I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you all for ages. It’s one I came across months ago on the lovely Pippa Kendrick’s website The Intolerant Gourmet. I’ve been making these delicious oat squares from time to time and it is one of the recipes I most likely give to clients when they are asking for healthy snack options. Which is a question that I get asked A LOT!
Most of us have this thing with snacking… Through some curios observations, both personally and with clients I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a few legs to the snacking stool. And intertwined with it is one of my favourite topics, hunger & satiety.
Are you ready to look a little deeper of what function snacking has for you?
First up; eating regular meals to keep our blood sugar stable. There’s not much arguing here really, this is an important factor. Eating smaller meals with regular intervals ensure that your body and brain has as continuous supply of energy to run on, preventing you from getting on the dysglyceamia roller coaster.
Personally eating smaller meals and maybe 4-5 times / day seems to suit my digestive system a lot better. This tactic is also one I use with many of my clients when they need to get a handle on their eating pattern, especially if they are stressed. Sometimes you may even see eating up to six times a day recommended, from some sources.
Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day, does not only give you more energy, it will also keep those pesky sugar cravings at bay, helping you make better choices for your health – rather than being driven by instinct and having your brain screaming at you “I need sugar NOW or I’m not going to make it!!”
But then there’s the other end of the spectrum which recommends eating fewer meals, slightly larger portions and in an 8h time frame, leaving your body 16h to fast, most of which is done overnight. This works really well for others who have a sensitive digestive system which needs a longer rest from food.
So how do you choose? How do you actually know what suits your body best? Well this is where a mind-body approach to eating comes in. You are really the only one that can figure this out. It’s time to begin to listen to the signals that your body is using to get your attention.
Do you know what true hunger feels like to you?
What are the first subtle signals your body send out, telling you it is looking for food as it’s running out of fuel?
And do you know what it physically feels like when you have reached the stage of ravenous?
I’ve seen many people overeat, simply because they have ignored the many signs of hunger, before they get to the stage of ravenous, and at this point eating becomes so primal and out of control. Usually in a fast and flurry frenzy, leaving us sometimes feeling out of control coupled with guilt and shame because we think we are low in willpower. When in fact, what we are lacking is selfcare…
Here is when having a healthy snack like these oat squares, or my other favourite snack: fresh fruit and nuts come in handy. If you know that there is a long gap, more than 3h between say your lunch and dinner, having a snack somewhere in between can greatly reduce the chances of you eating all around you when you get home to cook dinner. Simply because you are now not only hungry, you are ravenous.
I’ve also had patients who are the total opposite to this. They don’t know what their true hunger really feels like, because they never allow themselves to get to that point, out of the fear of losing control and binge like I just described above. If this is you, then I would invite you to, when you are in a safe environment to sit with your hunger sensations for awhile and take note how they show up in your body physically, before you start eating.
What will really happen if you stay with those feelings and sensations rather than act and react to them immediately? Sometimes the desire to control our food intake is a response or a message that we want to have a sense of security in our life, especially when there are other things going on in our lives that makes us feel helpless and out of control.
Another thing to note, is that the composition of your meals, will likely also play a role in how much desire you have for snacking. If your meals are mostly made up of quick releasing carbohydrates like white bread, sugary snacks like chocolate bars as well as caffeine (on it’s on or combined with the others) chances are that you will want something to eat again after two hours. Or if you have a small bowl of soup at lunch and still have several hours to work and commute until you get home to make dinner, it is going to be difficult to say no to any cakes, biscuits or other treats that may be lurking around the office, for sure. Because chances are that it’s not your willpower that’s low, it’s your fuel gauge.
When you start having meals that are a combination of quality carbohydrates (such as whole, and I mean literally whole, grains, fruit, vegetables), some healthy fats and some protein and also make sure you eat enough to feel satisfied, chances are that you will find yourself snacking less.
So is snacking good or bad? I really don’t believe in labeling eating as any form of good or bad. As the leap from here to imply that when we eat a certain way may make us good or bad is way too tempting…
However, I believe that sometimes we do need a lighter small meal or snack to fill in that gap between something more substantial. And sometimes we just want to eat a little something for pure pleasure, whilst caring for our bodies by feeding them something nutritious at the same time. And whatever it is for you, I hope that these little guys will fit the bill for you.
They certainly do for me!
This recipe is so simple with the minimal of ingredients. I just love it. They keep well for a few days and make a great lunch box addition. Lots of fiber from both the dates and the oats. To me this is wholefood baking at its finest simplicity. I have barely made any changes to Pippa’s original recipe.
Makes 12 squares
200g pitted dates
125g rolled oats – gluten free if needed
2 tbsp coconut oil – melted
Pinch of sea salt
50g dark chocolate min 70% – to drizzle over the top. Optional but delicious
Preheat the oven to 180c and line the baking tin.
Roughly chop the dates, place in a saucepan with 250ml water and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to simmer over a low heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until the dates soften and form a thick paste.
Stir the oats, salt and coconut oil into the dates until combined and then spread into the baking tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon and in a square shape. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cut into squares.
Leave in the tin to cool completely and then transfer to a board and re-cut the squares before serving.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water and then drizzle it generously over the cooled squares.
Store your oat squares in a sealed container in the fridge. They will keep a few days, but I’ll doubt they’ll last long enough to go off…