Dishing up the dirt on clean desserts

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One thing I hate about the health and fitness industry is when brands take advantage of the innocent consumer and market products as ‘healthy’ when in fact they aren’t. By using marketing ploys such as ‘low carb’, ‘sugar free’, ‘low fat’, ‘natural’, ‘made from real fruit’, many companies deceive the consumer into thinking that what they are consuming is either good for them or conducive to weight loss.

Although I am passionate about choosing more natural and clean foods most of the time, a big issue I’m seeing is consumers thinking that just because a food is ‘clean’ means that it will help them in their bid to lose body fat.

One of the latest clean eating fads are ‘raw desserts’, which are generally made from an abundance of fruit and nuts. Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly benefits of choosing a raw dessert over the processed kind (I will touch on that later), but the problem is that people think that because the dessert is raw, natural, and free from artificial additives it means they can eat as much as they like, or that it doesn’t count as a ‘cheat’ meal. Fruit and nuts are healthy right?!
Fruits such as dates and bananas, and nuts such as cashews, almonds and coconut seem to form the basis of most raw desserts. Maple syrup, honey or agave are often added to provide more sweetness. Albeit these are natural ingredients, what people forget to consider is that the actual macronutrient value of the dessert may not be all that different from the ‘dirty’ alternative. Macronutrients refer to proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When it comes down to clean dessert alternatives, just because the sugar is from fruit or the fat is from nuts doesn’t change the fact that it’s calories being consumed by your body. A sugar provides 4 calories per gram regardless of whether it’s from fruit or table sugar, and a fat provides 9 calories per gram whether it’s from a nut or cream and butter.

Take raw caramel slice as an example. You may find this blog post ironic in fact, because I posted a recipe for my raw caramel slice not long ago. However you will notice that my recipe came along with a warning that it should still be consumed in moderation.  This is because even though it’s a clean alternative, it is still an extremely calorie dense dessert. If you’ve ever made a raw dessert yourself or even some raw protein balls, you will know just how much dried fruit and nuts go into these health-ified treats.

Given that weight/fat loss is ultimately just an equation of calories in vs calories out, whether you have a clean dessert or a ‘dirty’ dessert may not make too much difference to your ultimate goal (assuming the portion sizes contain roughly the same amount of calories). In that respect, I feel that sometimes it’s worth enjoying the ‘naughty’ version when it comes time to have your treat meal – life is about balance after all!

In saying that raw/clean desserts are obviously more beneficial for your health in that they are less processed (or in the case of raw desserts, unprocessed) and don’t contain artificial flavours and preservatives. They are also likely to contain a higher percentage of good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than bad fats like trans fat.  However looking from a purely weight or fat loss perspective, they are likely to sit relatively on par.

So although I still enjoy raw desserts and experimenting with making them, I think it’s important that they are not misunderstood to be able to be consumed in larger quantities than ordinary desserts. Nor should they be included as part of an eating plan for weight or fat loss. Just because they are ‘clean’ or ‘raw’ doesn’t mean they are any less of a treat.

With love,

B.xx

Image: the-fit-foodie.com

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Raw Salted Caramel Slice

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After much anticipation, here is the recipe for my raw salted caramel slice!

This rich caramel treat is made from clean ingredients and is a healthier alternative to the original.

However given it is made from nuts, dried fruit and maple syrup, it is still quite high in natural sugars and healthy fats, so I suggest it be consumed in moderation 😉

Ingredients

For the base:
1.5 cups almonds
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp melted coconut oil

For the caramel:
1 cup dates
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1.5 tbsp unhulled tahini
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup cashews (soaked for 6+ hours until soft)
A pinch of pink sea salt

For the chocolate:
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup raw cacao
2 tbsp du chocolat powder
A pinch of pink sea salt

Method
1. Line a tray with baking paper
2. Process the ingredients for the base in a food processor or blender until it forms a kind of crumb. Transfer it into the tray and knead it together, pressing it tightly so that it will stick. Set this layer in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
3. Process the ingredients for the caramel in a food processor or blender until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency. You will probably need to give it a few stirs, and maybe add a little water to help it blend, but you want it to be relatively thick.
4. Pour the caramel on top of the set base layer and smooth it over. Return to the freezer until the caramel is set (approx one hour).
5. Mix the ingredients for the chocolate layer in a bowl. Pour on top of the set caramel layer. Quickly smooth it over- it will set quite quickly because of the coldness of the caramel layer.
6. Return to freezer for another 15 minutes or so until chocolate is set, then slice.

