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. 5: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

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I’ve recently had to make a very tough decision not to compete in March as I had planned. It was a tough call for me to make because I have invested so much time and effort into this process and come so far, so I didn’t want to let my hard work go to waste. But when pressures arose to start doing things I wasn’t comfortable with and I felt were not consistent with my overall health, I had to swallow my pride and step away from competition prep.

Throughout this entire process, my health has been and still is my utmost priority. I said from the beginning I would never sacrifice my health for aesthetics. Although it killed me to submit to not achieving the goal I had originally set myself, I know how important it is to do what’s right for my health and to always follow my gut instincts.

The training I’ve been doing for comp prep has been great – it challenges me and I’ve seen good results so far. The diet has been strict but full of healthy, whole foods and I haven’t been restricting the amount of food I eat at all. I’ve been happy with the results I’ve seen so far and overall, it has been a rewarding experience.

However I’ve come to realize that in preparing for a competition, there are many different methods that trainers use to get competitors ready for the stage. There are different diets, different training methods, different supplements, different ‘peak week’ techniques, etc. All of these methods seem to work, but not every method will suit every individual.

When my trainer started talking about taking supplements to start changing the balance of hormones in my body and get me lean for the stage, I instantly felt uncomfortable (note – they are not roids or anything, they are entirely legal supplements, I just didn’t think they would be good for my health). I went home to research the supplements that had been suggested to me, which is not unusual – I research everything before I put it in my body. Although I didn’t find any big warnings not to take it online, what I did find is very little research to support its use, and if anything a few recommendations that females should not use the product. There were no real conclusions either way as to whether it was safe or unsafe, however the fact there was so little information available to me on it and no information on potential long term effects of its use was enough for me to choose not to put it in my body.

In the midst of this uncertainty over these supplements (which for the record, I was not taking nor intending to take), I then had an allergic reaction to one of the completely natural herbal supplements I was already on. Although this supplement was just a natural combination of herbs, it caused a horrible rash all over my arms and face. It seems that this was just a reaction to the milk thistle the supplement contained, but it was the last straw for me. I took that as a warning sign, and I knew then that I was no longer going to take those supplements or any new ones for that matter.

I am not a big fan of taking supplements as it is, but I can see the benefit of supplementing with vitamins and minerals that you are deficient in (and cannot obtain enough of through food alone). This is especially the case when you’re training very hard and preparing for a comp where you need your body in peak condition. However, when it starts getting into relatively new supplements with little research and little knowledge of consequences later in life, I’m not willing to take any risks. If it takes me longer to achieve my goal, if I have to train harder, if I have to add in cardio, that’s all fine; but I won’t put anything in my body that I’m not 100% sure is consistent with my health.

Not everyone takes a heap of supplements to compete. However, where I chose to train, that is the method they use. I definitely don’t question that it works – they’ve got some great results with clients and got many competitors to look fantastic on stage! But this method is not for me. It’s completely possible that the supplements are safe and will have no long-term effects on my health, but I’m just not willing to take that chance to look good on a stage for ten minutes.

Pulling out from the competition was such a hard decision for me to make because I didn’t want to feel like a quitter. I have been training hard, put a lot of time and effort into food prep, and made many sacrifices in my social life for this competition and didn’t want my hard work to be for nothing. I’m also a very determined person and the idea of not achieving a goal kills me inside a little! But the fact of the matter is the actual competition has never mattered to me. I’m not overly fussed about getting up on stage in a bikini and high heels (if anything I was actually dreading that part of it!). The reason I set the goal to compete was just to keep me on track by having a set date and time that I needed to achieve my goal by. In that respect, it has already achieved its purpose. I’ve worked hard, I’ve stuck to it and I’ve got some fantastic results so far. I’ve still got a long way to go, but my transformation certainly doesn’t end here! I plan to keep training hard, add in some HIIT cardio and mix up my diet so I can have some more balance and flexibility but still get results. Although I’m still determined to keep improving, I’m happy that without a deadline I can add more balance into my life. It’s possible I will still compete one day, but if and when I do, it will be without all the supplements and using a method that puts my conception of holistic health at the forefront.

