I want to make a change, but what next?

I’ve been harping on about this for a while. You want to make some big changes?  Start with small ones.  Small changes add up quickly and turn into something big.  Small, positive changes create an inertia that is powerful.

But, where to start?   Aha, that is the question.  I get lots of messages for advice on this, and to be honest, for a long time I’ve avoided the topic because I don’t like to tell people what to eat.  Honestly, it’s so different for everyone. We are NOT all the same. What agrees with one person may not agree with another, or vice versa.  There is no prescription or meal plan that will suit everybody.  You might be someone who can eat ALL the carbs all day long and you maintain being a Size 8.  Good for you, you’ve got some metabolism genie in your body that is pure magic and I salute you, but that is not the case for me, and especially not when I’m trying to lose weight. For a lot of us, carbs are just not our friends when it comes to losing weight.  But, you’ve all heard the anti carbs rants, I’m not going to repeat it.

What I want to talk about is more broad than just one food group. It’s about all of them and this little thing I like to talk about called Balance.  Creating a balance that works for you and your body is very different for everyone, and it also hugely depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to regain health and are not at all focused on weight, the decisions you make may be different from someone that is trying to lose (or gain) weight.  For me, I’m trying to lose weight. I would love to sit here and tell you that you can have absolutely everything in moderation, because, hashtag balance.  But it’s not the reality. The reality is, if you’re trying to lose weight to get to a place where you CAN have everything in moderation one day, some things simply have to go for a while.

For a while, not forever.

I have dieted before and drawn hard lines in the sand. “I WILL NOT EAT CARBS! NO BREAD EVER!” I shouted from the rooftops.  It’s not realistic.  These days I don’t eat bread 90% of the time, but if I’m out and want eggs benny on that fresh, soft ciabatta, I’m going to have it. Because it’s enjoyable, because I love it, and because I do not believe you should restrict yourself all the time.    I have the same approach to sugar.
Unfortunately sugar is a little different to bread because sugar is the absolute devil incarnate and once you have a taste, you can go down a slippery slope to downing a bar of chocolate in 3.5 seconds (anyone else?).  That is the truth, that shit is addictive.  When I started my weightloss journey, I cut it. CUT IT OUT.  I got rid of the taste of it, and I stayed off it a long time. I still limit it a lot and opt for natural sugars when I want a hit. There is no balance for me when it comes to sugar, it is all or nothing.

Coming back to what changes you can make (I think you’re starting to see where this is going).  Think about the things in your diet that are doing nothing for you, that don’t serve you. It might be pasta 4 nights a week, it might be sugary cereal, it might be cake, hell it might be a bad McDs habit.  If you think about it, you’ll come up with a little list that you can start tackling pretty quick (back to this in a minute).

My very first change was sugar. I said ‘self, sugar is doing nothing for you’.  But sugar as a whole was too daunting so to start, so it was just no chocolate or cake for a week. A small, achievable goal (that was actually a big deal to me as I had that stuff ALL the time) that once accomplished I felt like a superstar. High fives all around!

I’m also a firm believer in we don’t just need to be taking away and cutting out foods without adding something else in.  There is a real misconception that when you change your lifestyle to eat healthier that your missing out.  You are not missing out. When I started getting rid of my bad habits I found other things that I really loved.
Superfood Smoothies is a really good example, I replaced my shitty breakfast with smoothies from Craft Smoothie.  Raw baking is another great example, god, if only people knew how incredibly delicious these natural foods are!

So where to from here?  

  • Make a list of 3 things or habits to change in the next 2 weeks
  • Keep those 3 things in the front of your mind, be mindful of the choices you make. If not having cake is on your list, and you make an intentional decision to have cake, that’s ok, but I want you to think about how having that cake made you feel. Did it actually make you feel better?  And then you have to let go that decision and not beat yourself up. This part is very important!  
  • Write down what you want to achieve and what success would look like.  I don’t mean some big lofty goal that doesn’t seem achievable, don’t scare yourself before you’ve started.
  • Use the internet for inspiration, look for recipes, find people like me that might inspire you and give you motivation and ideas.  For recipes, use hashtags like ‘wholefoods’ and ‘cleaneatingrecipe’.  There is an ocean of inspiration and ideas out there, use it.
  • Be prepared – go to the supermarket an get some good food for your pantry (see below)
  • BE KIND TO YOURSELF.