Note: store in the freezer for best results.

The Perfect Pancake

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I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but these are by far the best clean pancakes I have ever tasted! They are the perfect combination of fluffy, moist, and sweet (but not too sweet!). They are also a blessing to cook – they don’t take too long, don’t stick to the pan, and were nice and easy to flip! Made from simple ingredients, these are a great breakfast that feels like a cheat but isn’t! Happy tummy, happy thighs 😉
Ingredients (Makes approx 3 pancakes; serves one)

40g rolled oats (note for a lower carb version you could substitute for almond meal)

14g coconut flour

2 egg whites

60 ml unsweetened almond milk

50g mashed banana (the riper the better)

a pinch of bi-carb soda

Toppings

50g Chobani 0% Greek Yoghurt

75g blueberries

10ml sugarfree maple syrup
Macros (not including the toppings) – Cals: 229 P:17g F:5g C:46g

Method:
1. Blend the oats and coconut flour in a blender or food processor for a few seconds until it forms a powder.

  1. Transfer dry ingredients to a bowl and add the almond milk, egg whites, mashed banana and a pinch of bi-carb soda, stirring until well combined.
  2. Heat a little bit of organic butter or coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
  3. Add 1/3 of the mixture at a time to the pan, using a spoon to ensure it is spread evenly.
  4. Cook for approx 2-3 minutes or until the underside of the pancake has firmed, then flip and cook for a further 1 minute.
  5. Transfer pancake to a plate and repeat with the remainder of the mixture.
    TIP: Keep cooked pancakes covered with a plate or aluminum foil to keep them warm while making the rest of the pancakes.
  6. Top pancakes with greek yoghurt, blueberries and sugar free maple syrup or toppings of your own choice.
  7. Enjoy! 🙂

Banana, Peanut Butter and Maple Porridge

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This porridge is a delicious, nutritious and filling way to start the day! The surprise mouthfuls of peanut butter that you get are absolutely divine! I prefer this porridge cold the next morning, but it can also be enjoyed warm.

It’s an ideal pre or post workout breakfast as it contains a combination of protein, carbs and good fats. It’s quite calorie dense and filling, so I love to have this breakfast after a morning training session or as a weekend treat. 🙂

Recipe serves one (or more, depends how much food you can eat in one sitting 😉 )

Ingredients

48g Brookfarms ‘Gluten Free Porrij’ (you can also use oats, but the nuts in the porridge really complement the peanut butter flavour perfectly!)

½ cup grated zucchini (optional – for added goodness!)

2 egg whites

12g PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

½ – 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (or for a sweet treat, try White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter by Peanut Butter & Co)

50-100g banana slices

10ml Sugarfree Maple Syrup

1 tbsp cinnamon

Stevia to taste

Method

  1. Add zucchini and porridge/oats to a saucepan with 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp of cinnamon and stevia to your liking.
  2. Cover and bring to the boil.
  3. Once boiling, turn down to a gentle simmer and remove lid. Allow to simmer until most of the excess water has evaporated
  4. Add the egg whites and stir quickly for about 20 seconds until eggs are cooked through.
  5. Remove from heat and stir through the PB2.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and stir through the peanut butter into the hot porridge.
  7. Leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top with banana and sugarfree maple syrup.

Note: For a lower calorie option, combine some more PB2 with water to make a ‘sauce’ to drizzle over your porridge instead of mixing in the peanut butter.

Clean Prawn Fried Rice

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This recipe is one of my favourites. I love this as a post workout meal as it has a good balance of protein, carbs and greens.

