I had a blast teaching a course at Montgomery College last week. I presented an overview of “The Ultimate Feel Good Foods” including the the connection between food and mood, an introduction to the gut-brain axis, and the emerging science of the microbiome. I spoke to a group of older adults in the lifelong learning institute who are taking courses on medicine and wellness. It was great to get their perspectives on how the rules of food have changed over the years.
For example, they spoke of how the table used to be an important gathering space for the family and how very rude they find it when their younger family members use their cell phones at the table. For my generation this seems to be perfectly normal, if not expected. But how can we really savor when our faces are connected to a screen?
They asked some good questions about nutrition: greek yogurt vs. regular yogurt, the best ways to get probiotics, real sugar vs. sugar substitutes, and how to make eating sacred when you are often eating alone.
I was touched by their honesty and interest in these emerging topics. I gave them ideas and recipes and also led them through a mindful eating exercise with small squares of chocolate and these Sugar Free Snowballs. These snowballs are sweetened with dry fruit and a little honey if you want, so they are great as a pick-me-up treat (not, of course, as a main meal). The healthy fat in the nuts and the fiber in the oats and nuts can slow the “sugar hit” to your system, and maintain healthy digestion. These are great to keep for that 3pm slump!
SUPER SUGAR FREE SNOWBALLS
- 1 cup mixed raw nuts
- 1.5 cups oats (gluten free if needed)
- 1 cup dry fruit (dates, apricots, raisins or figs work well)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- A pinch of sea salt
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup or honey
- 1/3 cup cacao powder (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds (optional)
- Shredded coconut or sesame seeds (for rolling)
- Blend the mixed nuts and oats in a food processor until finely chopped. Pour into a large bowl.
- Add the dried fruit to the food processor and blend until it forms a sticky paste.
- Place the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cacao if using, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and sweetener.
- Drizzle the coconut oil over and mix. You may want to use your hands at this point.
- If the mixture is too dry, gradually add 1 more tablespoon of honey or melted coconut oil and stir until it comes together.
- Once mix starts to come together, shape mixture into balls. Wet your hands between each ball to keep the ingredients from sticking to you.
- Roll in shredded coconut or sesame seeds and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
- These are a sweet treat, meant to be savored in small amounts. This combination of whole grains, protein from the nuts, fiber, and low sugar is a winning combination for giving you an energy boost and keeping you feeling satisfied throughout the day. This can prevent spikes and crashes in energy and mood.
- Oats can help stabilize blood sugar and help improve cholesterol because they contain soluble fiber. As a complex carbohydrate, oats help facilitate serotonin production, which may be linked to easing tension.
- Chia and flaxseeds have omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be beneficial towards boosting mood.
- Cacao powder is rich in magnesium, which helps with relaxation.
- Cinnamon is a superfood! Studies have shown that cinnamon helps normalize blood sugar after eating. Cinnamon can also improve circulation and relieve coughs and colds.