Chocolate Banana Walnut Muffins

Craving some chocolate?  Give these tasty treats a try!  With walnuts and flaxseeds, they are a great source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

Tip:  when using flaxseeds it’s best to buy whole flaxseeds and grind them in a coffee grinder.

Chocolate Banana Walnut Muffins 

½ cup oatsChocolate Banana Walnut Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 tbsp. ground flaxseed

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ cup walnuts

½ cup honey

2 eggs

2 tbsp. cocoa

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 tbsp. maple syrup

1 tbsp. vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a muffin tray with butter or oil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (oats, flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and walnuts) and stir.

In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and whisk or blend with a mixer.

Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir together.

Spoon batter into muffin tray and bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Healthy Alternatives for Unhealthy Treats

Everybody likes a little treat now and then, right?  Of course we do.  We are all human, and besides, why not?  We deserve it!  The problem is, most of the treats we reach for are loaded with unhealthy fat, sugar, sodium, additives, and just plain bad stuff.  So, what do you do?  Why not make your own treats?  Yes, you can do it!  No matter what your weakness is, I am sure there is a healthier option for you.  I’m going to show you just a few of them here.

For me, I’ll be honest, I’m a chocolate lover!  I’ve actually managed to keep this under control.  I do not eat a chocolate bar every day, although I remember a time in my life when I did!  Now I only have chocolate when I really want it and I have the good stuff.  The good stuff is anything dark (sorry milk chocolate fans, but darker is better because it has less sugar and more nutrients) preferably organic, fair trade.  I buy a can of cocoa powder and use it as needed.  It lasts a long time.  Here are a few of my favorite, easy chocolate recipes.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 cup milk (experiment with different nut milks, hemp, etc.)

1 banana (freeze it in advance for a yummy milk shake effect)

1 tbsp natural peanut butter

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp cocoa powder

Mix all ingredients in a blender and serve!

Options:  You may add flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, protein powder, chia seeds, spirulina, or anything else in there if you would like the added nutrition.

 

Chocolate Nut Spread

1 cup natural nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.)

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp honey

Heat the nut butter in a small pot over medium heat.  Add the cocoa and honey.  Mix well and chill before serving.

Spread on toast, bagels, or fruit such as apples.

 

Chocolate Yogurt

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp honey

Mix together well and enjoy!

 

Of course, I realize that not everyone loves chocolate as much as I do.  See the list below for healthier options of your favorite treats.

 

Packaged Cookies

Bake your own cookies.  Buy a cookbook, search online or use an old family recipe.  To make cookies even healthier, try using a whole grain or gluten free flour and substitute white sugar with a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.

Candy

Same as cookies, make your own.  If you’re craving candy it’s the sugar you want.  Find a recipe that uses natural sweeteners instead of white sugar.  Honey and maple syrup, unlike sugar, have the energy boost you are looking for, as well as health benefits like disease-fighting antioxidants.  But remember all sugar, even the natural kind, can have a negative effect and should be kept in moderation.

Potato Chips

Can you make your own potato chips?  Of course you can!  Preheat your oven to 400 F, slice a potato (or potatoes) very thin and toss them with oil.  Spread them on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.  When they are done, sprinkle them with sea salt or other seasonings (cayenne pepper, cumin, dill, etc.) and set them aside to cool.

Dip

Want some dip with those chips?  You can make your own version of that too!  Greek yogurt is a great base for dips because it’s thick, creamy and low fat (regular chip dip has about three times the fat!)  Choose organic when you can for an even healthier option.  Add real minced garlic or onion, jalapeno pepper, or chili powder if you like a little heat.  Get creative!

Condiments

I think you all know where I’m going with this, right?  Make your own condiments.  Yes, you can do this too!  Trust me, ketchup comes from tomatoes, vinegar and other real ingredients.  Not from a bottle.  This goes for mustard, relish and mayonnaise too.  Do you think you are getting a good, healthy food when you buy hummus from a container?  Think again.  Even that hummus is most likely made with genetically modified canola or soy oil.  Making your own condiments is easy once you do it a few times.  Why not start with these recipes here?

