In approximately three months, I’m going to wake up, wipe the drool from my cheek and look in the mirror at my 29 year old face. Twenty nine. That makes me feel ridiculously old, even though I know that in the bigger scheme of things it’s just a number. In fact, it’s no more significant than the mileage on your car… oh wait, maybe that’s a bad example. Ahem, let me correct myself: I’m not yet 30. And in my still-28-year-old brain, that is good.
Anyway, on a more positive note there are plenty of great things about getting older. For me, they mostly center around relationships, self-awareness, a distinct lack of pimples and… well, the fact that I’ve finally gained enough life experience to be classified as ‘wisdom’. Though I’m definitely not a sage, there are some deeper realizations that have penetrated my subconscious:
- Freckles are good. For the first time in my life, I’ve completely abandoned all efforts to erase the evident dappling across my nose and cheeks. It’s hard, but I’m accepting the position that I don’t have to look like a magazine model to be beautiful, as with uniqueness comes a beauty distinct from all others. Plus, if God the Master Artist put the blotches on the canvas, they’re automatically good, right?
- Limitations are real. The human body and mind get tired. They need rest, not coffee. And every now and then there will be something that, no matter how hard you try, you’ll be unable to achieve. And that, my friends, is okay.
- You can’t please everyone. There’s no point trying, as you’ll just get tired and burn yourself up like a strand of hair in a candle flame. You’ll probably smell just as bad, too.
- We are not immortal. The body has a limited ability to self-repair. Some things that break cannot be organically fixed, such as eardrums, rotator cuffs, eyes and natural teeth. So, to avoid hobbling, gummy smiles and future surgery I’m engaging my responsible self. You should too.
- Fat does happen. For a very long time I was blessed with the ability to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, whilst remaining as thin as a rail. In fact, I hated being thin. Stupid me. I no longer have that luxury and at the ripe old age of 28, I’m finally taking a sensible interest in nutrition and exercise. And you know what? It’s been fun.
Okay, so I’m probably pushing it with the bullet points. And I’ve glossed over enough deep issues in one paragraph to stimulate the immediate ingestion of a Tim Tam in most people. But… well, don’t. Because I’m going to spend the rest of this post telling you about a metabolism boosting snack that’s not only just as delicious, but also one hundred times better for your heart and waistline. It’s packed full of nutrient-rich nuts, chia seeds, oats and toasted quinoa, lightly wrapped in homemade honey almond butter. Interested? Well, read on. Then keep reading, as I’ve compiled enough nutritional information about nuts, seeds and metabolism in this post to sink a ship (full of very healthy people, should they have applied what they’d learnt).
Honey Chia Muesli Slice
- 2 1/2 cups wholegrain rolled oats
- 1/2 cup white royal quinoa
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 1/4 cup white or black chia seeds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup dried fruit (I use raisins, chopped dates & chopped apricots)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup honey or agave syrup (probably add a little less agave initially, then adjust to taste)
- 1/2 cup natural nut butter (see recipe below)
Combine the oats, nuts and seeds. Tip them onto a baking tray, spreading them out evenly before toasting them for 15 minutes in your preheated oven. Meanwhile, combine your honey, nut butter, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When smooth & well combined, remove from heat & allow to cool slightly.
When your oat mixture is pale golden, transfer it to a large bowl and add your dried fruit alongside the nut butter mixture, stirring to incorporate. The mixture should be adhesive (sticking together in clumps); if it appears to still be quite separate, add in a little extra nut butter. Once at your desired consistency, spread the mixture in the prepared lined pan, using the back of a wooden spoon or bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture together firmly. Ensure that it has a smooth, even surface with no cracks.
Bake your slice for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden and crisp round the edges. Remove from the oven and allow the to cool completely in the pan.
To serve: When cool, remove from the tin and lift onto a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut the sheet into one-inch wide bars. Next, cut the series of bars in half, lengthwise. Store in an airtight container.
- Feel free to substitute any dried fruits, nuts or grains into the above recipe, as long as the total fruit/nut content equals around 3 1/2 cups.
- If you don’t have natural nut butter, feel free to substitute with store-bought nut butter (preferably low salt, low sugar). Macro wholefoods make a pretty delicious natural almond butter, cashew butter, organic peanut butter and unhulled tahini that you can buy online or from your local Woolworths supermarket.
- You can also substitute 50g melted dairy butter, or about 1/4-1/2 cup applesauce for the nut butter, reducing the amount of honey or agave to accommodate the natural sweetness of the apples. If you use applesauce, please also be aware that your bars will be soft and chewy due to the increased moisture content.
- Make sure you let the bars cool completely in the tin before cutting them, as they’ll be soft and fracture when straight out of the oven.
- 1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted nuts
- A couple of pinches of salt to taste
- Raw honey to taste
- Pure nut oil (macadamia or walnut oil work well)
Place your nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, then grind until the nuts until the mix starts to form a coarse paste around the blade. Scrape down the sides of your food processor bowl, then process again until the mix starts to become smooth and creamy. If necessary, add a couple of splashes of nut oil to aid the process (start sparingly, as you can always add more oil but trying to save oily nut butter is… well, almost impossible).
Taste, then add salt and honey as required. Process again until the mixture reaches the consistency you like. I prefer a bit of texture to remain as you can see in the photograph, but if you prefer yours smooth, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Do a final taste test, then pulse one final time. Store your nut butter in sterilized jars in the fridge (see notes) for up to two weeks.
- As there are no preservatives you will need to keep this nut butter in the fridge to prevent the natural oils from going rancid. Prior to eating, leave it out of the fridge for 15 minutes or so, or place a couple of tablespoons on a plate and microwave it on low for 20 seconds.
- You can use the recipe above to make any nut butter, just make sure that your nuts are toasted prior to processing for maximum flavour and colour. My favourites are honey peanut butter, spiced cashew butter (with honey, some organic cinnamon & cardamom pods crushed to a fine ground) and chocolate hazelnut butter (add in grated dark chocolate for an instant grown-up version of nutella… delicious).
Some facts about nuts, seeds & metabolism (and fat)*:
Various people I know seem to think that if they drop their total caloric intake for the day as low as possible (eg. by skipping meals or eating plain lettuce) they will automatically lose weight. This is not essentially true, and in fact, it can cause the metabolism to slow down by sending the body into ‘starvation mode’ (this basically means that your body will burn food slower, and potentially store it as fat just in case the next meal never arrives. Clever body, huh? But not helpful for losing weight).
A more sensible option is to adjust your diet as follows:
- Choose foods that are rich in essential nutrients to a total of the recommended caloric intake for your gender and size, whilst also factoring in your activity level (sedentary, light activity or very active).
- Even if you’re aiming to lose weight, don’t drop your total caloric intake lower than 1,000 per day (this will avoid putting your body into ‘starvation mode’ whilst also ensuring that your brain and organs get enough essential energy. Weight loss diets recommend an intake of around 1,200 calories per day).
- Split your planned food for the day into lots of small meals, rather than three large ones. This keeps your metabolism alert and constantly working, boosting your digestive process whilst also stabilizing blood sugar levels to fuel muscles and organs.
- Choosing foods that are naturally harder for the body to digest naturally means that the body will use up more energy in the digestion process. This in turn increases the metabolic rate, boosting your metabolism.
- Foods in this category include those rich in protein and fibre, such as chicken, fish, egg whites, leafy green vegetables, wholegrains, oats, nuts and seeds. Many of these foods also have a low glycaemic index whilst being rich in essential vitamins, minerals and fats.
So… more about nuts and seeds. You may have noticed that I’ve been sneaking them into every recipe possible in either their raw form or toasted to golden, crunchy perfection. They’re slowly multiplying in every corner of the kitchen; the state of my pantry is ridiculous. All you have to do is open the door and some variety of embryonic plant will hit you in the face.
So why the obsession? Well, a big factor is that they’re just darn delicious… buttery, crunchy, and full of savoury goodness. The secondary major benefit is that they’re incredibly good for you, with health benefits as follows:
- Protein: both nuts and seeds are a rich source of plant protein, containing on average 18.9g of protein per 100g.
- High in good fats: meaning the mono- and polyunsaturated varieties alongside protective flavonoids, all of which are essential for managing inflammation, maintaining normal cell structure and lowering risks of heart disease
- High in energy: this basically means that they have lots of calories. Yes, too many calories without activity can lead to weight gain, but otherwise, calories can be a good thing. They help to fuel the brain and muscles, whilst complementary plant protein assists with the building of lean muscle mass.
- Manages hunger: almonds and sunflower seeds are active in the suppression of ghrelin, the hormone that tells you you’re hungry. Basically, this means you’ll be satisfied for longer.
- Minerals: nuts contain magnesium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus needed for bone development, immunity and energy production, alongside essential B vitamins and vitamin E for healthy skin.
In terms of obsessions, I’d say that this is probably one of my healthier ones to date. In comparison to my previous (ok, current) addictions such as chocolate and ice cream I’m getting a lot more nutritional benefit and lasting energy in every bite.
That’s definitely a worthy reason to be squirreling away honey chia bars, muesli and raw almonds in my desk drawer, right? I’m gonna say a big, healthy yes.
Above: organic white, red and black royal quinoa. Amazingly good for you, and darn delicious.
*Please note (get ready for an anal disclaimer): I am neither a dietitian or a nutritionist. All of the nutritional information included in this post has been shared in good faith with reference to various books and websites such as Livestrong and Metabolism Boosters. For good results, a solid diet must be combined with regular exercise (no, not walking from the sofa to the fridge and back). If you have any individual health or dietary concerns, please consult your local General Practitioner or a qualified dietitian.