I can sum up the diet changes I made it one sentence really. I stopped eating shitty food and started eating clean.   I started doing what I knew made sense – I stopped with all the jam sandwiches, biscuits, cake and carb heavy, sugar laden foods and wouldn’t you know it, the weight started falling off me.  I started eating clean, whole foods. They are easy to access and truly delicious – and they serve you.

Here are some ideas of things to buy at the supermarket for snacks or meals (I turns snacks into meals!). Being prepared and having nutritious food you enjoy in the house is super important.

  • Plain mixed nuts. Maybe stay away from ones with yogurt covered raisins and chocolate.  I go for the cranberry nut medley.
  • Grapes
  • Any fresh fruit you enjoy
  • Yummy cheese (fat is not the enemy)
  • Low sugar natural yogurt or coconut yogurt.  Natural Cathedral Cove Naturals and Raglan Coconut yogurt are both very very low in sugar, but creamy and delicious.
  • Frozen blueberries (to pop into your yogurt, yum)
  • A good nut butter!!!  Fix & Fogg have an amazing chocolate peanut butter that is decadent and delicious
  • A paleo, grain free nut cereal mix for crunch on smoothies or your yogurt
    Clean Paleo Co or Cathedral Cove Naturals are my faves
  • Whole food bars like the ones by Tasti or Tom & Luke
  • Bliss balls (buy or make)
  • Green smoothie ingredients like spinach, kale, kiwifruit, banana, pear and almond milk so you can make yourself a super smoothie any time!

Just a few ideas!  These are things that are always on my grocery list, as well as plenty of veggies and plain old lean meats.

I hope this has been helpful and as usual, hit me up with any questions on Facebook or instagram!

Recipe – Heavenly Chia Puddings

There are a few things that have become absolute staples in our house over the past 9 months, and chia pudding is one of them. So simple, easy and yummy.  Plus, did you know Chia seeds are higher in Omega 3 that Salmon? Super duper good for you. They also absorb liquid, so you can pretty much create any flavour you want with liquid – and then just add the chia seeds to give it bulk.

I have made many renditions of Chia Pudding, you can literally do anything, and I have.

I’ve come up with a few absolute favourites that I’m going to share below, but first things first – I’m going to give you a recipe for a basic, plan vanilla pudding, and then you can use that as a foundation to build on.   You can’t go wrong with Blueberry or Chocolate Peanut Butter, plus I’ve just made a special edition pud using Misty Day Plant Potions tonic powder.

Which will you try first?

Basic Chia Pudding

2 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp maple syrup or rice malt syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Blitz or whisk together everything except the chia seeds. Once blended, add the chia seeds and whisk again.
Pop in a jar and refrigerate for an hour.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding (my fave)

2 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp maple syrup or rice malt syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS cacao powder
1 TBS natural peanut butter

Prep your jar(s) by putting a little peanut butter in the bottom.
Blitz together coconut milk, syrup, cacao, vanilla and peanut butter.
Add chia seeds and mix with a whisk, pour into jar on top of the peanut butter.
Refrigerate for an hour

Blueberry & Vanilla Chia Pudding (Aiden’s fave)

2 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp maple syrup or rice malt syrup
1 tsp tsp vanilla
1/2 cup blueberries

Prep your jar(s) by putting a 1/4 cup blueberries in the bottom.
Blitz together coconut milk, syrup, vanilla and and 1/4 cup blueberries. Save a couple to go on top!
Add chia seeds and mix with a whisk, pour into jar on top of the whole blueberries.
Refrigerate for an hour

