Healthy Muesli Bars

 

A muesli  bar may be a quick and easy grab as you run out the door in the morning, but is your bar as healthy as it could be? Many muesli bars, although calorie controlled, may contain an enormous amount of sugar, a significant number of calories, and maybe even trans fats. Although it may be a quick option, you don’t want to start your day with a sugar rush, right?

Here are some quick tips for choosing a muesli bar and an awesome low-sugar recipe you can make at home:

 

1.      Sugar.

Look for bars with 10g of sugar or less. Some bars can contain over 20g of sugar, that’s 4 teaspoons of added sugar! Generally, if there is a ton of sugar, the bar is highly processed and may contain other additives or very little fiber.

2.      Fiber

Aim for a bar with at least 3-5g of fiber. Breakfast is a great place to get in some extra fiber in your day. Your total fiber intake should equal 25-30g per day. Plus, fiber helps slow digestion, so the high fiber bar should hold you over until lunch.

3.      Protein

Protein increases satiety or the feeling of fullness. It also helps prevent carbohydrates (sugar) from rushing into the blood stream too quickly. A bar that contains at least 5-10g of protein will help you stay full until lunch. If the bar doesn’t have enough protein, try adding a handful of nuts, a boiled egg, or some low fat cheese for that added protein.

4.      Other ingredients

Make sure you read the ingredients list on the muesli bars. Don’t be fooled by the words “whole grains” or “organic” or other seemingly healthy words on the package.  Look for bars with a short list of ingredients, all of which you should be able to pronounce. Stay clear of bars with the words “partially hydrogenated” on the label, this means the bar contains trans fats.

The best way to know what ingredients are going into your granola or muesli bar is to make it yourself. Here is an excellent low-carb, gluten-free recipe for homemade muesli bars.

This recipe is GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY FREE, GRAIN FREE, VEGAN, VEGETARIAN, LOW CARB, PALEO, SOY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, HIGH FIBRE

 

HEALTHY MUESLI BAR

Adapted from Healthy Indulgences Blog

Makes 6 bars

Ingredients:

Wet Mix:

1 tbspn rice malt syrup or pure maple syrup

2 tbspn coconut oil

1 Tablespoon stevia

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Photo: Whole Lifestyle Nutrition
Photo: Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

Dry Mix:

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts

3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

1 Tablespoon pepitas

1 Tablespoon finely shredded unsweetened coconut

1 Tablespoon cacao nibs (for that chocolate flavor- can do more nuts instead)

1 teaspoon flax seed meal

2 Tablespoons coconut milk powder (in Asian section of supermarket)

1/16 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/16 teaspoon sea salt

1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract

4-6 tablespoons vanilla protein powder – I like Sunwarrior Rice protein (if dairy free) or Optimum Nutrition Gold 100% Standard Whey (not dairy free)

In a small food processor, add almonds and pecans to processor bowl, and pulse 8-10 times. Add sunflower seeds, pepitas, coconut, cacao nibs, flax seed meal, coconut milk powder, xanthan gum, sea salt, protein powder and stevia extract. Replace lid, and pulse 3-5x, until all the nuts are chopped up.

Preheat oven to 180*C. Line the bottom of a 20 by 10cm slice pan with parchment paper. Heat maple syrup or rice malt syrup and stevia in a small saucepan over medium heat until you see tiny bubbles forming in the mixture and the stevia is dissolved. Wait one minute after stevia has dissolved, then take the mixture off heat and stir in vanilla. Quickly, scrape hot liquid from pan into dry mixture, and stir around with a spatula until mixture is evenly coated. Press evenly into the bottom of loaf pan with spatula.

Bake for 10 minutes (7 minutes, 30 seconds in convection ovens). Remove bars from oven, let cool a couple minutes, and invert on to cutting board. Cut into bars with a sharp knife. Remold the corners as necessary. Slide bars, bottom side up, on to metal pan. Bake for 9 more minutes (7 minutes for convection oven). Remove from oven, and place muesli bars on cooling rack. Store each bar separately in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator, ready to grab and go!

Dairy Free Sources of Calcium

dairy free calciumCalcium is an abundant and vital mineral found in our bodies. The main function of calcium in our diets is to help maintain strong bones and teeth. Almost all the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones, but our body will sometimes remove calcium as needed for other bodily functions such as to help release hormones, maintain blood vessels, and to build enzymes. When the body begins to take out too much calcium from the bones, when we don’t get enough from our diet, this may lead to a weakening of the bones called osteoporosis. Therefore, it is important to consume enough calcium via diet, so that our body is not forced to access the stored calcium.  The daily recommended amount (known as RDI) for calcium for adults is 1,000 mg.  Consuming this amount daily may be challenging for some people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, as milk, yogurt, and cheese contain a significant amount of calcium. But, there are several dairy free sources that actually have almost as much calcium as dairy, without any of the consequences.

Vegetables

Several vegetables contain a significant amount of dairy free calcium. All of the green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and spinach, contain calcium. A cup of broccoli has 180 mg and spinach contains 240 mg per cup. Other vegetables to try: arugula, bok choy, and swiss chard. The only issue with getting all of your calcium from green leafy vegetables is that they are high in oxalates, which can block calcium absorption so it is hard to determine how much is actually absorbed. Try to vary your high calcium foods so that you don’t just rely on vegetables to supply your daily needs.

Seafood

Fish is a surprising source of dairy free calcium. In order for fish to contain calcium, it must also contain bones. Seven sardines contain about 321 mg of calcium, as they are consumed whole with the bones intact. Canned salmon, which contains small bone fragments, contains 232mg for only ½ a can. Seaweed is also very high in calcium, provides 126 mg per cup.

Nuts and Seeds

Several varieties of nuts and seeds can be great sources of calcium. Chia seeds are amongst the highest in calcium, they provide 179 mg per 28g AA026294serving. Not sure how to eat chia seeds? You can sprinkle them on salads or other cold dishes or just add them to tea or water for an extra dose of calcium. Sesame seeds provide 64 mg per tablespoon and Tahini (sesame paste contains 119 mg calcium per ounce. Almonds are also high in calcium, containing 75mg per ounce. An ounce of nuts can provide an excellent filling snack and a great source of dairy free calcium!

Milk Alternatives

For those that have a dairy allergy or are lactose intolerant, there are several beverages considered “milk alternatives” that can be substituted for milk as a source of dairy free calcium. Lactose-free milk is a good alternative for those with lactose intolerance, but would not work for people with a dairy allergy. Soy milk can contain between 200-400mg per cup depending on the brand. Almond milk is also very high in calcium, containing about 200 mg per cup. Even orange juice is calcium fortified, but watch out the sugar content.

Supplements

If you feel you are not reaching your calcium goals for the day, you may want to consider a supplement. Make sure it is a calcium citrate supplement which is better absorbed than calcium carbonate.  But, your body cannot absorb more than 500 mg of calcium at once, so split up your dose if you are aiming for 1,000 mg per day.

Even if you have lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, with these high-calcium dairy free alternatives it will be easy to get enough calcium daily and maintain strong teeth and bones.

 

Gluten-free, low-sugar, banana bread

Here is a great recipe for those of you craving a healthier, sweet dessert. Since this doesn’t contain any flour it is great for those of you following a gluten-free diet. The sweetness in this recipe comes from the bananas and dates, which also provide a great deal of fibre. There is no refined or processed sugar in bananathis recipe at all. Bananas provide not only 3g of fibre, but also a good dose of potassium, Vitamin A, and folate. Dates are also super high in potassium, iron, and magnesium. A dessert packed with all these amazing nutrients? Yes, please!

I made these as muffins or you can use a traditional banana bread dish. Be aware if you cook it in a bread dish, you will have to cook it for slightly longer.

This recipe is GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY FREE, GRAIN FREE, PALEO, NUT FREE, SOY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, HIGH FIBRE

Ingredients

For the banana muffin

  • 6 bananas (brown ones are sweeter)
  • 4 dried dates, pitted
  • 4 eggs
  • ? cup coconut cream concentrate or homemade coconut butter  (see recipe)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Coconut Butter Recipe

  • 200g unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract)
  • Pinch of Kosher salt.

Place all ingredients in a high powered blender or food processor and blend together until smooth. This may take up to 10 minutes to get smooth depending on the power of your blender or food processor.  Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Toppings
Frozen blueberries or raspberries
Sliced banana
Dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
Flaked almonds

                                                Instructions
glutenfreeveganbananamuffins_158x2001. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Add dried dates to the food processor and puree until you get a lumpy paste.
3. Then place bananas in the food processor and pulse until completely pureed.
4. Next add eggs and coconut butter and puree.
5. Then add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.
6. Pour batter into well-greased muffin tins (baking paper works best).
7. Add blueberries, cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), flaked almonds or whatever other topping you like onto the muffins. Mix with a knife to incorporate if you like.
8. Place into the oven for 30 minutes or until you poke each one with a skewer and they come out clean.
9. Let rest for about 5 minutes.

 

Coconut and Almond Rice Pudding

I’ve always loved rice pudding or ‘rizogolo’ in Greek as my wonderful mother-in-law calls it (and I should note her more traditional cinnamon and vanilla version is to diet for…and she has made this for me MANY times in the last decade).  This rice pudding just has a little dairy free and coco-nutty twist!  This is a great little dessert but I ate it for breakfast too! It is so creamy and tasty you wouldn’t guess it is dairy free, gluten free and low in added sugar too.  Perfect for the adults and the kids.

Now that I’ve made it, I think this would also be divine made with quinoa instead of the rice which would make it higher in protein, fibre and lower glycaemic index too.

This creamy deliciousness is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, MODERATE GI LOW FODMAP20130407-140452.jpg

What you need…

  • 1 cup (250g) arborio rice
  • 1 x 400ml Can Coconut Milk
  • 3 cups Almond Breeze, unsweetened
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped (or 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste)
  • ¼ cup Stevia, Xylitol (these are the sugar free options)…OR… Coconut sugar or Rapadura (these are sugar alternatives but still contain sugar but in a less processed form)
  • 1 cinnamon pod
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract (optional)
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted slightly
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

 

How the magic happens…

…on the Stovetop:

1. Start by rinsing the rice with water. Add rice to a medium saucepan. Add sugar substitute, vanilla bean and pod (or paste) and coconut milk.

2. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Gradually add 2 more cups of almond milk, about 1/2 cup at a time. Let the milk absorb before adding more.

3. After 25 minutes, the rice pudding will be thick and creamy.

4. Let cool slightly and stir in the last cup of milk. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod.

5. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Slow cooker or Rice cooker:

1. Turn the slow/rice cooker on.

2. Add rice, coconut milk, almond milk, vanilla paste, sugar substitute, almond extract (if using) and cinnamon to the slow cooker. Set to high for 2-2 ½ hours or low for 4 hours.

3. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod if used. Allow to cool slightly.

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Thermomix (adapted from the fabulous Quirky Cooking)

1. In your Thermomix, grind up the sugar and vanilla bean for 1 minute on speed 9.

2. Scrape down lid and sides and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 25 minutes at 90 degrees, reverse, speed 1 1/2.

3. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving (it will thicken slightly).

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

Banana and Walnut Muffins – gf, df, sf, low FODMAP

I had a whole heap of mushie brown bananas and didn’t know what to do with them. I put it on our Facebook page, and our followers had terrific suggested to use them up. Some great ideas included smoothies, banana frozen yoghurt, pancakes (using banana instead of sugar) and even cocktails!  The winning vote however was for muffins.   Being a self confessed horrible muffin maker, I was guided by the suggestions of all our followers to make a really amazing finished product.  The trick is – don’t overmix, keep the oven temperature lower and only cook them for 15-20 minutes. 

These delicious banana and walnut muffins are perfect for a sweet treat – even for those that are gluten free, dairy free, soy free or on a low FODMAPs diet.  Plus, they are higher protein  and have good fats due to the walnuts and chia seeds.  Don’t forget to freeze them for lunchbox fillers.

 

BANANA & WALNUT MUFFINS

[Options for gluten free, dairy free and soy free]

Cooking Time   20 minutes

Makes   12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) self-raising flour (I used Orgran gluten free)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 70g butter, melted, cooled (I used Nuttelex lite)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup chia seeds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line 12 x muffin pan.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, chia seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk butter and eggs together. Stir in banana and walnuts (do not overmix). Spoon into prepared muffin pan.
  3. Bake for 20 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

Note:

– To make this into banana bread instead, use 1 cup plain flour and ½ cup self-raising flour.  Cook for 45-50 minutes.

– Freeze extras for easy snacks