Ingredients: (serves one)

100g green prawn meat

1/3 cup cooked white basmati rice

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup carrots (cubed)

1/2 cup green beans (cubed)

1/2 cup broccoli

1 tsp chilli paste (I use the Galiko brand as it only contains chilli and vinegar)

1 tsp minced ginger (again I use the Galiko brand)

1/4 cup brown onion

2 tsp organic tamari

Method:

1. Chop all the veggies into small pieces

2. Cook the onions and prawns in a little bit of coconut oil. Once the prawns are almost cooked through, add the ginger and chilli and stir through.

3. In a wok, stir fry the veggies in a small about of coconut oil until cooked through.

4. Add the prawn and onion into the veggies, and toss through the cooked rice and the tamari.

5. Devour 🙂

PROGRESS UPDATE NO. 4 – “Rule your mind or it will rule you”

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I’m currently 3 weeks into my official comp prep and sitting just under 9 weeks out. The last few weeks have been the toughest yet, trying to stay disciplined through Christmas and New Years and finding myself having to make a lot more sacrifices to stay on track as it gets closer to game day. It’s been mentally challenging, and combined with the fact my latest body composition result was less than desirable left me feeling disheartened and questioning whether it’s all worth it.

My body composition test from last week showed I had lost muscle and gained fat. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it certainly wasn’t progress. Going backwards was disheartening, as I had spent the 3 weeks focused and strict, and yet I had no results to show for it. I had just spent the ‘silly season’ being so disciplined, not indulging in any of the treats littered across every table at home, at family events and in the staff room, and I was proud of myself for sticking it out. Yet I had still gone backwards. I thought perhaps just the smell of junk food can make you gain weight? (Disclaimer: I’m joking).

It got me thinking what’s the point in being so disciplined if you have nothing to show for it? Comp prep is hard work. It takes discipline and mental strength, and it really does consume your life even when you try not to let it. When you’re working that hard to achieve something, you want some results to show for it!

I usually don’t weigh myself or care about numbers – I just care about how I feel. I guess in a way competing forces you to care about numbers, but I decided that I should still focus on how I am FEELING. Although the results said I have lost muscle, I FEEL like I have put on size, particularly through my shoulders and back. In fact, a lot of my dresses no longer zip up over my back, and my jackets don’t fit over my shoulders! Perhaps the numbers didn’t reflect that, but they aren’t everything. The fit of my clothes is showing progress, and that’s what I need to focus on.

During the Christmas period I have certainly felt like I’m missing out by competing. I value balance in my life, and preparing for a comp is definitely not balanced. You can try and make it so, but as the comp gets closer it takes up more and more time making sure you’re always prepared, and you do have to start making sacrifices. Feeling like I’ve been lacking balance has really got me down recently, missing out on social events because there’s just too much temptation and not being able to go on holidays with friends because I would need to take all my meals. I must admit this is not a lifestyle that I desire permanently for myself or promote to anyone, as it does take the fun out of healthy living a bit. In saying that, it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a temporary means to achieve my goal. And for that reason, I’m going to stick it out even when the going gets tough.

Lacking motivation, I let my mind wander to why I started this journey. These are some of the reasons I started this journey:

  1. I wanted a challengeI wanted to push myself to the next level of fitness. I’m not competing to win, I’m competing against myself. I needed a goal – a time and a place by which I had to achieve something. Having an end date for me is the best way to really stick to something. It’s easy to say; “oh I’ll just start next week” or “one bad meal won’t hurt”, but when you have a short time limit, those things will make a difference. The fact I’m going to have to stand on stage in a bikini in front of a lot of people in a few weeks is daunting enough to keep me focused in that respect.
  2. I wanted to understand the discipline it takes for people to drastically change their body.I’m currently studying to be a Personal Trainer. I’ve had a few people say that “you don’t have to compete to be a PT”. Well yes, I’m aware of that. However, one thing I strongly believe is that you should never take advice from a PT who doesn’t practice what they preach. For example, would you take weight loss advice from an overweight trainer? If they can’t lose weight themselves, how are they going to get YOU to lose weight? Now I know I don’t need to lose weight, so I wanted to set myself a goal that required the same amount of discipline that an overweight client would need to lose weight. I wanted to really understand what clients go through. Losing 20kg is hard and takes discipline. Getting down to 10% body fat as a female is also hard and takes discipline. Sure it’s a different outcome, but the discipline and mental challenge behind it is all the same. I’ve achieved plenty of fitness goals in my training so far before competing, but pushing myself hard in the gym is easy for me – I love the feeling. I wanted to do something that I knew I would find really hard, and put myself in my future client’s shoes.