Misty Day Chia Pudding with Strawberries

2 cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp maple syrup or rice malt syrup
1 tsp tsp vanilla
1 TBS Misty Day tonic
* I used ‘Moxie Brew’ which is cacao, beetroot & asparagus 
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
Blitz together coconut milk, syrup, vanilla and the tonic.
Add chia seeds and mix with a whisk, pour into jar and place some strawberries on top – they will sink, this is fine.
Refrigerate for an hour

Easy prep and recipe!
Blueberry & Vanilla
Chocolate & Peanut Butter
Misty Day MOXIE BREW + Strawberries

Family of 4 – A Story About Our Infertility

Tomorrow our gorgeous little boy turns 7. It all of a sudden feels like he’s grown up.  A lot of the obvious ‘firsts’ milestones are behind us, the first steps, teeth, words and sleeping through the night are so long ago now, but I remember them all.  I’ve paid special attention to everything, because I always knew, that maybe there would be no more.
No more babies, no more toddlers and toilet training, just our one very special boy and I’ve watched and loved every moment of his life.

We have a new first tomorrow, his very first puppy. Tomorrow we will become a family of four. It’s a little different to how I had imagined my family of four, but there are no complaints here. We are so excited to see his face tomorrow when we pick up the puppy!

I’m sure people think I’m crazy, adding a puppy to the mix in our very busy but happy lives. But before you go calling me mad, remember this. It’s for Aiden. He is an only child and it looks like it will be staying that way. I want him to have a best friend. I want him to have company, someone to talk to, someone to play with and someone to love, other than us. I wanted that someone to be a sibling, but I am coming to terms with that just not happening for us. It’s been a long journey of acceptance, and even now, I’m not ready to say ‘it’s over’, it’s too final, and I can’t do it.

This is not intended to be a sad story about a woman who can’t have a second child. It’s a happy story about a woman who got to have one beautiful, amazing child with a man she adores and has decided to share her story about closing the book on a second child.

Infertility is something that I have been very open about in the past, but my openness with my struggles to have Aiden made things even more difficult on me. It was hard to have to report back to people for yet another month that there was no baby on the way. The drugs were hard. It went on for a long time. It was painful, it turned me into a person I don’t really ever want to be again – but it was worth it. It was so, incredibly, worth it.

To go on the drugs needed for conception, I lost 22kgs. I did great, but it was for a baby. 100% for a baby, not myself. Mission accomplished.  After Aiden over the years gradually I gained it all back and then some. It’s ok, it happens. I put unbelievable, incredible, pressure on myself to lose weight so that I could go back to the specialist and get the drugs for baby #2. So easy right? Just do it Justine, you need to do it. But I just couldn’t. Writing this makes me well up. Because now, I’ve done it, but I’ve left my run too late.

Losing the weight this time around though, it ended up not being about a baby. It was 100% about me and me needing to change my life for myself and the child I already have, not my future imaginary children. I want to run and play with the one I have already on this earth.

We have our beautiful family, I’m healthy and happy, but it’s so easy to want more. Not even for me, but for him, for Aiden. To want that companionship and love that having a brother(s) or sister(s) brings.   Honestly the hardest thing for me is not that I don’t get another baby, it’s that he doesn’t.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t upset me. It makes me very sad, but it’s not something I want to dwell on.

Having gotten to a place where I could get the drugs, Bill and I talked long and hard about whether this is something we actually wanted. Life is so great, did we need another baby? Suddenly we felt like we actually had a choice. For so long I felt like I had no control, and now, we have control.

We recently went to the fertility specialist and discussed our options.   I got to visit with our specialist who helped us get pregnant the first time, and it was honestly so great, but we walked away with some not great odds.  Due to my age and my ovarian reserves being very low, our chances of conception even with drugs, are at 4%.  It’s not great odds.
Still, we left with the drugs almost 4 months ago and decided that 4% was better than none.

