Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Yoghurt oatmeal

Things usually are clichés for a reason. Take the saying "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day". Everyone keeps saying that. Is it really? I have been reading up quite a bit on intermittent fasting, which is basically the idea that you should only have a 6-8 hour feeding window each day, have three meals during that window, which is built around your workout, and the fast for the rest of the day. There is a rather good blog called Leangains, which is written by a guy who is a personal trainer and nutritional consultant. And based on the photos of him, I would say he is definitely doing something right, he looks absolutely amazing and is able to keep to at a very low body fat using intermittent fasting. The conventional wisdom is you neet to constantly eat small meals to keep your metabolism going, but it's clear from looking at this guy, there are several approaches to food and nutrition which will work. I am a strong believer in trying out different approaches and doing what feels right for you. My approach to weight loss was built around strict calorie restriction, four meals spread evenly across the day and very strictly keeping away from starch carbs. However, I did try the intermittent fasting for a while as well, as I thought it really sounds quite sensible. And I don't believe your body will actually care very much whether you eat one big meal a day, or five or six really small ones. It's all about psychology, and what will work for you. Well, let me tell you, the intermittent fasting did not work for me. In theory it sounded very good, and it did allow me to have quite a big meal in the evening, which I really love. Evenings after workout is when I crave food the most, and when I stray off the nutrition plan (which has been embarrassingly often lately) it's always in the evening. So I thought by restricting my eating in the morning and day, when I'm at work and can't sneak away to the fridge, I would be able to eat more in the evening, thus hopefully reducing the risk of slipping onto that slippery path of having treats. First I tried a feeding pattern with pre-workout lunch at 3 or 4pm and then a big dinner post workout. It was a horrible pain to go from 9pm to 3pm the next day without eating. It was totally horrible. Especially on days when I bike to work, I thought I would die of hunger by 9am, and then still had 6 more hours to go. So I changed it up to brekkie at noon, then lunch at 3pm and a post-workout dinner. But I have to say, as much as I really wanted that to work, my preferred distribution of meals is brekkie post-workout in the morning, then a snack at noon, lunch at 3pm and dinner post workout in the evening. I have changed things around thanks to the intermittent fasting experiments as I used to have lunch at noon and a snack at 3pm, but it seems to work out better for me the other way around. The moral of the (disturbingly long) story is that you should be open in trying different things, and see what works for you. So for me, the cliché about breakfast being the day's most important meal is true. And this is when we finally come to the point of this post! (Yes, I can see the relief on your faces).

Once again we have Pinterest to thank for a great idea. I saw this pin with no-cook oatmeal in a variety of flavours, and immediately had to try it out. Technically, oats are not part of my nutrition plan. Neither is dairy. But hey, neither was that jar of Marshmallow fluff I stuffed my face with earlier this week, so on the grand scheme of things, I don't think this oatmeal will be why my ass is constantly in an outward expanding motion. I will try to cut down on sugar. And eventually other carbs as well. But until then, I really wanted to try this out. And I love the idea, basically a combination of oatmeal and muesli. Great to eat quickly before heading off to the gym in the morning, a good fix of carbs with some protein added from the yoghurt and chia seeds. And easy to take along to work or wherever. Works as a snack as well, would probably work as a pre workout snack in the afternoon quite well. Easy and so convenient to pre-make for the whole week at once! And endless options to vary the flavourings, only your imagination is the limit. 

The basic recipe:
25 g (1/4 cup) porridge oats (or other cereal, I use about 1/3 millet flakes and 2/3 oats)
70 g (1/4 cup) yoghurt (full fat Greek is my favourite)
80 ml (1/3 cup) milk, rice milk, coconut milk or other liquid (like left over whey from making cheese)
1-2 tbsp chia seeds (or flax seeds or maybe some other seeds)

things for flavouring, like berries, fruit, maple syrup etc. I made one with blueberries and unsweetened strawberry jam, and another with strawberries, raspberries and vanilla extract.

