Sunday Runs, Markets and Muesli (Recipe Included!)

Imagine this:

On the horizon sits the sun, a bright yellow beginning, slowly climbing its ladder up the coloured sky. A light breeze pushes you into a rhythmic run, right along the sleepy beach and up to a grassy green headland. You stop to catch you breath, your heart hammering gratitude as you drink in the 360-degree view.

A couple of more minutes. A couple of more colours… Time to go.

Following the seagulls down the sandy path, past the receding aqua wash and waving to the local surfers, you finally reach the end of your journey. With the salty ocean breeze brushing your face, you turn like a magnet to the sparkling ocean. With a start, you run in to meet your old friend with a joyful laugh, still fully clothed. There you float. Free. Happy. Alive.

With exhilarated rosy cheeks and slight regret, you drag yourself away from the caring hands of the ocean… time for the markets!

 And this is just the way my Sunday began.

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I am a big fan of local markets in Sydney. They offer fresh produce, you can meet and support local farmers and taste before you buy. It’s such a sensory experience. They smell of warm crusty bread, cinnamon sticks and freshly blended citrus juices all of which mingle in with a sea of interesting people as you weave your way in and out. My fresh produce lasts about twice as long and tastes about twice as good!

This Sunday I was on a mission. A client had given me a delicious muesli recipe and brought some in as a gift (thank you, you know who you are). It tasted phenomenal and I was committed to making my own variety.

As I wondered amongst the bustling stores I bartered over buckwheat and nutted out the best place to buy my pecans. Half an hour later I was content with a bag full of goodies. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so excited.

Experimentation took the good part of my Sunday afternoon but this is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 300g sprouted buckwheat
  • 1 cup of oats (you could use quinoa flakes if you want gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup of amaranth
  • 200g pecans or walnuts
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 2 long (10-12cm) cinnamon quills
  • 2 tsp. dried nutmeg
  • 120g medjool dates (deseeded and cut into small pieces)
  • 300g dried apple (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 80g Canadian Maple Syrup

Optional (makes it a little higher in energy but a lot more crunchy!)

  • 50g coconut oil
  • 100g shredded coconut

Method:

1.     Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2.     With mortar and pestle or end of rolling pin bash/grind cinnamon to break up sticks. With your hands then break/rip up cinnamon into small bits (as small as you can!).

3.     Add all other ingredients into a big mixing bowl, melting coconut oil if necessary. Mix well to coat with oil and maple syrup.

4.     Put into 1 or 2 large baking trays lined with baking paper.

5.     Periodically check muesli over next 30-40minutes, using a wooden spoon to slowly turn over the muesli when it looks brown.

6.     Leave to cool for 20 mins.

Nutrition:

  • Amaranth is a great source of iron (~5mg/cup).
  • Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Apples contain polyphenols and flavonoids, which prevent oxidation in the body, preventing  disease and ageing.
  • Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium, a micronutrient responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including enzymes required for maintaining stable blood glucose levels.
  • All the grains, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of fibre, which makes you feel full and aids digestion.
  • This mix is also high in healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, which promote clear cognition, boost HDL (healthy) cholesterol, maintain hormone production and lubricate joints.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, vital for promoting immunity, clear skin, strong hair and nails.
  • Sesame are incredibly rich sources of many essential minerals including Calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc and selenium.

How to eat this delicious mix:

  • Portion out ½ a cup (trust me doesn’t look like a lot but its so filling!). Add some milk, yoghurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. Wouldn’t be surprised if you are content until lunch ;)
  • Nibble on as a snack during your work day.
  • Add over the top of some ice cream as a treat.

Party Season: Do's and Don'ts

Wow, only 4 weeks until Christmas! All my clients have been a little stressed out about work amping up and trying to get everything done before the holiday period. On top of this it seems that everyone wants to get in a social Christmas event with you BEFORE the big day hits. Food is a big part of celebrating Christmas, but if you just keep mindful about your choices you can come out the other side not too bad off. This year I thought I would list some simple Do’s and Don’ts.

Do (You will get lots of presents)

·      Take a healthy dish to a party. Options include a big plate of sushi, rice paper rolls, home made Thai fish cakes, cherry tomato, bocconcini and basil skewers or a big fruit salad platter.

·      Have a small high protein snack before you go out so that you don’t turn up hungry and devour the first thing in sight (hello sausage rolls!!). Some ideas include a small 95g tin of tuna or salmon, a handful of nuts, a boiled egg or some veggies sticks and hommous.

·      Reduce your alcohol and energy intake by 1) Taking some soda water to drink between alcoholic beverages 2) Drinking reduced alcohol wine, light beer or spirits with soda or diet soft drink (less calories) 3) Stopping your hosts from topping up your glass, how many did you have again?