The craziest part is, I haven’t taken the drugs. I can’t tell you why, I don’t know why, but I know the prescription sits unfilled.  As strange as it sounds, we’re ok with that and I think it’s been part of my coming to terms. Even with shitty odds, I still feel like it’s my choice whether I take the drugs or not.  I’m OK, and I have a choice and I love our life. The book is closing and I’m ok with that.

So, we’re getting a puppy.  It symbolises more than just getting a puppy, it’s me letting go a little bit more. I can’t let go all at once, but I’m working on it.

PS. Lola our cat is actually part of the family but I felt like Family of 5 just didn’t make sense 😉

Roasted Moroccan Chickpea, Cabbage & Broccoli Salad

Hot summer days mean salads for dinner in our house, and I admit, I’m not the most original in my salads usually (green salad anyone?), so I have been experimenting with new salads over the past month and this is one of my new faves.

This salad is simple, refreshing & tasty.  You can change up the flavour by mixing through whatever salad dressing you think will go with it (would be lovely with a creamy dressing) or I have popped a basic recipe for a lemon dressing that I really like.My advice would be to not add the dressing until you are serving, as the chopped salad stays fresh in the fridge for 3 days without the dressing. Just add dressing as you serve.

Make it is easy, and just two steps – quick chopping of the raw ingredients, and roasting up the crunchy stuff  in the oven.

Chickpea, Cabbage & Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

For the oven:
1 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 TBS Moroccan seasoning

For the main salad:
1/2 Red cabbage finely chopped
1 x head Broccoli finely chopped
1 x Carrot grated
1/2 avocado
Fresh baby spinach leaves

First, prepare the chickpeas and almonds. If using canned chickpeas, drain and dry with a paper towel. In a bowl, toss in olive oil and mix through the morroccan seasoning.
Place the chickpeas on a lined baking try and add the almonds. Bake for 15-20 mins at 180 degrees.

Next place the salad ingredients in a bowl for serving.  You can use any dressing you fancy or have handy, I make the following and it’s super yum, simple and quick.
Mix up the following in a bowl; extra virgin olive oil, whole grain mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper

Top your salad with the roasted chickpeas and almonds, and enjoy!

The Power of Inertia

I don’t like to make New Years Resolutions, just like I don’t really like Valentines Day. You should show love every day. You should set goals and smash them every day, not just one day of the year.   So this is not a resolution, more of an accumulation of a bunch of goals that have been evolving and forming in my head since changing our family lifestyle 8 months ago.

One thing leads to another. You start eating food thats better for you, you welcome nutrition and wellness into your life and a positivity inertia happens that starts to build and become bigger.  Start with one thing, then build on it.
Now that I think about it, this has actually been happening to me for months – start, just start on one thing, and then move on to something else – smash those goals. However you need to be careful with the goal setting, if you try to start with goals that are too big, you may resign yourself to failure before you start.

So I started with what was the most important to me, which was my health, and the health of my family.  I changed one habit at a time not only for myself, but our family. Tick, we are doing bloody great and I’m very proud.  I am still learning a lot about food and the effects different things have on the body, but it’s a journey and one we are enjoying and seeing the benefits of.   During these changes we started taking a real interest in not only what we are eating, but the quality of the foods we’re buying and where are they from. Are they local?  Are they nutritionally dense?

What started as an interest in understanding more about where the food I was eating came from and it’s quality, turned into much more.  When you are being so careful about what goes IN your body, all of a sudden, what you are putting ON your body  becomes important too.  Skincare is a great example. Are these products that I’m using on safe?
Is it ethically sourced and how many chemicals are there?

Speaking of chemicals… (nice segway Justine)
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Something that has happened along the way is that I’ve started to learn more about the sheer number of chemicals that we use in our every day life and the effect it has on our hormones.  I went to hear Ben Warren speak, and although the health and nutrition information was an awesome affirmation of what I’m already doing, the information about chemicals, fertilisers and plastics was absolutely incredible and a lot of it new to me. In the past I have always shrugged off this kind of thing, but I left that night with a promise that I this was something that I would work on. Having struggled with hormone issues all my life, I made a goal to start getting rid of as much of the plastics and fake oestrogen’s as possible. It feels like an unsurmountable task because it’s everywhere – the plastics, packaging, skincare, soaps – it’s endless, it really is all around us.