The biggest challenge in all of this is controlling my mind. Temptation is everywhere. I have to walk through the supermarket with tunnel vision to avoid the chocolates at the end of every aisle. I find myself craving things I wouldn’t usually even eat e.g… a tub of ice-cream would go down a treat! At the moment if it’s something sweet, I want to eat it. In my regular, balanced lifestyle (which I’m very much looking forward to returning to by the way) I eat a wide variety of healthy foods and find that I rarely crave junk foods. It’s funny how imposing more restriction on yourself just makes you want to rebel against it. You know the saying “you only want what you can’t have”? Well, turns out it doesn’t just apply to the opposite sex – it applies to food too! When I wasn’t competing, technically I could have eaten ice-cream any time I wanted… but I didn’t want to. Now, I would kill for some!

I guess the lesson I have learnt these past two weeks is when you’re feeling weak and feeling like giving up on your goal, REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED. Learn to control your mind, so it doesn’t control you. Your mind can either be your greatest asset or your greatest enemy. If you change the way you think and perceive things, you can change the way you feel and the energies you attract. My focus is not to look at my journey like I CAN’T have those naughty foods that my mind is telling me I want, but focus on the fact that if I stick to the process I CAN have that lean, muscular physique that I desire! For every negative thought, there is an equal and opposite POSITIVE one. Next time you catch yourself thinking in the negative, reverse it! I guarantee you will put out positive energies and attract positive outcomes because of it. 🙂 It’s all about ruling your mind, so that your mind doesn’t rule you!

With love,
B. xx

Clean Eating vs IIFYM – Which will work best for you?

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Two of the biggest eating trends for improving body composition are ‘Clean Eating’ and ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM). They are two very conflicting ideals, yet they have both helped people to achieve their weight loss, fat loss and muscle growth goals. In this post I explore the advantages and disadvantages of both lifestyles, so you can determine which will best suit YOU.

Clean Eating

The idea behind clean eating is to eat as close to nature as possible. This means eliminating processed and refined foods, and only eating foods that are free from artificial additives and preservatives. There are varying degrees of clean eating, with the most strict only eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Some people will only eat paleo foods, whereas some will eat vegan, gluten-free or sugar-free. Other ‘clean eaters’ eat packaged foods, provided all the ingredients listed are all ‘clean’.

Advantages

  • It focuses on eating healthy, natural foods – We all know that eating natural, unprocessed foods is better for our health. Eating clean is a way of eliminating processed foods, which are generally high in sugar, fat, and/or artificial additives, which are toxic to the human body.
  • There is no calorie restriction – You can eat as much food as you like, provided it’s all ‘clean’. This means no starving yourself – you simply eat when you’re hungry.
  • It’s structured and simple – it’s clear what foods are off-limits and easy to follow without the need to count everything.

Disadvantages

  • You need to be moderately savvy with food labels – Reading food labels will be a must. You need to look at the ingredients list on the back of the packet (if you choose to include packet foods) to ensure that all the ingredients are clean. You will need to be able to recognize trick word like “Natural Flavouring”, which is generally not natural at all. You can’t fall for the “all natural” claim on the front of the packaging – you really need to analyse the ingredients list of what you’re eating. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can’t recognize all the ingredients, and if you can’t go and buy each individual ingredient in the supermarket yourself, then you shouldn’t buy it. Where can you buy a bottle of Natural Flavouring? You can’t.
  • Not all ‘clean’ packaged foods will help you reach your goal – Clean eaters love their date based bars, fruit and nut bars bound with honey, clean muesli bars etc. but these foods are often high in sugar, despite boasting a ‘clean’ ingredient list. If your goal is weight loss or fat loss, then you need to watch the amount of sugar you are consuming in these kind of products.
  • It restricts the food groups you can eat – Most people find it challenging to cut out all the junk food from their diet. Some can also become fixated on the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, which can lead to an unhealthy obsessive mindset. If you choose to eat clean, it’s okay to have a cheat meal each week where you indulge in ‘dirty’ foods and don’t feel guilty about it.

