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Lifestyle11 Apr 2020

Recipe: healthy cakes


Peanut butter blondies (© MY)

Mara Yamauchi finished sixth in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won the 2008 Osaka International Women's Marathon, and earned the 10,000m bronze medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Mara Yamauchi

She retired in 2013 and now works as a coach, commentator and speaker. And to help pass the time while in lockdown, Yamauchi has focused on one of her other passions: cooking. Here are two of her recipes for healthy bakes.

We are living in extraordinary times, but as runners we are very lucky that we can still do the sport we love. Swimmers, gymnasts and athletes in other sports aren’t so fortunate. We’ve lost some of the best things in our sport – races to work towards, the joy of running with friends, and top-class competition to inspire us. But this lockdown also brings positives and opportunities that we won’t have again, like running without the pressure of looming races, and plenty of time at home to work on strength and conditioning.

This is the ideal time to take a long hard look at what you’re doing on all the things which support your running, including nutrition. I’ve decided to use this lockdown to raise my game on what I’m eating and drinking – reducing coffee intake, trying new recipes, and aiming for 10-a-day on fruit and vegetables.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you some ideas and recipes from my years as an elite athlete, when I was fuelling 100+ miles per week. Now I’m 46, well into retirement and much slower than I used to be…but we can all, at any age or stage in life, fuel ourselves like elite athletes. Ready for the ride? Here we go!

First up – healthy, nutritious, high-fibre snacks. Know the feeling when you have to go out for a run soon, but you’re absolutely starving? I’ve been there many times. You can’t eat much, because there’s no time for digestion. But you need something, or the world will end. My answer to this is snacks based on simple banana bread recipes, but substituting as many of the ingredients as you can to make them healthy – high-fibre, low GI, and nutrient-rich. Here are two examples.

Sweet potato bread

Sweet potato bread

250g boiled & mashed sweet potato
140g sugar (use honey/mashed dates instead)
140g butter*
2 eggs
140g plain flour (use wholemeal; can substitute with other flours)
50g raisins (optional - if you use these, reduce the amount of sugar/honey)
Handful of chopped nuts/seeds/bran/wheatgerm (not in recipe but I add to improve nutrient & fibre content)

* I don’t follow the advice that saturated fats are all bad, so I use butter but you can substitute with vegetable oil.

• Mix sweet potato, butter/oil and sugar/honey/mashed dates and beat well.

• Add other ingredients and mix well.

• Pour into greased/lined loaf tin and cook at 180 degrees for about 45 mins.


Peanut butter blondies

Peanut butter blondies

2 large tablespoons peanut butter
140g sugar (use honey/mashed dates instead)
100g butter/oil
140g ground almonds (or flour, ideally wholemeal)
2 eggs

As above, add small amounts of anything nutritious eg seeds, dried fruit, bran, wheatgerm

• Mix everything together, starting with peanut butter, butter/oil and sugar/honey/mashed dates.

• Cook at 180 degrees for 40-50 mins.

I always slice and freeze healthy snacks, so I can quickly microwave a slice before runs when I need to. Variety is important in what we eat to ensure we get all the micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that we need. So try substituting the sweet potato/peanut butter with things like mashed pumpkin, cashew nut butter, or grated courgettes or beetroots. Enjoy!