as often as possible. I learned this at home. Growing up, even though my mom worked full time and raised my brother and me (along with my dad’s help), she always made cooking dinner for us and having us eat together a priority. She started her day at the lab as a medical technologist super early so she could get home in time to make us dinner. When I look back I don’t know how she did it, but I’m so grateful because it taught me so much. She always put love into whatever she made. She was pretty diligent about making sure our meals always had veggies and were as colorful as possible, because color is a cue for health!

Why is clean food more energizing?

One of the most common benefits my clients share with me – even after a week of eating joyously – is a significant increase in energy. What we eat literally provides the raw materials to create energy at a cellular level, so our food is essential for energy. If we eat mostly refined grains such as white rice instead of brown, we miss out on important B vitamins that help the body create energy. On the flip side, eating processed foods high in sugar or stimulants gives us a quick boost but will most always be followed by a crash. Our body does not thrive on simple sugars. Those drain us of important nutrients to balance blood sugar, which leads to low energy. Increasing energy by eating nourishing foods is a very positive cycle because then you have more energy to exercise (which also increases energy) and the benefits just keep on growing! Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.

Can whole, nutrient- dense foods also provide beautifying benefits?

The food we eat, how well we digest, assimilate, absorb and eliminate waste is directly reflected on our skin’s health. If we eat nourishing foods and have efficient digestion, we are providing the raw materials to create beautiful skin – to grow, protect, repair and regenerate new skin cells. Protein, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins all play a role in our outside beauty. A perfect example of food at work is the benefits of eating a diet rich in antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich foods are better than any expensive face cream you’ll ever buy! Antioxidants help protect the skin from damaging free radicals that promote skin cells to die, and as a result, age the skin.

What are your can’t-live-without kitchen tools?

A food processor, All-Clad fry pan (not for frying, but for sautéing and making omelettes and scrambled eggs), a high-quality chef’s knife, juice extractor and blender.

How do you eat clean while traveling?

Be prepared. Decide at the beginning of the week what your health snacks are and actually portion them out; you are more likely to stay energized and joyous for the week. I love making my No-Bake Carrot Cake Balls (see right) or Sexy Maca Balls from my book Joyous Health (Pintail Books, 2014) and freezing them to enjoy two as a mid-afternoon power snack to smash any sweet cravings! I also love doing a green smoothie in a Mason jar if I’m on the go – it’s like a multivitamin in a cup, but tasty!

What’s on your tablet reading list and bookshelf these days?

Obviously I love Clean Eating, but I also get great ideas from Alive (a Canadian health magazine) and Vegetarian Times. I love the blog La Tartine Gourmande because it has the most beautiful photos. I really enjoy books like The Biology of Belief (Hay House, 2008). I get a lot of photography ideas and recipe ideas from Pinterest, too.

Describe a recent memorable meal.

Last night my husband and I went to our favorite pizza joint – Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto. I had an arugula salad with grilled calamari and shared a margarita pizza on spelt crust with extra basil. They use a lot of local, high- quality ingredients.

Most impactful thing you’ve ever read about the philosophy of health that often crosses your mind?

You have the ability to literally manifest gene expression with your thoughts. Your thoughts affect you at a cellular level and it’s a very powerful tool we have between our ears, our mind.

See www.joyoushealth for more about Joy McCarthy.

Bonus recipe from Joy: No-Bake Carrot Cake Balls

These yummy cookie balls, made with shredded carrots and spices, taste just like carrot cake! Because they are completely raw, you can make these in a snap.

Makes 20 balls


  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1⁄4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1⁄4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground cloves


Reserve 1/4 cup shredded coconut in a shallow dish for rolling. Place remaining ingredients in a high-powered food processor and process until fully combined. Form mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in reserved shredded coconut, coating balls completely. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Keep chilled, or freeze in an airtight container for a few months. Enjoy 1 or 2 as a snack or dessert.

Nutrients per serving: (1 cake ball): calories: 86, total fat: 5 g, sat. fat: 2 g, monounsaturated fat: 0 g, polyunsaturated fat: 2 g, carbs: 10 g, fiber: 1 g, protein: 2 g, sodium: 3 mg, cholesterol: 0 mg