I’ve also learnt so much from this experience. I’ve learnt about manipulating food to achieve a goal. I’ve learnt new training methods. I’ve learnt how strong I can be – both physically AND mentally. And most importantly, I’ve learnt how important it is to never lose sight of your values and always stand up for what you believe in, no matter what others may say.

I admit that in the past few months with working full time and either training or cooking in every spare minute, my social life has really suffered. Even when I go to social events and don’t eat the food or bring my own food to eat, it’s hard not to feel socially isolated. It’s fun to enjoy a meal out with friends, and you can usually find healthy options on most menus. I definitely miss this aspect of life and I welcome it back with open arms now that I don’t have a pending competition!

Since I made this decision two weeks ago, I’ve started mixing up my diet, planning it all myself with a focus on tracking my calories and macros while still eating healthy, clean foods. This is allowing me some flexibility to eat out and/or just eat some of the foods that make me happy e.g. Greek yoghurt and berries are back on the menu! I’ve been doing this for 2 weeks now and appear to be getting leaner, which is very exciting! I’m hoping it continues to work, as it is a much more sustainable lifestyle and I can enjoy myself while still achieving my goals. Bring on less restriction with solid results! 🙂

This was a tough blog post to write, in light of it being a hard and emotional decision for me to make. But it has only made me stronger, standing up for my values despite pressures to take the easy way out to get to the stage and avoid damage to my ego. As they say, it’s about the journey not the destination, and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about this experience. It has been a fantastic learning curve and a good test of my strength in the face of adversity.

After a full on few months and an emotional few weeks surrounding this decision, so I’ve just booked a spontaneous trip to Byron Bay for the long weekend! This holiday will allow me to take some much-needed time out and take a break from what was such a rigid routine. It’s important to take time out and relax, and do what’s good for your soul. After all, looking after your mind is a very important aspect of health that should never be neglected. 🙂

With love,
B. xx

Image: zerodean.com

MEXICAN LETTUCE TACOS

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One of my passions is making clean versions of my favourite naughty meals. This recipe is quick, low-carb, clean, and still gives you the satisfaction of all your favourite Mexican flavours!

Ingredients: (makes two tacos – serves one)

For the Tacos:

120g chicken breast

½ tbsp coconut oil

1 carrot

½ brown onion

Ground cumin

Chilli powder to taste

1 tbsp oregano (dried)

A dash of tamari

Lime juice

2 lettuce leaves

Coriander

For the Guacamole:

1 avocado

Juice of ½ a lemon

¼ red onion (finely chopped)

For the Salsa:

½ punnet cherry tomatoes (diced)

¼ cup passata

¼ red onion (finely chopped)

Crushed garlic to taste

Chilli powder to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of water

Method:

  1. Heat the salsa ingredients in a saucepan on low heat until tomatoes have softened and it has formed a salsa consistency. Set aside to cool.
  2. Smash the avocado with the lemon juice and red onion using the back of a tablespoon. Set aside.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a pan with chicken and brown onion until chicken is cooked through
  4. Remove chicken from heat and shred with a fork.
  5. Return chicken to pan and add the carrot, cumin, chilli powder, oregano, and lime juice and heat for two minutes. You only need enough lime juice to give it a little bit of moisture. Add as much chilli as suits your preference, but use plenty of cumin as it gives it that Mexican flavour 🙂 I usually add a dash of tamari as well when I’m not preparing for comp.
  6. Carefully remove individual leaves from the lettuce, making sure you don’t tear them (or else your taco filling will be falling everywhere when you try to eat them!). I find it helps to slice across the bottom of the leaf with a knife then peel the leaf off.
  7. Fill the lettuce cups with the chicken mix, salsa, and guacomole. Top with fresh coriander leaves and serve.

Other delicious additions to these tacos would be black beans, kidney beans or corn if you want to add a carb source to the meal.
Enjoy 🙂

With love,
B. xx