So your day on a plate has looked pretty good so far. You have eaten some complex carbohydrates (wheat free where possible), plenty of protein (with vegetarian options), good fats, vegetables and a serve or two of fresh fruit. Now you want something a little extra, a reward at the end of a busy day. Let’s face it, we all love a sweet treat now and then! Eating a healthy, nutritious diet doesn’t have to mean never having sugar again. To me it is all about balance – a ‘clean eating’, ‘whole food’ diet can still include some indulgence. Of course those sweet treats shouldn’t be daily, but you really can enjoy some guilt free deliciousness occasionally. Here are a few of my nutritional tricks of the trade to keep your healthy treats just that – healthy.
By including protein you help ensure your blood sugar levels are balanced. Protein keeps you feeling full for longer by increasing your brain’s levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone that tells you when your belly when it is full. It helps you avoid those blood sugar highs and lows that so often come with eating sweet foods. Try to include some nuts, nut butters, LSA, hemp seeds, coconut flour, seeds or a dollop or two of yoghurt with your treats.
Who would have thought eating chocolate could be good for you! I love cooking with raw cacao because, not only do I love dark chocolate, it has amazing health benefits. Raw cacao is dark chocolate in its most unrefined form and to the Aztecs, it was the food of the Gods. Some of its many health benefits include:
- More antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black & green teas
- The highest whole food source of magnesium.
- The theobromine naturally found in raw cacao stimulates the release of endorphins that provide a gentle anti-depressant action
So kick back, relax and enjoy some raw cacao deliciousness knowing your mood will naturally be uplifted, your nervous system nourished and free radicals banished.
Another superfood that helps to keep you feeling full for longer! Good quality virgin coconut oil is more satiating than simple carbohydrates and sugars. It contains medium-chain fatty acid (MCTs), whereas most saturated fats are long chain-fatty acids. These MCTs are more easily metabolized, providing quicker energy, improved blood sugar regulation and are not typically stored as body fat. When combined with protein, it you can fuel your energy reserves properly, and get you off the sugar roller coaster. Even better, a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Researchers found that participants who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil per day burned more kilojoules than those who consumed less. Coconut oil will not turn rancid and oxidize when heated, unlike many other oils (including olive oil), so it is ideal for heating and baking. Try using it instead of butter when making goodies like Anzac cookies, muesli slice and hedgehog.
There really is no excuse for using white, refined table sugar any more as there are just so many mineral rich, low glycaemic alternatives out there. Think maple syrup, coconut sugar, organic cold pressed honey, agave nectar and brown rice syrup. Brown Rice Syrup is a fabulous substitute for sugar and one of my favourites. As the name suggests, it is a whole food derived from brown rice. Even better it is completely fructose free (hooray!) and has a low glycaemic level, so it doesn’t send you off into the crazy blood sugar highs and lows that sugar can. I use Pure Harvest Brown Rice Syrup. The taste is not as sweet as other sweeteners and that is one of its added benefits. This ‘reduced’ sweetness gives your body (and your taste buds) a chance to adapt and not need those sugar hits for instant energy pick-me-ups
There is a reason why this is my final point – the only way you can really control the health and nutritional content of your treats is to make them yourself. As always, if you have children I really encourage you to get them cooking with you. They can help you choose the recipe, shop and then create. Talk to them about the ingredients you are using and their health benefits, there really is no better nutritional ‘education’ than learning to cook a ‘whole-food’ diet with your parents. As Jamie Oliver likes to say “pass it on”.
Here is one of my absolute favourite healthy, sweet treats using all the elements I discussed. Enjoy!
Raw Cocoa Fruit & Nut Slice
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp each chia seeds and flaxseeds, ground
1 cup fine desiccated coconut
16 prunes, pitted
10 fresh dates, pitted
¼ to ½ cup water
2 tbsp rice syrup/honey/maple syrup (you may like a little more - too taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
1 cup raw cacao
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil
1. Place macadamias, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds and coconut in food processor until broken up into crumb size. Set aside in large mixing bowl.
2. Melt the coconut oil, sweetener of choice and vanilla essence.
3. Blend the melted coconut oil/sweetener/vanilla essence with prunes and dates. You may need to add half the dates and prunes to begin with as it gets quite gooey! Add a little water if needed.
4. Process until well mixed the add to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and blend together by hand.
5. Press the mixture evenly into a plastic container 30cm x 20cm, cut lines for squares and refrigerate. When firm, remove and break into squares and place in air tight container