Never the less, I have started, and there are things you can do in your household that are small but have a big effect. There are within our control and effect our own environment, so when you feel like you can’t change the world – stop focusing on the world, and focus on your own back yard, so to speak.  We no longer have any plastic packaging in our panty, except for some new Tupperware (that I can happily confirm is BPA free if manufactured out of NZ or Australia after 2010). I switched to glass jars for everything. And I didn’t go out and buy the glass – I re used our coconut yogurt jars from Cathedral Cove Naturals. Win.

We also no longer have any chemical cleaning agents in the kitchen and through most of the house. I invested in some Norwex products that have silver in them, you just clean with the cloth itself, no sprays required. Tick!   It was an investment, I spent around $150 on kitchen cloths, tea towels, window and bathroom cloths – but I now no longer buy cleaning sprays.  We choose hand soaps, shower gels, dishwasher and washing detergent that are all plant based, natural and NZ Made.  There are more and more plant based cost effective options all the time.

I also believe that what you put on your skin as far as skincare and makeup goes is really important. This is really a lesson I think you learn later in life (God, I sounds really old) as you start to realise how important your skin is. And I’m not talking about it being important so you look young. Yes, sure, that’s great – but I’m talking about what is seeping in through your pores, likely clogging them, and into your bloodstream.  I can’t believe the change in my skin since switching to organic skincare 2 yrs ago, add on top of that the sharp decrease in sugar and my skin is the best I think it has EVER been.

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Forty and loving my skin!

So what are the options? Lets just start by saying, please buy cruelty free products. It’s not hard to find out if a product or brand you use is cruelty free.  We are very lucky in New Zealand to have some amazing brands that are NZ owned that are organic, vegan, cruelty free and incredible products.   I use both Tailor Skincare and World Organics. Both are great companies with great practices that do not break the bank.
Mineral foundations are also awesome if you don’t want to be putting the harsh chemicals on your skin, I use YoungBlood and it’s AMAZING.

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Organic Skincare World Organics and Tailor Skincare, plus one of the many eco friendly home products we’ve switched too – Only Good.

You may have noticed I’ve talked a lot about what is available that is made where I live. That’s New Zealand. I love it here and I want to support NZ made products from companies that I believe have ethical practices and help our economy!  I feel this is so important. Wherever you live, you should do the same. Support your local farmers, makers, growers and creators.  I completely understand that sometimes it is more expensive to do so and maybe you don’t have the excess income to do that, but sometimes it’s not and it pays to check.  For me, it’s worth paying a little more.

And yeah, sometimes I just go to Kmart like everyone else. That’s ok too 🙂

 

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Aiden’s health has always been important to us, he is learning some healthy habits and enjoying nutritional food – so proud!
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Our food choices have evolved when eating out and we’re loving it!

 

The Christmas Food Stress Fest

I love Christmas. Everything about it.  The lead up is almost as good as Christmas Day. The buying of the gifts followed by the wrapping (oh I love the wrapping!), doing the tree with Aiden, baking lots of treats, planning the Christmas Day menu and watching Love Actually.  And then there is Christmas Day!  Spent with my amazing, large, slightly crazy and always hilarious family, it’s the best.  There is lots of laughter, food, activity and love.

But lets talk about the food. I know Christmas time can be really stressful when you’re trying to lose weight or have a healthier lifestyle.  We become immediately resigned to the idea that we are going to be unhealthy, eat ALL the chocolate and pav, and we may as well just give up now.  But honestly, it doesn’t have to be that way at all, don’t be afraid of Christmas – just be in control of it.

