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 They are the foods we where originally made to eat.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 Christmas is almost upon us. Again. Carols and jingles on the radio. Shiny lights in the streets. Santa ads on the telly. Minced pies and mulled wine. Smells of ginger, cloves and cinnamon.
It’s the same story every year. You think you have lots of time to get everything done. And then BANG, it’s December and so many things are scheduled and you are left wondering how you are going to fit it all in. Personally, I feel this time of year should be all about family, friends and relaxation. Not stress… And about good food of course! This year I got the present shopping done early, so not to be stressing about that. My plan is to have plenty of time to concentrate on making edible presents in the week or two before the holiday season kicks in. So far this is working pretty well, I have to say.
Christmas is about traditions. It is about preserving the ones we grew up with. It is also about creating new ones as life changes. A few years ago I began making my own Christmas treats. It can really get you into the spirit of the season. Baking ginger bread men and toffees made me reminiscing of fond childhood memories from this time of year. The smells of ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. When the hot biscuits come out of the oven. Or the chewy toffees with that indulgent taste of cream, butter and dark sugar.
This new tradition of mine has grown and developed into a way of making edible presents to give away to the people who means a lot to me, as a way of saying thank you for their friendship and support throughout the year. Giving away something someone has put love and effort into is often much more appreciated, than just any old tin of biscuits you pick up from the shop.
The type of treats I make can vary from year to year. This year, in the spirit of nutrition and health I have decided to give away some truffles. Healthy ones, that can be enjoyed by everyone. Most traditional treats are full of sugar, cream and butter. Nothing wrong with that the odd time, but it won’t work if you are intolerant to dairy or gluten. Or perhaps you just fancy a lighter alternative amongst all the calorie dense stuff, without sacrificing taste. Then these truffles are perfect. It is hard to believe they are actually good for you!
Date Truffles are probably not the most original recipe. You can find endless variations of them all over the internet. However they are so easy to make and the perfect guilt free treat. (Well in my humble opinion anyway) I couldn’t decide which taste combination to give you so I give you three. Then you can be sure there is something to please everyone.
Date Truffles Three Ways
Makes 15 truffles
2 cups pitted dates
2 tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp cacao butter, melted – This is optional. If you can’t get it substitute for coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsp ground almonds – Use ground sunflower seeds if nutfree
1 tbsp shredded coconut
OPTION 1 – Orange & Coconut
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 tbsp orange zest
shredded coconut to roll the truffles in
OPTION 2 – Coffee & Cardamom
1 tbsp very strong coffee
1 tbsp raw cacao + 1/2 tsp ground cardamom to roll the truffles in – Alternatively you could add the cardamom to the basic mix
OPTION 3 – Chili & Liqorice
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp liquorice powder
Good quality coco powder + 1/2 tsp liquorice powder to roll the truffles in
Gently melt the coconut oil and cacao butter in a double boiler. Add dates, melted oil and the rest of the ingredients to your food processor. Add your choice of flavours. Blend until a sticky dough is formed. This will take a minute or two. I chose not to soak the dates before hand as it will give a more solid truffle. Roll little truffle balls with your hands and then roll them in some shredded coconut or cacao powder. Store your truffles in the fridge in an airtight container until you are ready to serve them. Or give them away! They will keep for a week in the fridge.
Things have been pretty hectic in my life for the past few weeks. Usually when life is full on, healthy eating goes out the window… And in my experience this is when we could to with nutritious foods the most. So quick, easy meals are the way to go. It just requires a tad of preparation. Believe me, your body (and mind) will thank you for the effort you’ve made. Healthy Body – Healthy Mind and all that…
Two things spring to mind when I think about muesli or granola. One is that it was pretty much as standard breakfast in our house when growing up. Except for a stint were we had microwaved cheese toasties and drinking chocolate for breakfast… Uh! I’m not sure how my health concious mother allowed this one to happen… However we rarely had cereal. The second thing is that I have always struggled with getting out of bed in the mornings. Once I get up I’m fine. It’s the getting up part that’s the struggle. When you like to savour every single spare minute in bed, you need a quick breakfast option. So what could be easier than pouring some milk or yoghurt into a bowl and top it with some muesli? No effort required. The only time consuming bit is to chew and swallow. These days, if I am really under pressure, I have even cut out this step and reach for a smoothie instead. The key is to make sure what goes into your bowl is real nourishment. So you, and your body, can deal with anything the day will throw at you. If you take the time to prepare a batch of your own home made muesli you can be certain that what goes into your breakfast bowl will set you up well for the day. If stress is part of your day, your body and mind (!) will thank you for all those stress-busting B-vitamins, from the spelt and oat flakes.
I only recently got back into making my own muesli again. Even though I must admit I prefer warming foods in the winter, it is nice to have an alternative to porridge sometimes. It is seriously easy to make your own and the variations are enless. My batches varies according to mood, what’s in the pantry and the seasons. In this recipe I went with some warming spices, to make the muesli feel seasonal. If you, like me, enjoy eating with all your senses, then you will hopefully like the addition of rose petals too.
Sunday mornings, If I have the day off, are sacred. These few precious hours are dedicated to rest and revival. This morning I indulged with a cup of hot chocolate. Chocolate and rose petals. Self-love indeed! You will find the recipe for this reviving hot drink on The First Mess. I substituted with local honey and added some cardamom.
Have a great Sunday and be good to yourself. You are worth it.
Floral Muesli With A Taste of Winter
Makes 1 large jar
1 cup rolled oats – I prefer jumbo oats for better texture
1 cup quinoa flakes
1 cup spelt flakes
1/2 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 cup pecan nuts, chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
5 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves – don’t over do this spice as it can easily over power everything else
Dry mix – to be added after roasting:
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup golden rasins
4 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
4 tbsp dried rose petals
Heat oven to 175°C. Add oats, spelt, quinoa flakes, pecan nuts and pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Melt the coconut oil to the ingredients and stir until evenly coated. Add in all the spices and mix well. Spread the mixture on a lined baking tray. Toast the grain/nut mix for 10-15 min until lightly golden and your kitchen fills of a wonderful smell of spices. Stir it a few times to prevent burning and assure even toasting.
Remove the toasted mixture from the oven and allow it to cool completely before adding in the remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight container or a Kilner jar, in a cool dry place. Your muesli will keep for a few weeks. Serve it with your choice of milk or yoghurt. Or as a topping on your favourite smoothie!