Guys – I have some exciting news: I am officially done classes!!! That’s right – I’m only 10 case studies and a final exam in August away from actually being qualified to dole out all this nutritional advice I’ve been throwing at you for the past couple years (which actually gives me slight anxiety because it’s basically the equivalent of two months of non-stop work in my last trimester of pregnancy, but hey – who said achieving your goals was easy? Cause that guy was a dirty liar…). I have big plans for taking this little blog and my nutrition career to the next level, but first I gotta push out this meatloaf (aka baby Grant) and survive the first few months of mamahood, so those plans are more like 2017 projects. But in the meantime, I’m still here to bring you some deliciously clean (and let’s face it, pregnancy and monster appetite centric) recipes that taste good while fuelling that hot behind of yours right – like this week’s TNB Sugar-free Granola!!
If you’re like me, then you understand granola as one of those perfect breakfast or snack foods that start as a small ramekin size portion and somehow ends up as a massive bowl of oat-y, nutty goodness (with lots of raisins, cause Mother nature knows what’s up when she makes her version of candy). Unfortunately a lot of homemade versions still contain a lot of sugar (even natural varieties), and those boxed versions? Just forget it. They’re garbage. So I set about creating a version that was delicious and satisfying but low in sugar. Enter unsweetened applesauce and mission accomplished.
While this recipe is low in sugar, it’s not low in fat. And you know why that’s not a problem? BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NOT FEAR THE FAT!! Yes folks, fat is your friend (despite what the 90s had us all believing). Well, GOOD fat is your friend. I’m not talking inflammation, disease inducing trans, saturated (except coconut oil) or other man made fats. I’m talking about EFAs (most notably omega-3 and 6) – those essential fatty acids that pretty much make that amazing bod of yours keep working (and working it!). They make sure your critical fat soluble vitamins (think immune building A, C, and Es) can be utilized by the body; play a key role in the development and functioning of your brain and nervous system; regulate proper thyroid and adrenal activity; and so many other important functions we’d be here all day listing them. So let’s just leave it at this: they’re damn important. Which makes it a problem that so many people today are deficient in these fundamental fats, leading to problems such as mood swings (hormones), memory loss, dementia and other mental illnesses (brain function), vision problems (fat soluble vitamin A deficiency), skin problems (again, vitamin A and E), and chronic inflammation (usually due to a diet too high in the bad fats).
When we say “essential”, what we’re really saying is “it’s essential that you get these fats from your diet”, since unlike other fatty acids your body cannot produce these on its own. There is no recommended amount of essential fatty acids in your diet, as everyone is different and has different needs. However it is recommended that fats make up 10% to 15% of your daily caloric intake (with the majority hopefully being EFAs and good fats). Of this percentage, you should consume 2 to 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately the typical North American diet is quite out of balance, with an average closer to 20 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s due to high meat consumption as well as a diet high in processed foods heavy in omega-6 plant oils (such as safflower and sunflower). To be clear, the issue is not that omega-6s themselves are inflammatory (they’re not). It’s just that unlike omega-3s, they can become inflammatory in the body. This is why it’s important to focus more on omega-3 (which produce only anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body) to counteract any inflammatory effects from other parts of your diet or lifestyle.
So where do you get omega-3? Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel (as long as it’s a clean source), flax oil and chia seeds (which also contain the best balance of omega-6s to 3s), are the best sources, but so are many nuts and seeds – which is why this granola is so perfect! Walnuts and pecans specifically are great sources, while the rest of the nuts and seeds in this recipe offer other essential minerals (think zinc and iron) and plant-based protein to round it all out for pretty much the best damn breakfast to power your brain and your bod for the day ahead (especially if you’re also growing both a baby bod and brain).
Plus, it tastes incredible, which is, let’s face it, what matters most.
The Natural Blonde
P.s. Although I am a advocate of portion control, I maintain for true enjoyment’s sake it’s essential to once a week ditch the tiny ramekin or measuring cup and just crush a massive bowl of this granola and not give a fig who’s watching. YOLO and all that jazz.
TNB Sugar-Free Granola
• 3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking; certified GF if necessary)
• 1 cup raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
• ¾ cup raw walnuts
• ¾ cup raw pecans
• ¾ cup raw almonds
• 1 cup shredded coconut
• 1-1 ½ cups raisins (depending how much you like raisins – I LOVE them, much to my crazy raisin hating husband’s chagrin)
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
• 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except the raisins and the coconut (these go in the mix later since they will burn if cooked for the whole time) and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together the applesauce, coconut oil and vanilla, then pour over the dry ingredients, ensuring everything gets well coated.
Pour granola mixture onto a large baking sheet (you may need two depending on how big your sheets are – mine are massive with a good lip), and spread it out into a single layer. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent burning.
After 30 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and add the coconut and the raisins, stirring everything well. Place the granola back into the oven for another 15 minutes or until golden brown, being careful not to burn the nuts in this final stretch (the mixture may not seem as “crunchy” or dry as you think it should be after 45 mins. but it will dry further as it cools). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before transferring to a jar.
Will last for a couple weeks in an airtight container (although I have never had a batch last longer than 4-5 days. Ever.). Can be enjoyed as a cereal with nut milk; over yogurt and fruit; or literally standing in front of your cupboard straight out of the jar with your hands (perhaps by favourite way).