There are two really important things to remember – if you indulge on Christmas Day and eat all the chocolate and pav – big whoop. It’s one day. It’s not going to cause you to expand overnight, honestly, it’s not. And if you’re afraid it will, balance out that pav with a walk with your family on Christmas Day.  If there are foods you love and want to enjoy, go ahead and enjoy it.  Whatever you do, do it consciously and don’t beat yourself up the next day.

The second thing to remember is that there are loads of treats out there that aren’t full of refined sugar and can actually be good for you (and delicious!).  If you really are worried about what will be on the menu and would like to lessen the chances of said expansion,  I’ve collated some of my favourite recipes for sweet treats that would be perfect for over the Christmas period. See links below!

For something different and starting the day on a healthy note, this Christmas Day for breakfast I’ll be making açai bowls for the fam. How cool is that? A cold açai base topped with home made granola and fruit, it’s super yummy! Here’s one I made last week. I know you’re drooling, so I’ll pop the recipe below.

My Christmas wish for you is that you don’t let Christmas food become a source of stress. Enjoy your family, enjoy what you eat – whatever that may be.

Açai Bowl Recipe

1 spotty banana
1 cup of ice
1 TBS açai powder
2 pitted dates softened in boiling water first
2 TBS cold water

Combine ingredients in a blender. The ice will be hard to blend so you may need to stop a few times and stir. Combine until smooth and top with your faves like banana, kiwifruit, coconut and peanut butter.

Sweet Treat Recipes!

Here are some of my last recipes that I think would be perfect for everyone over Christmas. I’ll be making one of these for my family as Christmas Day dessert. I’m tossing up between the peppermint slice and the choc caramel.

Let me know what you make!

 

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Slice
https://mybalanceproject.co.nz/2017/11/27/paleo-salted-caramel-choc-slice/

Raw Lemon & Coconut Slice
https://mybalanceproject.co.nz/2017/09/13/recipe-raw-vegan-lemon-coconut-slice/

Chocolate Peppermint Crunch
https://mybalanceproject.co.nz/2017/05/11/recipe-chocolate-peppermint-crunch/

Cranberry Ripe
https://mybalanceproject.co.nz/2017/05/02/recipe-cranberry-ripe/

Merry Christmas!

Love, Justine x

A Healthy Mind

I talk about headspace a lot when it comes to losing weight. It’s been so so important for me to get in to that space where I felt positive and motivated, and able to apply my positive energy and focus to the food I was eating.

I have noticed more and more the trickle effect that it has had. First it was exercise, feeling better in myself meant that I wanted to get out more, use my energy and connect with myself in the peace and quiet whilst taking a walk. The more I did it, the more energy I had and the better I slept. I could finally see what a rut I was in and how different life was now that I was out of it.

The longer I continue on my journey, the more I realise how much more it effects. My relationships with my husband, my son, my friends. Everything. I feel like a completely different person, but I know I am still in such an important phase of discovery.

I speak about balance a lot. Creating the balance in my life that I desperately need. Finding balance in the food I am eating, the one I spend with my family and knowing when to say no. So much of my journey started with the ability to JUST SAY NO or let things go.

This is really important. I have a full time job, and I also own my own small business. The work / life balance struggle is real. I am also lucky enough to be surrounded by strong, incredible women who own their own businesses and also have families. It’s inspiring to see my friends grow their passion and businesses, but it often comes at a cost, I know because it’s happened to me. It happens so gradually that I think sometimes we don’t notice. But our health and ability to recognise stress weakens. We still make sure our families are taken care of, but we forget about ourselves. Sounding familiar?

We as women have so many commitments, it’s totally true. Mostly they are things we sign up for because we have the best intentions, or maybe it’s just because we feel guilty (little Johnny’s school really needs help!), either way, we need to learn to make better decisions. Don’t say yes to everything – or make sure in saying yes, it’s not detrimental to you or your family.

Saying No is OK.

Here’s what I’ve found. Once you start saying no (whether it’s to customers, school or your family) you free up time. Time is SO IMPORTANT. Freeing up valuable time means that maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to take some time out for yourself. You’ll be able to think. You’ll be able to work on being mindful and present because you won’t be so rushed and under pressure.

