I guess you could say I have been on a journey of health improvement ever since I can remember. Competing as a professional IronWoman for over 10 years gave me endless opportunities to discover, learn and re-evaluate how important a role nutrition plays in top level sport and life.
Now, working as an accredited health and wellbeing coach, my passion is helping others break free of the shackles of dieting while achieving energy and sustainable weight loss.
Time and time again, I see clients that have tried everything. That is, everything except my holistic approach that comes not through counting calories, but having a deeper conversation with themselves. Together we discover what emotions are behind certain habits and how to develop strategies and a healthier relationship around eating and movement.
A big chunk of regaining control of our health begins at home in the kitchen. The first step to a higher energy is learning how to be organised while having the ability to cook and prepare your own meals. Making the most of every meal, and fillling up on nutritious meals, helps to crowd out the chances of snacking and choosing unhealthy options.
My food philosophies are simple – eat real food that’s as close to its natural source as possible, avoid refined sugars and processed foods. Most importantly – and what I like to pass on at my healthy cooking workshops – is to have fun with cooking, be experimental and you may surprise yourself!
Here are a few of my family’s favourite healthy recipes…
Hot Chocolate Smoothie
1 cup nut or rice milk
1 medium banana
2 pitted dates
1 tbs raw cocao powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbs chia seeds
¼ cup rolled oats
How to Make
1. Pour the milk into a glass jar and add the oats, allowing to soak overnight (not crucial but it adds to the creaminess of the smoothie).
2. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender, if it becomes too thick add more milk.
3. Heat a small saucepan and heat the smoothie until warm. Pour into a serving glass and enjoy!
Raw Coconut Rough
I call this recipe ‘coconut roughs’ because the taste reminds me of the ones you buy in the confectionary aisle that are full of saturated fat, sugar and well, not much else. This slice is protein packed with the addition of almonds but not overpowered by them. The coconut oil has many qualities and acts as a binding ingredient in the fridge.
15 pitted dates
1/4 cup almond meal
3 tbs raw cocao powder
2 cups shredded coconut
2 tbs coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
How to make
1. In a food processor add the dates and process until finely diced.
2. Add each ingredient in order and process until it forms a dough-like consistency. It needs to leave the bowl clean and not too gooey(add more almond meal if necessary, or add a drop of water if not binding).
3. Press out onto a grease proof lined tray and flatten with the help of some baking paper and a rolling pin.
4. Place in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes.
5. Cut into shapes or roll into balls. Store in the fridge or freezer.
Strawberry and Cashew Cream Parfait
Not often do you come across a dish that even though it seems a ‘little naughty’, it is in fact chock full of nutrition. Cashew cream is a great non-dairy or vegan alternative to ice cream or cream. This parfait is the perfect dish to create when impressing guests. Serves 4.
BASE CHOCOLATE LAYER
2 medium mashed bananas
1 tsp cocao powder
1 cup stewed strawberries (frozen or fresh with small amount of water simmered in saucepan until reduced, then process until smooth)
2 tbs pysillium husk
CASHEW CREAM LAYER
1 cup raw cashews – soaked for 2 hours
¼ cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs rice malt syrup
How to Make
1. Begin by making the base layer – mix cocao powder to bananas and place in fridge while preparing remaining layers.
2. Add psyllium husk to stewed strawberries to aid in thickening and place in fridge to cool off and thicken while making cashew cream.
3. In a food processor or thermomix, add the soaked raw cashews and ¼ cup of water, vanilla and rice malt syrup and process for approx. 3 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Make sure you scrape the side of the bowl to ensure no mixture is missed. Place in freezer to set for 10 minutes.
4. In a parfait jar or cup, begin by placing the chocolate banana layer, then half of the stewed strawberries, then the same with the cashew cream. Repeat with strawberries and cashew cream, then top with fresh berries and raw cocao nibs.
Healthy Curly Fries
125ml almond milk, rice or nut milk
1/2 cup arrowroot
1 cup coconut flour
2 large zucchini’s, spiralised (or sliced lengthways into chips, about 1 cm thick)
coconut oil for frying
How to Make
1. Whisk the egg in a bowl with the milk until combined.
2. Place the arrowroot and coconut flour in separate small bowls – but wide enough to spread out the spirals or chips.
3. Individually dip a strand in the arrowroot, then dip in the egg/milk, then the coconut flour. Then place on a plate. Don’t worry too much about them looking pretty. It helps to try and tap off excess after each dip.
4. Before frying, place all the spirals in a large sieve and tap to release any excess flours.
5. Heat some coconut oil in a fry pan over medium heat (enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Place batches of the zucchini fries in the pan and cook for approx. 2 mins each side until they turn lovely golden and crisp. Remove from pan with tongs and rest on a paper towel and repeat until all done.
Roasted chicken dukkah balls with quinoa salad
500gm pumpkin, cubed
1 cup diced cucumber, seeds removed
1 handful sunflower seeds
500gm mixed salad leaves
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
500gm chicken mince
1 cup rice cakes, processed approx. 30 gm pistachio dukkah spice mix, extra for rolling
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make
1. To make the meatballs combine the mince, dukkah and rice crumbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. With wet hands roll into small balls (makes about 10).
2. Lightly coat in dukkah and place on a well-oiled oven tray.
3. Toss the pumpkin in oil and place on an oven tray. Cook in a moderate oven (160) with the chicken balls for about 30 mins.
4. While the oven is baking, place the quinoa in a saucepan with equal amount of water and bring to the boil. Boil uncovered for about 12-15 minutes or until the little rings of saturn begin to appear from the grain. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
5. Add the meatballs, leaves, pumpkin, seeds and cucumber to a board and toss through with quinoa. Serve as is.
Sweet Potato Nachos
Served as a shared meal for 2.
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, sliced evenly through a mandolin or about 1 cm think (Leave skin on)
Olive oil, for baking
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cob of corn
3 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 small handful coriander
1 small handful parsley
½ cup sour cream
How to make
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large baking tray with foil or baking paper.
2. Place sweet potatoes in a bowl and drizzle over the olive oil and salt (enough to cover). Spread on the tray allowing room so they don’t overlap; you may need to use two trays. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the potato and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
3. Remove the tray from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Arrange the remaining ingredients evenly over the sweet potatoes, stirring the parsley through with the tomatoes and finishing with the sour cream and parsley on top. Serve immediately.
TIP: You can also substitute pita wraps cut into triangles and baked for 20 mins instead of sweet potato for another healthy nachos option.
This article was authored by Karla Gilbert and originally appeared in Ocean Road Magazine. It has been republished with permission.