 

Hummus

1 1/2 cup chick peas (preferably pre-soaked and cooked, however canned may also be used)

3 tbsp tahini

2 garlic cloves (minced or crushed)

1/2 lemon (juice)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add water or more olive oil (1 tbsp at a time) until you’ve reached a desired consistency.

 

Green Vegan Mayonnaisegreen mayo photo

1 cup avocado oil

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground mustard

1 cup raw cashews

1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Chill before serving.

 

 

Chocolate and the ‘Winter Blues’

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting some nice women at the Ottawa MFRC, in honor of International Women’s Day.  We had a lovely evening filled with chocolate and interesting conversation.  Our topic of the evening was Seasonal Affective Disorder, or ‘SAD’, otherwise known as the winter blues.  Did you know that women are three times as likely as men to suffer from depression? SAD is a very real and common condition that many Canadians experience this time of year.  A big reason for this is our lack of sunlight and shorter days.  But, there are a few other reasons to consider.  We all have neurotransmitters in our brains, which help regulate our moods and behavior.  Two of these are serotonin, which controls our mood, and dopamine, which controls our motivation.  A deficiency in one or both of these will make us want to lay in bed or on the couch all day eating carbs and chocolate!  The reason we crave chocolate is because it increases our serotonin levels.  Have you ever thought that chocolate makes you happy?  Well, it’s true! There have been studies to prove this.  However, this does not mean it’s recommended to eat a chocolate bar a day.  Instead, have a few squares of a good, quality organic chocolate when you feel the need for a ‘pick me up’.  Choose dark chocolate with less sugar.  The darker the chocolate, the more nutrients it has.  Chocolate also contains antioxidants which lower blood pressure, cholesterol and improves blood flow to the brain and heart.  As if we needed even more reasons to eat chocolate?  Other ways to increase serotonin are to exercise, eat a good supply of complex carbohydrates throughout the day, and eat foods such as fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and eggs.   If you are worried about eggs and cholesterol, don’t.  Recent studies have found that regular consumption of eggs in a healthy diet will not raise cholesterol levels.  In fact, eggs are recommended for their excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids, and Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is another significant factor in SAD or the winter blues.  Vitamin D is produced in our skin from sun exposure.  In winter months, most Canadians are at least a little bit vitamin D deficient.  You can supplement with vitamin D, or you can increase natural food sources, such as fish and fish oil, butter and eggs.  Always choose wild fish instead of farmed, and if you are buying fish in a can, choose one that is BPA free.  Rain Coast Trading is one brand that can be found in the organic section of your grocer or natural food store.   Remember the other neurotransmitter that gives you motivation, dopamine?  Dopamine is made from tyrosine, which is made from phenylalanine.  Food sources of phenylalanine are eggs, meats, fish, nuts and seeds.  Almost all the same foods that contain tryptophan for serotonin.  Nice!  Our brain is 60% fat and needs fat to regulate nerve function.  No wonder these foods that increase serotonin and dopamine are high in fat.  So, don’t be afraid to increase your fat intake with foods such as fish, eggs, nuts and chocolate to make yourself feel better.  If you’re worried about gaining weight, get out and get active.  Burn the extra calories and increase your serotonin levels even more with physical activity.  Your body and your brain will thank you!

 

Need a chocolate treat right now?  Try this simple and easy recipe!

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

chocolate-smoothie edit11 cup unsweetened almond or rice milk

1 banana (frozen)

1 tbsp peanut butter, natural

1 tsp honey

1 tsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

 

Mix all ingredients in a blender and serve.

Option:  You may add a tbsp. of psyllium husk to add fiber, hemp or other protein powder, or flaxseed or hempseed oil for added essential fatty acids.