Time is very, very important if you want a healthy mind. Your mind needs space. Your well-being needs time.

I challenge you this week to say no to someone or something. Instead do something for yourself or spend it with your husband, kids or dog – all of the above. Try free up a little of that all important time. I did it this week by inviting my friends to come and sit in my garden with me for a few hours. It was good for the soul and I loved the messages I received from them all saying how much they loved and needed it.

What will you do for you?

Paleo Salted Caramel Choc Slice

I have been experimenting with buying raw treats over the past 7 months and discovering a whole new world of amazing refined sugar free treats.  I’ve made some as well as I love to have a little stash in the freezer!  I must confess that pretty much all of the slices I have tried have been really really good – both made and bought, much better than I expected.  If you’ve ever doubted that raw can be as good as ‘the real thing’, then you absolutely need to try and see for yourself!

Of all my experimenting, the one that always gets me, no matter where I buy it from, is a caramel & chocolate slice or peanut butter and chocolate protein slice. Holy moly, caramel made from dates and coconut cream is out of this world good.

After dabbling with a few basic raw recipes I decided it was time to try the cream of the crop – a trip layer caramel slice.   It’s delicious, utterly drool worthy and not as hard as I expected. Want to give it a go?  Here’s the recipe, adapted from The Merrymaker Sisters. I’m gutted I didn’t get any photos side on, and to be honest mine was a bit slapstick as I was in a rush – but in an ideal world, you should be three definite layers.

PS – Remember this is a treat and not something you should go crazy on.  Although refined sugar free, these types of slices are still high in natural sugars, so something you should eat in moderation.  Good luck with that!  Pop it in the freezer so that you don’t get tempted to eat all at once.

Salted Caramel Choc Slice

For The Base
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 3 tbs. coconut oil
  • 2 tbs. cacao powder
  • 1 tbs. 100% maple or rice malt syrup
For The Caramel Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups dates
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
For The Choc Topping
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbs. cacao powder
  • 1 tbs. 100% maple or rice malt syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt (optional)
Method
  • Line a 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4 inch) loaf tin with baking paper.
For The Base
  • Place all the base ingredients in to a food processor (we use our Vitamix). Whiz until well combined, it will be a little sticky and crumbly.
  • Press this mix in to the prepared tin, ensure it is pressed evenly.
  • Place the tin in to the freezer to set
For The Caramel Filling
  • Using the food processor (don’t worry about washing it) place all the caramel filling ingredients and whiz until completely smooth (it will take around 5 minutes).
  • Pour this delicious mixture over the top of the base and return to the freezer.
For The Choc Topping
  • Using the food processor (again, don’t worry about washing it) add the raw cacao, coconut oil and maple syrup, mix until completely smooth.
  • Pour the choc topping over the caramel filling, shake the tin slightly to even it out. I gave it a bit of a swirl!
  • Sprinkle with Himalayan pink salt if you like things extra salty.
  • Return to the freezer for about 1 hour or until completely set.
  • Once set, cut into slices and store back in the freezer!

This Woman Gets It. Meet Michelle Yandle.

I don’t know about you, but I follow a LOT of people on instagram. Hundreds in fact. I have my favourite accounts that I follow, and every now and then someone really, REALLY resonates with me. I have been following Michelle Yandle for some time, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started feeling like she was speaking to me. Every post I would think to myself ‘Yes, YES! This woman gets it!’ Every. Single. Post.   And that’s because she does get it.

She gets that what you eat is part of a much bigger picture, that there should be no restricting or punishment, and balance + sustainability is key.   She talks about mindfulness in the same way I do – our philosophies are very aligned.

What I have learned has been through my journey of self-discovery and advice from key people who have encouraged & supported me.   Michelle took her own journey of self-discovery to the next level and studied nutrition at the Holistic Performance Institute.   Michelle is part of The Wellness Project in New Plymouth, coaching people every day with their nutrition and lifestyle.