The howto:
Mix everything but berries and/or fruit in a jar, close lid, give a good shake, add the berries/and or fruit and give another shake. Pop in the fridge at least over night, or up to a few days. The original recipe says she used half pint (one cup) mason jars, whereas I used empty marshmallow fluff jars which are much bigger, I would guess at least a pint or so. At least there is room for more berries that way, and stirring the ingredients is easier when the jar doesn't get too full.

The verdict:
Yet another genius food idea which is fast, easy, affordable and only needs a couple of ingredients. And I really loved both the taste and the texture. I'm a big fan of oatmeal as well, so that might partly explain it. But I would say that even if you don't like oatmeal you should give this a try, as it tastes quite different. Somehow the combination of oats and yoghurt has a good harmony. I have only kept mine in the fridge over night and the oats (I am currently using Tesco Organic oats, which are the hugest oat flakes I have ever seen in my life) have been a very nice texture, soft but with some chew left in them. I don't know if keeping the oatmeal in the fridge for more than one night would make them softer. The chia seeds are very neutral in flavour, basically just consider them a nutritional add on, they don't bring much to the flavour or texture. Also, you might need to experiment a bit with the amount of liquid depending on type of cereal and type of yoghurt used. And on your preference of how solid or runny you like your oatmeal. I used the same basic recipe for my blueberry flavoured batch as well as my strawberry and raspberry one. The strawberry and raspberry oatmeal turned out much runnier, partly I think this is because I used a lighter yoghurt (goat's milk yoghurt versus full fat Greek in the first batch) but also because both berries did release quite a bit of liquid during the night. So with softer berries, I would decrease the amount of liquid or use a heavier yoghurt. But experimenting with these things is half the fun, and both batches did end up tasting really good anyways, so don't be scared, just jump in there and trust your gut. Both for measuring the ingredients and for sampling the results!

The options on how to flavour the oatmeal are endless, this is a perfect time to use your imagination. I have actually gone so far as to consider quite disturbing flavour combos, like throwing in some bacon. I mean, choc chip and bacon muffins or pancakes sound absolutely delish, so why not choc chip and bacon oatmeal? You can swap millet for some other favourite cereal, use your favourite seeds, use any yoghurt (or liquid, I guess you could substitute things like orange juice here as well) you prefer, and the combination of flavourings in endless. There are some brilliant ideas in the post where I originally discovered the idea (from The Yummy Life) and there are more ideas here. The flavour combinations mentioned in those two posts are:

  • mango, honey and almond extract
  • blueberries and maple syrup
  • unsweetened apple sauce, cinnamon and honey
  • banana, cocoa powder and honey
  • banana, peanut butter and honey
  • raspberries, raspberry jam and vanilla extract
  • canned mandarine, orange marmelade and honey
  • cherries, chopped dark chocolate, vanilla extract and honey
  • cocoa powder, espresso powder and honey
  • coconut milk (to replace the regular milk), pineapple and honey
  • pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup (ok, can you get more American than that??? well maybe if you added peanut butter)
  • chopped peaches, raspberry jam and vanilla extract
  • chopped pecans, cranberry sauce, honey and nutmeg
  • dried apricots, crystallised ginger and almond extract

That should be enough to give you some ideas. Basically any fruit or berry you can think of, with something sweet (if you fancy that, although with berries and fruit, I personally don't think it needs any other sweetener than the fruit sugars. I like the slightly sour flavour of the yoghurt to come through). For some reason making this in a jar instead of on a plate (which you can do of course) makes it much more fun to eat. My jars are quite big, so they fit a lot of fruits/berries, it's of course up to you (and your tolerance for added calories) how much you want to add to the basic cereal mix. I can't wait to try more flavours, I bet the banana ones are going to be awesome. I also have some raw chocolate and sesame seed paste which I haven't been able to find any use for, I think it would go great with some banana. I think that will be the next one I try.

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