·      Only say yes to every third canapé offered. Pace yourself. Christmas is like cricket; you’re in for the long haul! Don't get caught out ;)

·      Keep hydrated with water. Christmas can be hot. Water helps to fill us up and prevent us from reaching for food when really we are thirsty

·      Get active with your friends and family. A game of soccer on the beach, lawn bowls or scenic walks are simple and enjoyable.

Don’ts (You are more likely to get coal)

·      Eat out of family size open packets or dive nose first into the crackers and cheeses without a second thought. You are better off putting a small selection on a plate and sticking to just that. 

·      Think you are doing better by drinking cider. Cider is the in thing in Australia at the moment and our intake is increasing. It’s the most energy dense of all alcoholic beverages!

·      Leave your plate on the table. Studies have proven that people (especially men, sorry guys) will eat up to 40% more when they leave their plate on the table. This is because people will pick at more. You don't really need it!

·      Feel obligated to try and eat a big delicious piece or serving of everything. Choose what you really want. Also, a couple of mouthfuls are all you need to get a taste. Sharing is caring. Hand over the other half of that mince pie.

·      Completely switch off in relation to healthy eating with the justification that it’s Christmas. Yes you can indulge a little but don’t make it your excuse to eat 5 mince pies a day and candy cane for the next festive month.

·      Keep temptation in the house if you can’t handle it. Out of mind out of sight. Give it away, throw it out, or get someone in the family to hide it!

·      Feel like if you have fallen off the wagon it’s game over. You will do a lot more damage if you let things snowball!

Good luck :)

For The Love of Chocolate

CHOCOLATE: A necessary evil, an addiction, a daily ritual?

I will confess. If I have any vice it is for chocolate. Hot chips – don’t care. Natural confectionary – the little dinosaurs don’t do it for me. MacDonald’s – you would probably have to pay me. But chocolate…

One of the things I LOVE about my job as a dietitian is taking something deliciously naughty and turning it into something nice and healthy. That way you feel completely indulgent and at the same time every cell in your body is singing with gratitude.

Chocolate is made from a plant called the cacao tree. The bitter beans of this tree are harvested and then fermented. After this the beans can then be roasted, ready to make chocolate. The problem is what comes next, the addition of FAT SUGAR, SALT and other additives to enhance taste and preserve texture.

Why am I so addicted to chocolate?

Feeling like you are on a high and euphoric after scoffing down some chocolate? Hold onto your chocolate block – there is a scientific reason!! Chocolate triggers chemical pathways in the brain, which release a hormone called dopamine. What does dopamine do? Amongst many other outcomes it stimulates reward and pleasure centers within the brain.

Still holding onto your chocolate block? Good because I have some furthur confronting news. What happens is that over time our body becomes desensitised to this dopamine release. So what happens? YOU NEED MORE CHOCOLATE to feel just as good! 

Cacao vs. cocoa – I’m so confused?

Raw Cacao: Made from crushed unroasted beans

Cocoa: Raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures

So… what is the difference? When analysing both products it appears that raw cacao has a higher ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). This means a higher antioxidant activity. Antioxidants aid in preventing cell oxidation, a process known to contribute to ageing and chronic disease risk.

Other Health Benefits of Cocoa and Cacao

  • Blood Pressure reduction: A Cochrane Review in 2012 found cocoa to reduce blood    pressure by 2-3mm Hg (small but statistical significance).
  •  Increases HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels: Cacao and cocoa have been seen to suppress LDL (not so healthy) cholesterol oxidation (Baba et al 2007).
  • Good source of dietary fibre to promote healthy digestive system
  •  Contains other minerals and vitamins such as: calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, zinc,

Last week I started experimenting with making my own chocolate, inspired by another blog post (I wont take all the credit here!).

This is the base recipe:

½ a cup of melted coconut oil

2/3 cup of raw cacao powder

5 tbsp. maple syrup

Method:

1.     Slowly melt the oil over a low heat. Add in the other ingredients and combine until silky smooth.

2.     Add something experimental and nutritious:

  • 1 tbsp flaxseed
  • 2 tbsp sultanas
  • 30g roughly chopped almonds
  • 1 cap vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup smashed raspberries
  • A small amount of peppermint oil
  • A combination of the above!

3.     Cover a small container with baking paper (here you can moderate the thickness and shape of your chocolate) and add the chocolate mixture

4.     Freeze for 10 minutes

5.     Enjoy and savour S-L-O-W-L-Y:

  • What does the chocolate smell like - vanilla, nutty, sweet?
  • What flavours can you taste?
  • What kind texture do you feel in your mouth? 
  • How does the chocolate look - crumbly, smooth, sharp, interesting?
  • How does a bite sound - do you take a crisp bite or does it melt silently into your mouth?

Remember that coconut oil still contains high amounts of saturated fat and should be used in moderation (ie. Don’t eat all you chocolate in one go!). My next step will be to trial some macadamia oil in the mix. Wish me luck!

Keep happy and healthy!

Ash xx