As we move into National Nutrition Month, I’ve been thinking about more than healthy eating. I’ve been thinking about happy eating, the kind of eating that brings joy rather than monk-like self-denial. Satisfaction, fulfillment and even luxury are positive things. I understand the value of a reasonable portion size and the importance of eating foods that are good for me, but at the same time, I’m not interested in eating something the size of an English pea that tastes like cardboard. After all, I am Italian, I and want real food in decent quantities that tastes good.

from-junk-food-to-joy-food-joy-bauerThe good news is that healthy eating can be happy eating, as Joy Bauer explains in her new book Junk Food to Joy Food: All the Foods You Love to Eat….Only Better. Joy Bauer is a nutrition expert whose mission is to help improve our health. As the exclusive nutritionist for the New York City Ballet, Joy has a specialized understanding of how we can use food to become stronger and healthier. Because of her focus on scientifically based information, Joy received the 2010 National Media Excellence Award from the American Dietetic Association. And now she has written a book released just in time for National Nutrition Month, providing practical advice on how to make meals that taste delicious and offer nourishment without adding unnecessary calories to our diets.

Junk Food to Joy Food: All the Foods You Love to Eat….Only Better contains recipes that range from pancakes to pizza, salads to sliders and coffee to cocktails—not to mention dessert! For purposes of my own cooking, I was thrilled to see she uses flavorful ingredients and tasty options in some of the recipes to create healthy meals, rather than the typical high-calorie, high-fat, processed favorites.

avocado cut in halfShe also uses what I consider to be the new superfood, avocado toast with a hint of lime—yummy! It doesn’t just replace the classic morning option: buttered toast; it improves it. I wish we had this recipe growing up. Avocado is healthier than butter, offers a pop of eye-catching color to your breakfast plate, while the other ingredients enhance flavor further with fiber, fat, a tad of salt and a bit of crunch. There’s no doubt avocado toast is a more joyful choice than the tired routine of buttered toast—and healthier, too.

Another favorite, General Tso’s Chicken, re-imagined by Joy Bauer, becomes General Joy’s Chicken. In her version, she foregoes the fried breading and uses marinated chicken with a sauce concocted from mouthwatering ingredients, such as pineapple juice and dry sherry. By the time she’s done, this scrumptious meal contains a mere 260 calories rather than the 1000+ calories in the original version.

dark chocolate-covered popcornBeyond that, Joy tempts us with dark chocolate-covered popcorn—another vice of mine—mini-pumpkin pies and Boston cream pie parfaits. I can hear my sweet tooth singing.

And let’s not forget the joy (no pun intended) in a cocktail. Joy reminds us we don’t have to give up cocktails entirely, by offering healthier, tastier options, such as blueberry mojitos, pina coladas, eggnog and sangria.

If you’re looking for a way to launch National Nutrition Month by cooking at home using hearty and wholesome foods, you’ll want to start with this book. Good health isn’t about self-denial and sadness. It’s about acceptance, possibilities and joy. Joy Bauer’s book leads the way!

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Rose Caiola

Inspired. Rewired.

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