IIFYM

IIFYM allows you to eat anything, provided it fits within your daily macronutrient requirements, as pre-determined by a ‘macro-nutrient calculator’. Some people also track micronutrients and dietary fibre.

Advantages

  • There is freedom of food choice – You can literally eat anything (including a whole block of chocolate), as long as you don’t exceed or fall below your macros for the day.
  • Flexibility can make it easier to adhere to – eating out is easier, because you can account for it in your macros for the day. You can still eat foods you enjoy like the odd chocolate, protein bar, or ice cream. The benefit of eating in this way is that long-term adherence is easier when your eating is less restricted.

Disadvantages

  • You have to calculate everything – Firstly you need to work out how many grams of protein, fats and carbs you need per day to achieve your goal. Then you need to work out how much of those things is in everything you eat for that day.       Although it sounds easy, 100g of chicken is not 100g of protein. It contains about 31g of protein and 4g of fat. You need to work this out for everything you put in your mouth, which involves a lot of weighing, counting and research. Although this gets easier as you go and start to learn the macronutrient content of your regular foods, every day will be focused around counting. It’s a time consuming process.
  • It’s not necessarily healthy – Just because you can eat chocolate bars all day and still hit your macros doesn’t mean you should. They are still highly processed, full of sugar and fat, and contain toxic additives. Using IIFYM as an excuse to eat junk fund while ‘getting shredded’ will still have consequences on your health. It’s so important to get enough vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables. If you fill up your macros with junk food, you’re missing out on certain nutrients vital to your health. Some people will track their micronutrients as well, but again that is a time consuming process.
  • It can be overly tempting – Although the norm is not to fill your macros with junk, when the options are open, some people struggle to resist temptation. Eating foods high in sugar causes your blood sugar level to spike and then drop, which results in you craving another sugar hit to give you energy again. This can become a vicious cycle of cravings and sugar hits, which is not a good thing to have when you’re on a diet where you can technically eat anything. Another problem people may have is if they indulge too much early in the day, forcing them to ration their macros for the rest of the day. Leaving yourself to go hungry because you already used up your macros is not healthy physically or mentally.

What works for me?

I personally prefer the clean eating approach. I care a lot about eating highly nutritious food and avoiding toxins in my lifestyle, especially in what I eat. Eating clean is an effective way to minimize exposure to toxins and maximize intake of vitamins and minerals. I love healthy food because it makes me feel more energized and happy. Junk food always makes me feel sick or groggy. I’m human and get cravings that I occasionally succumb to, but because eating clean makes me function so much better it motivates me to ignore my cravings and eat well. I like having foods I can and can’t eat, and having rules to adhere to. For me, that kind of structure is easier to follow than an IIFYM approach, where I would be tempted by the wide variety of foods I could eat and get slack on my meal prep. I also hate the idea of counting my food and working out my macros every day – I’ve always hated maths! I still have my cheat meal once a week, filled with ‘dirty’ foods. I do think that it’s important to have a cheat meal to keep you balanced, enjoy a meal out with friends, or just to keep you sane. We are all human and there is a lot of temptation, so it’s nice to be able to give in to them sometimes. But overall, I love eating healthy foods and clean eating works well for me.

What will work for you?

You need to work out which approach will be most convenient, manageable and thus sustainable for you and your lifestyle. What will allow you to stick to your eating plan? Do you like to have rules about what foods to eat and what to avoid? Do you feel better eating clean foods? Perhaps you have food intolerances and clean eating is the best way to manage them. Or do you enjoy having flexibility in your diet to have some treats? Do you love eating out a few times a week, and are not willing to sacrifice that? If you had flexibility in your diet, would you have the willpower to still eat healthy foods the majority of the time? The reality is both methods can help you achieve weight loss, fat loss, or muscle gain – you just have to find the one that best suits you. No two people are the same, and thus no diet will work for everyone. Experiment, work out what you find sustainable, and stick to that, because it is consistency that is more important than which lifestyle you choose to follow.

With love,

B. xx

Image: sabotagetimes