I think it was about time I shared another sweet recipe here on the blog again. And if you read my last post, about my own personal history with food (sugar in particular) and how I made eventually made peace with it all, then you will know that I love the taste of sweet.
Dates are such a versatile food. They are sweet and sticky and actually good for you with a high amount of fibre, but also the vitamin and mineral content like zinc (for immune system) magnesium (for energy production), iron (for red blood cells) and potassium (for nervous system).
Because of their “stickability” they work really well in all types of raw desserts as they so seamlessly hold everything together. I also love that when we are using dates as sweeteners we tend to use the whole fruit, just like nature intended.
This recipe is based on a typical traditional Swedish recipe and one we made time and time again as kids – Choklad Bollar.
The original recipe calls for butter, sugar, oats and cacao powder. And perhaps a little coffee too.
Here I have replaced the butter and sugar with the dates and added some melted cacao butter as fat. You can use coconut oil too.
Traditionally “Choklad Bollar are rolled in desiccated coconut, which I personally like though I made another version of these for a recent talk I did locally and rolled them in some melted dark chocolate and some roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. Much like a giant Ferro Roche… Yeah, just imagine! Totally worth the extra effort.
Chocolate Oat & Date Balls
Makes about 10 medium sized balls
½ cup rolled (porridge) oats
20 small pitted dates – or use about 10 soft Medjool dates
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
6 tbsp strong coffee – or use same amount of water
2 tbsp melted cacao butter – or coconut oil
Shredded coconut to coat the balls in
First blend the oats in your food processor until you have a rough ground texture. Soak the dates in some hot water for about 1 min, then drain. Just to soften them a little. If you are using Medjool dates you can skip this step as they tend to be much softer. However don’t forget to remove the pits!
Add the rest of the ingredients to your food processor and blend until it all comes together like a sof dough.
Roll the dough into small balls with your hands and roll them in some shredded coconut.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for a few days.
(I’m always musing to myself about the difference between the words “keep” and “last”. To be honest, I am actually just guessing how long they will “keep” for, since I’ve never had any “last” long enough to see when they would be gone off…)
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…
Are you on the “Quitting Sugar Train”? There’s so much hype and information around about the dangers of sugar these days. It feels a little overwhelming at times. Not to mention confusing! The science of nutrition seems to be forever evolving and changing. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Sometimes (even as a trained professional!) I feel confused and overwhelmed about what or what not to eat. I can only guess how you might be feeling…
The thing is though, the downside of eating too much sugar (just to be very clear I am talking about refined sugars here), are not new and is backed up by a lot of research. I picked up some of my mum’s books about healthy eating from the 70s and guess what? They where highlighting it back then too. Sad thing is, it seems like our sugar consumption hasn’t really reduced since then either… Obesity and obesity related diseases are a massive problem today and it seems like it’s spreading downwards with younger and younger people being overweight too. I find this so incredibly sad as it’s not just the excess weight on its own that’s a problem.
It affects our hormones and our mood. Excess weight, particularly around the middle has also been linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Not to mention how your self-esteem is affected by those extra pounds, when we live in a society so fixated with body image. On top of that carrying excess weight makes it harder and more uncomfortable to move and exercise.
I believe that our “Western Diet” is not weight friendly at all. Eating that way will always bring you an uphill struggle with excess weight. You might be really lucky and put it on really gradually. But the weight will be going on non the less. To keep your figure, and your health there is really only one way to go, unprocessed and quitting sugar. And when I say quitting sugar, I mean the white refined stuff and even mores so the awful High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). It can seem like sugar is in everything when you start reading the labels and it kind of is. Just be clear on avoiding the ADDED sugar and try to reduce or avoid adding it yourself to drinks and food. But please don’t vilify your best friends; fresh vegetables and fruit (in moderation). They are the foods we where originally made to eat.
If you have decided that now is the right time to wave goodbye to refined sugar, make it as easy on yourself as you can. Start with the obvious. Like quitting liquid calories in the form of sodas / soft drinks / energy drinks. No one needs them, unless perhaps you are an endurance athlete, in the middle of a 3h+ race. Switching to naturally flavoured water, herbal teas and/or cutting out your added sugar in teas and coffees will make a major difference to your energy levels, your weight, your health and believe it or not, your taste! It is so easy to over-consume liquid energy as it has no fibre that needs processing and which is an important component to help us stay full for longer.