Michelle recently released her latest book, ‘The Empowered Eating Handbook’. I have really enjoyed it, so many AHA moments. This book is full of insight, and to be blunt, bloody good advice.

I contacted Michelle to see if she would answer some questions for My Balance Project and she was of course, lovely, and said yes.

Michelle, can you give us a quick run down of what your new book, The Empowered Eating Handbook , is all about?

The Empowered Eating Handbook is essentially a guide book for anyone who wants to feel physically and mentally well without having to give up the foods that they love. It’s for the person who would love to have their favourite foods in the house but not over eat them. It’s for those who want to go out to eat dessert without feeling guilty. For those self sabotage and self loathe and ultimately – anyone who is sick of yo-yo dieting and is ready for a new approach.

So many people are confused about diet and have lost the natural ability to listen to their own bodies to tell them what works for them. We’ve become so dependent on outside advice and we’ve forgotten how simple and joyful eating well can be. The Empowered Eating hopes to change this with a modern approach to ancient understandings.

In your book you talk about compassion, and that we need to be kinder to ourselves when making mistakes. I feel really strongly about this, it’s a topic I’ve talked about a lot as I believe a positive mind is everything.
Do you have any advice or tips on how someone can start putting this into practice, and turn negative talk into positive?

Yes! It’s so important. If we can change guilt to compassion that’s when the magic happens but as you’re probably aware, sometimes this can be easier said than done. A couple tips to help change our mean-girl mindset right off the bat are:

  1. Catch these negative thoughts in action. As soon as you do, think STOP! It’s amazing what a sudden jolt to our thought process can do to wake up a different mentality. Imagine a giant stop sign if you need to but thinking STOP! Loud and clear can help us to pause and re-evaluate what’s going on. By recognizing your non-positive thoughts it’s only then that you’re able to change them.
  2. Challenge your thoughts. Are they true? Are they really true? You may initially think so, but let’s consider the following example. Say you’ve a ton of nutrient dense foods throughout the week. Friday rolls along and that bag of chips is calling your name. You think “Ugh! I’ve blown it!” and so you just keep going and next thing you know the bag is gone. Have you really blown it? Does a couple of handfuls of chips really take precedence over the 21 healthy meals you’ve had otherwise? I’d like to say the real issue is the thought that you’d blown it. The chips were fine! Challenge that negative thinking. Tell it off if you have to!

One of your first chapters is called ‘Finding your Why’, which I know is something a lot of people struggle with. What is your advice for anyone trying to lose weight or change his or her lifestyle?

 So many things! I guess the most important in regards to making change and finding your why is that you have to be doing it for YOU. If you’re doing it because you feel you should, or your husband, family member, doctor or even society in general tells you you should, it’s not as likely to happen. When we identify our values, align our goals with them and find a powerful motivator, your WHY this is when change happens. Rarely does someone quit smoking because the images on the carton or because their wife tells them to. The same goes with health – to make change you have to want it, really want it, and then the process becomes so much easier. That’s why I have people identify their why in the book, because without it, lasting change is not going to be an easy journey, no matter what the goal.

What are some of your favourite nutrient dense foods & why?

 Good question! I love talking about food, haha! My favourite nutrient-dense foods would have to be berries. Berry season is my happy season and there’s nothing better than fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in the summer time. Even in winter I load up on frozen berries for smoothies, sauces and jams. Berries are nutrient-powerhouses full of antioxidants; I often recommend a cup a day for my clients –an easy quota to fill!

Tell us what you like to do on your downtime!

 Downtime? What’s that? In all honesty though, I am working on finding some more non-food related outlets. Recently I’ve started volunteering at the Taranaki SPCA because animals always bring me joy. I also love going on road trips with my husband and taking our dog to the beach. There’s also nothing better than a good book or smashing out some Netflix. I’ve also recently started up my sea glass jewellery making, which I often sell at Christmastime. I love collecting it and to me, it’s just not Christmas in New Zealand without a good holiday market.

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