I had hoped to come up with something profound to say on the subject du jour: New Year, New You. I might have gone on about fresh starts, turning over new leaves (leafs?), spring cleaning your diet/life/soul/refrigerator (maybe I should do the latter, if only as a good incentive to actually do it). But, to be honest, I am assuming that most of you are sorted for that stuff. And to be doubly honest, I hold no expertise in any of that.
There are plenty of blogs, books and newspaper articles that can fulfil this yearly yearning for renewal and reinvention. But I am not one of them. Everyone is different: has different life experiences, expectations, limitations and needs. Most of us know what we have to do already. Sometimes just a little nudge or reminder is all we require. On the food front, I hope that’s what I do: just nudge, just remind, chuck in some sciencey stuff sometimes to back it all up and keep it kosher. I cannot be doing with a one-size, my-way-or-the-highway – or worse, ‘I am so perfect, this is what I do’ approach to life. And I don’t want to use this time of year as an excuse to tell everyone they will cure their disease/get better skin/banish the bloat/be more sorted if they follow my advice. I am not saying that lifestyle advice has no value, but I don’t feel a burning desire to jump into the fray and give you my two cents’ worth. I do have opinions (more accurately, rants) but here at food to glow I just want it to be about the food, some nutrition chat and any stories vaguely related to either.
But I do feel it is a good time, while we are all ripe for change, to draw your attention to my Healthy Swaps page. I wrote it awhile ago for my Cancer and Nutrition section, but I do think it has broader application for anyone using January as a springboard for a dietary rethink. It is only a short page, and I have ideas for updating it soon, but in the meantime have a look if you like, and pop on some healthy swap ideas of your own in the Comments section. And Happy 2013 to you all. I hope it is everything that you wish for, and more.
Date-sweetened Carrot & Almond Porridge
Homely porridge gets an ever so slightly exotic makeover with a judicious grating of vibrant carrot, a kiss of almond butter and a dab of mashed dates. Nicely sweet so you won’t miss the maple syrup or brown sugar, but with the satisfaction of knowing there’s no added sugar to spoil your New Years’ resolutions. If you do such things. I don’t. Maybe I should…
Use rolled oats for best results, but even the quick cooking oats (more processed but still a lot better than commercial cereals), and the longer cooking medium and pinhead oats work well, with time adjustments. You could also cook this up with other whole grains: quinoa, amaranth, wheat berries, barley, spelt. The point is to shake up your approach to whole grains. Something easy, something quick, but a little bit special too. I hope this fits that remit nicely. New Year. New Breakfast.
½ c porridge oats*
¾ c almond milk (or any other kind of milk)
¾ c water
2 stoned, fat dates -no jokes please… – whizzed or bashed with a dribble of the measured milk
1 small-medium organic carrot, scrubbed
1-2 heaped tsp almond or cashew butter (try with 1 tsp first)
Top with 5 raw, chopped almonds & extra milk for each serving
Optional: a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom (I like mine plain)
Add the porridge oats to a small pan and pour over the milk and water. Bring to a gentle boil over a low-medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about three minutes. Jumbo flakes may take a little more time.
When the porridge is the consistency you like stir in the almond butter, grate in the carrot and stir in the pureed dates. Serve immediately with chopped almonds and a splash of extra milk. A good and hearty breakfast to see you through to lunch.
Soft food diet: no nutty topping; finely grate the carrot
Nutrition Notes: Oats are rather ubiquitous grains, appearing in breads, cookies, savoury biscuits, as flour and, of course, at many breakfast tables as porridge, muesli or granola. You can even pop a couple of tablespoons of porridge oats in a smoothie to power it up. But their ubiquity shouldn’t detract from their rather elite nutritional usefulness. Known scientifically as Avena sativa, oats are especially hardy crops, growing in soil where little else thrives.
Despite growing in poor soil oats are endowed with a nutrient and research profile that puts even many vegetables to shame. Briefly, research has shown that oats (and some of this covers some other grains too): stabilise blood sugar, lower cholesterol, substantially lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, are protective for a number of cancers including colon and breast, guard against childhood asthma and reduce risk of heart disease. Pretty impressive for something you can buy just about anywhere, and for little money.
That reminds me, we (I include myself here) can sometimes be so enthralled by the latest hype about obscure ingredients that we forget about the good stuff already in our supermarket trolley or CSA box. I bet you already eat things such as apples, prunes, walnuts, citrus, garlic, dark green vegetables and olive oil. These are every bit as healthy and worthy as acai berries, wheatgrass and chia seeds. And vastly less expensive too. Eating healthily doesn’t have to be second mortgage territory. As I am typing this I have just looked at a 2011 Guardian newspaper article that supports what I have just written. Have a look here for a longer read on this, and definitely more skilled writing.
And, before I forget, here are some of the nutrient goodies found in the oh-so humble oat: manganese (68.5% of RDA in 1 cup), selenium (27%), tryptophan (a biochemical precursor for serotonin and melatonin), phosphorus, B vitamins (especially thiamin), fibre, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin E and protein. Impressed? I put ground up oats in a lot of baked goods, for example, Courgette, Lemon and Elderflower Cake. Any small ways to add nutritional goodness while still tasting fantastic is fine by me. Maybe for your next baking session take away a little flour (about 50g) and replace it with whizzed up oats.