The next step would be to swap your usually processed, sugar laden treats / snacks for something more wholesome and that’s where these little bites come in! I heard someone saying recently that they have a rule in their house which says only homemade treats are allowed. Sounds good to me. That way you are in full control of what is going into your treat and subsequently into your body. Yes, dates contain sugar.
But they are also a source of fibre, iron, magnesium and potassium. Peanuts will give you some good fats and protein. Good quality dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. I believe when we eat nourishing, good quality wholefood, less becomes more so even though they are still to be considered a treat, this kind of treat will serve not just as a short term treat for your taste buds, but will do some good for your body good longterm too. Because I am of the opinion that life is for living, personally I prefer to keep the natural goodness in my life and enjoy raw treats like these.
Better For You Peanut Butter Bites
Makes about 15 bites
2 cups of pitted dates
1 heaped tbsp of crunchy peanut butter – 100 % nuts
1 tbsp coconut oil
a pinch of sea salt
80g of 70-80% good quality dark chocolate
In a small sauce pan, gently melt the coconut oil and then mix in the peanut butter. Mix until well combined.
Add the dates to the bowl of your food processor. (I seriously have no idea what I did before mine entered my life…) Add in the peanut butter-coconut oil mix and a pinch of sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. Blend until you have a ball of sticky date-goodness. Proceed to making small little balls.
In a bowl over some boiling water, melt the chocolate. When fully melted, remove from stove top. Dip each date ball into the melted chocolate and fish it back out with the help of two forks. Place each peanut butter chocolate bite on a tray lined with parchment paper. Let the bites cool and the chocolate coating set in the fridge before you treat yourself to one of these better-for-you peanut butter chocolate bites. Your little delicious treats will store in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days. These guys are perfect as a little side for your perfect cup of coffee or your favourite cup of tea.
Note* If you are familiar with making raw chocolate, then do use that as a coating instead of the dark chocolate. For simplicity I have gone with regular dark chocolate. For a higher nutrient profile and even less processed goodness I would use raw chocolate, if that appeals to you.
So here we go… The very first blog post on Straightforward Nutrition’s new shiny website! I am pretty excited to begin this new part of our journey. I’ve been thinking about it for months now. How lovely it would be to create a space that would be dedicated to food. You know REAL food. The stuff nature provides. Not the stuff that comes in plastic bags or stored in boxes. No, the type of food that sits quietly, with out any labels, telling you about calorie content or making confusing health claims. It’s about the type of food that is so good for us. The type of food that is medicine.
In my job as a Nutritional Therapist, I advice people on how to use food as medicine. For most people this involve some more or less radical dietary changes. (Even though I hate the word “diet”, I do use it from time to time) To make my clients life easier I try to give them easy tools on how to translate the science of using food as medicine into tasty meals, that the whole family can enjoy. Not always as easy as it sounds! It is my ambition that this space will become a place for you to refer back to, for recipes and inspiration, as you make changes to your own lifestyle to become the healthiest you can be. There is so many amazing food blogs already out there and I feel truly blessed to be part of this amazing community. I have compiled a list of people who inspire ME over here.
To celebrate the launch of my new website I have decided to treat you to one of my own favourite creations. I think most of us would think of sweet treats when thinking of a celebration of some kind so this is a sweet treat recipe. It is also a chance for me to invite you into the world of treats free of refined sugars, which are also naturally free from gluten, egg and dairy. Perfect as a recover snack after exercise, or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. And I bet your kids will love them too! Enjoy.
If you feel inspired by any of my recipes or if you would like to share some inspiration with me, please comment below. I would love to hear from you 🙂
Hemp & Quinoa Protein Bars
Makes about 10 bars
1 1/2 cup of pitted dates, soaked and drained
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 heaped tbsp raw cacao
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp shredded coconut
4 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
1/2 cup puffed quinoa
1 heaped tbsp rice or pea protein – optional
a pinch of himalayan pink salt
Quickly soak the dates in hot water. Place them in a bowl. Add boiling water. Soak for one min. Drain well.
Add the dates, coconut oil, cacao powder, protein powder (if using), shredded coconut, salt and vanilla extract to a food processor. Blend until a sticky dough is formed. Place the dough in a large bowl. Add the quinoa puffs and the hemp seeds to the bowl. Knead the seeds and puffs into the date mix, with your hands, until well combined.
Press the mixture in to a square tin lined with parchment paper. About 1/2 inch thick. (1.5 cm) Place the tray in the fridge to set for about an hour. Then cut into bars or squares and store between parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge.
The bars will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge.