One of the hardest things about eating healthily is managing the whole deal around cravings and snacking.  What we all need is healthy alternatives that we can reach for quickly, and which will help wean us off sugar and processed foods and, of course, taste delicious. If, at the same time, they can deliver a whole heap of nutritional and health benefits, so much the better.

These recipes will introduce you to some new and interesting ingredients and intriguing ways of flinging together delicious, nutritious and filling snacks that will go a long way to keeping your health goals on-track.

Magic Muffins

Sometimes, we all want to eat something quick, squodgy and satisfying.  Normally, when we’re craving insta-satisfaction, we would reach for the bread bin or biscuit barrel, but here’s a super-easy, quicker-than-quick alternative that is packed with good fats and Omega 3’s, protein, fibre and goodness that will meet all your requirements for instant snacking, without messing with your insulin levels. What I love are easy recipes that I can play with to ring the changes, and these muffins are just that. This is the infinitely versatile, perfectly sweet or savoury, magically- life-saving recipe that will be your ultimate weapon against cravings.

Basic recipe:

(Makes 1 huge muffin or 2 smaller ones)

  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 large free-range, organic egg
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter (almond, cashew, hazelnut, brazil nut)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or nut oil
  • optional sweetener of your choice ½ tsp stevia recommended
  • Pinch of salt

This basic recipe is good to go as it is, but you can add any number of different ingredients to create the perfect muffin for you.  Here are a couple of my favourite combinations – one for a sweet option, one for a savoury.

franmac.co.uk/recipes/country-living
 Sweet ingredients:
  • 1 heaped tablespoon any combination chopped dried or fresh fruit of your choice – eg: sultanas, dates, banana, berries, dessicated coconut
  • Maple syrup (optional, aim for as little as possible, depending on where you are on the no-sugar spectrum)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
 Savoury ingredients:
  • 1 heaped teaspoon nutritional yeast OR 1 oz grated cheese
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • chopped herbs/veggies of your choice – eg cumin, rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, onion, chilli, sweet pepper

Method                   

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large mug.  Add the egg and mix thoroughly with a fork and then add the nut butter.  Depending on whether you are opting for the sweet or savoury version, add the appropriate ingredients at the end and stir well to combine.

Put the mug in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Tip your (slightly oddly shaped!) muffin onto a plate and enjoy.  It will be piping hot so take care!

So that’s the easy-peasy, done in a tick version, but if you like baking ahead, the basic recipe can also be augmented to be made up as a loaf, a savoury foccacia or a batch of muffins, baked in the oven.   Here are the details:

For Sweet Flax Banana Bread or Muffins
  • 200g flaxmealBanana bread 2
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • A couple of tablespoons seeds such as Dr Gaye’s Super Omega
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 5 organic, free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75 ml coconut oil
  • 100 ml water
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter of your choice
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 4 medjool dates, chopped OR 2 tablespoons sultanas

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl and combine thoroughly with a fork, leaving the dates until the end. Put the wet ingredients, including the mashed bananas and nut butter in a separate bowl all together and stir well to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir again thoroughly.  Finally add in the chopped dates and stir to distribute evenly through the mixture.

For a savoury tomato and basil foccacia, loaf or muffins:
  • 200g flaxmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • A couple of tablespoons seeds such as Dr Gaye’s Super Omega
  • 5 eggs
  • 75 ml olive or nut oil
  • 100 ml water
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast plus 3 extra tablespoons water OR 100 g grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon smoked cumin

Savoury muffinsCombine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir thoroughly with a fork. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the oil and the water.  Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly. Add the flavourings and stir thoroughly to distribute evenly through the mixture.

Whether you opt for the sweet or savoury option, here’s how you can also choose your format – loaf, muffins or focaccia:

For a loaf:  Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake at 180°C for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.  I usually check at 25 and 30 minutes.

For muffins:  Spoon into muffin trays or cups and bake at 180°C for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.  Check at 15 minutes to be on the safe side.

For foccaccia:  Allow mixture to stand for 2 or 3 minutes until it has stiffened enough to hold its shape.  Empty onto a flat, lined baking tray and spread with the back of a spoon to create the desired shape and thickness.  Sprinkle with a little sea-salt, garlic or additional herbs.  Bake at 180°C for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

So there you have it!  The perfect suite of gluten-and-dairy-free, low-sugar, high protein, low carb snacks and bread alternatives that will give you everything you need to manage and control your cravings!

Have a play with these recipes and add your own ingredients, to make them uniquely your own!  The possibilities are endless!

Send in your own personal favourite to hello@franmac.co.uk and we will feature it on the site!

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In need of a sweet treat that won’t set you on a guilt trip? This recipe, created by award winning TV Chef and Nutritionist, Christine Bailey, on behalf of Mindful Bites, is for a fudge is so scrummy you’ll find it hard to believe it’s so healthy. Rich in protein and essential fats with no added sugar this makes a wonderful treat or healthy post workout snack.

The addition of the superfood, Baobob, gives this fudge a sensational citrus tang and plenty of vitamin C for animmune and beauty boost.

Vitamin C is crucial for the production of collagen which is an
essential protein for healthy skin, bones and hair.

Makes 20 pieces

Suitable for Vegetarians, Suitable for Vegans, Gluten Free

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Chilling Time: 3 hours

Storage: Keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Chocolate Cashew & Baobab Fudge
Fudge

Picture courtesy Christine Bailey: www.christinebailey.com

Ingredients

  • 200g cashew nuts
  • 200g pecans
  • 1tsp baobab powder
  • 200g dairy free, sugar free chocolate chips
  • 75g cashew nut butter
  • 150g pitted soft dates

 

 

 

 

Method:

1. In a high speed blender grind up the nuts in batches until really fine. Place in a bowl with
the baobab powder.
2. Put the chocolate chips in a small saucepan with the nut butter and melt over a low heat.
3. Place the dates in a blender with the melted chocolate mixture and process to form a stiff
paste.
4. Add the chocolate paste to the ground nuts and combine thoroughly using your hands to
make sure it is completely mixed. It should form a soft dough.
5. Place the mixture into a lined 20cm / 8-inch shallow square tin and press down firmly.
6. Chill for 3-4 hours until firm. Cut into chunks to serve.

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 Who doesn’t love Banana Bread? This recipe, created by Christine Bailey, an award winning TV Chef and Nutritionist on behalf of Mindful Bites,  is for a perfectly nutritious gluten-free bread to kick start your day. Packed with fibre, healthy fats and protein to energise you through the whole morning. Using Mindful Bites Almond & Maca Nut Butter, this is the perfect way to give your morning a healthy sustained energy kick.

Maca is a well known adrenal adaptogen helping the body cope with our daily stresses. Almonds are a good source of magnesium, manganese, iron and B vitamins which are all essential for energy production. Sweetened with bananas rather than sugar or syrups this will some become a family favourite.

For a special treat why not add a handful of chocolate chips to the mix before cooking.

Gluten free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian

Makes 1 x 2lb loaf / Serves 10

Banana Almond Maca Bread
Banana Almond Maca Bread

Picture courtesy of Christine Bailey www.christinebailey.co.uk

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe bananas, medium
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 60g coconut oil softened
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 125g Mindful Bites Almond & Maca Nut Butter
  • 30g coconut flour
  • 75g gluten free porridge oats
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g dairy free chocolate chips, optional

 

 

 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4.
2. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment
3. Place the first five ingredients in a food processor and beat well until smooth. Add the
remaining ingredients and process to form a smooth batter. If you want to at this point, stir
in some chocolate chips or handful of dried fruit or mixed seeds.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
5. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and when a skewer is inserted
into the middle it comes out clean
6. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before turning out on to a wire
rack.
7. Cool then slice and serve.

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The problem lies in the fact that most of us are not even aware of how much sugar we are consuming. Whilst we know the obvious culprits (although even they can surprise us), there are also the sugar sources we don’t know about. Sugar is added to hamburgers to reduce shrinkage and add juiciness, to breading in deep fried foods or to give frozen fish a sheen. It is added to canned and frozen vegetables to maintain colour and juiciness; to bread to give it that golden crust; to soups and sauces to lend glossiness and flavour.

In fact, by some estimates, as much as 75% of the food available in supermarkets contains some form of added sugar.

Understanding sugars

Sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body depends on the type of sugar you’re eating, and what you are eating it with.

Natural sugars are found in fruit and vegetables as fructose and in dairy products as lactose. Foods with natural sugar provide essential nutrients and come packaged up with vitamins, fats and fibre that assist the body in metabolising them appropriately.

Refined sugar (the white and brown crystals we think of when we say ‘sugar’) comes from sugarcane or sugar beets, which are industrially farmed (using all sorts of pesticides and fertilisers and even, in the States, GMO plants) and then highly processed to create the sugar crystals, leaving any nutrients or goodness behind. This granulated sugar, is typically found as sucrose. Food manufacturers use chemically produced sugar – aka high-fructose corn syrup – to get maximum sweetness with minimum cost.

Refined Carbohydrates as found in white bread, white rice, spaghetti and baked goods are ‘read’ by your body as sugars.  As far as  it is concerned, even if you are eating a hamburger, or a pizza, your body will deal with the bread in exactly the same way as it deals with refined sugar, which is to metabolise it very quickly.

Metabolism matters

Because refined sugar is digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating, no matter how many calories of it you have consumed. On the other hand, the fibre and insoluble starches in fruit and vegetables slow down the metabolisation of the sugars they contain. That’s why it is easy to munch through an entire packet of biscuits, but an equivalent number of calories in apples? Not so much. It’s almost like nature put a handy brake on the amount of sugar we can take in one go. A brake that we humans were quick to dismantle, in the form of refined sugars and processed foods.

What determines how your body uses the sugar you have consumed is the amount of sugar already in your blood. Therefore even if what you’re munching on is a fresh apple, when you’ve just eaten your body-weight in donuts (or pizza) your body will still store the additional sugar from the apple as fat.

apples

The important thing, in addition to eating less sugar and refined carbohydrates generally, is to switch to unrefined, natural sugar. Use apples, bananas, carrots and dates to sweeten your baking.

The trick is to choose your sugars carefully.

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Chronic fatigue is increasingly prevalent as our as our lifestyles become more and more frenetic and our diets move further and further away from the whole, natural foods our bodies understand. As anyone who struggles with this knows only too well, the daily battle with fatigue is extremely debilitating and depressing, making it difficult for people who suffer to get through their days productively and positively.

If you feel that you are struggling under a heavy blanket of exhaustion, know that you are not alone and that there is a positive way forward. Having suffered and overcome chronic fatigue myself, here is my strategy for naturally re-discovering your rightful energy levels.

Drink more water

Without enough fresh water to flush through the system, it becomes sluggish which means things stay in the body for longer than they should and this definitely over-stresses all your organs and tissues which have to work extra hard to to compensate.  If you can down at least two 8oz glasses of water first thing every morning that will set you up nicely for the day. Follow that up with hot water with lemon and ginger instead of tea or coffee and then aim for one big glass of water at least every two hours during the day.

Don’t kid yourself that you are getting plenty of fluids in your hot drinks. Caffeinated drinks, including tea, coffee and fizzy drinks are diuretics which means they actually deplete fluid levels. In addition they are all highly acidic for the system, and rev up the adrenals. All of which you really don’t need when you are trying to tune in to your natural energy levels.

Cut right back on sugar and hi-carb snacks.

We all know that feeling of being exhausted and reaching for a quick sugary pick-me-up. Only problem is, it doesn’t pick you up at all. You get a momentary lift as all that sugar hits your bloodstream, but because we are not designed to have so much sugar in our blood, the pancreas kicks in to release insulin which mops up all the sugar and then you feel worse than you did before, so you reach for another snack and the cycle goes on. This constant spiking of insulin levels is extremely bad for us, depletes energy levels and ultimately sets us up for weight gain and all sorts of other problems.If you must have a snack, make sure it contains fibre, protein and fat. Instead of sickly, processed chocolate try a fruit and nut energy ball. The fibre, protein and the natural fats in the nuts ensure the sugars are released more gradually into the bloodstream, this prevents those insulin spikes and roller-coaster energy levels.

Breathe deeply.

It sounds silly, but most of us are simply not breathing properly and therefore not getting enough oxygen into our bodies. This creates brain-fog and tiredness. We are particularly likely to take shallow breaths when we are stressed and that causes our adrenal glands to release cortisol, which also affects insulin levels, and makes us very tired. My favourite trick whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or tired is the 4-7-8 breath. Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of 4, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then release your breath slowly through your mouth for a count of 8. Breathing in deeply and then exhaling slowly triggers our para-sympathetic nervous system (often called the Rest and Digest system) which tells our body we are safe so stress hormones and energy levels return to normal.

Never under-estimate the mind-body connection. Breath-focused meditation is a wonderfully accessible method to de-stress and relax, delivering all sorts of proven endocrine and neural benefits in the process. If you want to kick it up a notch, experiment with Pranyama, a yogic tradition of controlling the breath to strengthen life force and energy.

Eat foods that support the de-tox pathways.

Eating a variety of high-fibre veggies and fruit with every meal is essential to feeling full of energy. The natural nutrients in veggies are parcelled up in different combinations in exactly the way our body likes to receive them. This makes it easy for our bodies to get the nutrients they need to function properly. In addition the fibre keeps energy release into the bloodstream at a constant. Finally, veggies, especially leafy green ones, support the liver and other de-tox mechanisms making them more efficient at eliminating the toxins that drag us down and make us feel tired.

Avoid heavily processed and packaged food, especially fried foods.

Most of the additives, preservatives and fats in processed food are known toxins and hormone disruptors. In addition they also contain a lot of addictive substances (like sugar, salt and fat) which put a heavy load on our adrenal glands and make us lose touch with our natural appetite. Even writing that makes me feel tired, so imagine how your body feels having to process all that stuff! Occasional helpings of processed food are obviously not a problem, but to eat packaged and/or fast food at every meal is very taxing on the body, pre-disposes us to weight gain and chronic fatigue.

Our bodies are subtle and complex and small things can upset the balance and create a cascade of symptoms. But, equally,  something simple and accessible can get us back on track.

By following these simple steps you will be doing a number of things that will help your body get back to where it wants to be; you will be supporting and encouraging a healthy digestive system, alkalising your cells to reduce inflammation, stalling the production of cortisol and supporting the mechanisms that help to mop it up. Sleep will improve, cravings will start to abate and you will feel a surge in new energy.

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Fatigue is often a sign of imbalance in the body and, as such, should be taken seriously. If you are battling with fatigue, it is not all in your mind, you are not being stupid, or making a fuss about nothing. A lot can be achieved through diet but if there is as under lying problem such as an under-active thyroid, or over-active adrenals, it is worth having this checked out by a doctor or functional medicine specialist. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence and get whatever help you can.

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Want to take it a step further?

Schedule a free initial consultation today

Sometimes it just helps to talk things through with someone who understands what you are going through and who can take you through the options.  If you would like some sensible, practical support to help you overcome and manage your fatigue, let’s talk.

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