Crunchy granola (© Mara Yamauchi)
If you’re training hard and are physically active, chances are you will be hungry often! Running a lot of miles and being starving seem to go together. Sometimes you just can’t wait till the next meal, or need to eat something straight after training to help with recovery. Having snacks to hand is the answer, but many snacks you can buy just aren’t very nutritious – they might be highly-processed, low in fibre or have excessively high sugar in them.
My answer to this dilemma is home-made granola. Like my healthy cakes from a few weeks back, you can adapt the recipe by substituting or adding in as many nutritious ingredients as possible. The fundamentals of granola – nuts, seeds, dried fruit and wholegrains – are sound ingredients, so you can make a healthy, nutritious version by using your imagination and creativity.
How you eat granola, on top of what you put in it, is another way to increase the variety in your diet. Of course it is traditionally a breakfast food, but I use it in all sorts of ways: as a night-time quick snack if I am hungry; sprinkled on fruit compote with yoghurt; or taken on trips away as portable emergency rations in a sealable plastic bag!
The basic recipe I use is below, but here are some examples of other ingredients you can use as substitutes to ring the changes and add variety.
• Oil: coconut is the best but you could also use olive, sunflower or vegetable oil.
• Grains: oats are the simplest; jumbo rather than small oats give better texture. Rye, spelt, and barley are good alternatives. It’s even better to mix your grains.
• Nuts: today I have used almonds with pecans – a bit expensive but a special treat! Walnuts, cashews and pistachios work well too.
• Seeds: I always use mixed seeds to increase the variety, but if you want one type, pumpkin are the best for me. Sunflower and sesame are alternatives.
• Dried fruit: to go with the pecans, I have used cranberries today. But I have successfully used raisins, sultanas, dates, figs, and apricots. To make it a bit exotic you could use pineapple, mango, papaya or even ginger.
• Honey: maple or agave syrup are the best substitutes. The dried fruit also gives the granola sweetness so you can reduce this sweetener to taste.
• Extras: I often add spoonfuls of coconut flakes, wheatgerm, oatbran, linseeds or bran. These aren’t in the recipe but I just add them to increase the nutritional value.
40g coconut oil
120ml honey (this makes it too sweet so I always reduce this amount by about half)
180g jumbo rolled oats
180g another type of grain (I was not able to buy another type under lockdown shopping, so used oats again)
200g nuts, roughly chopped
1 egg white
100g dried fruit
• Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Heat the oil and honey gently in a saucepan until melted. Allow to cool slightly.
• Mix all the other ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl, add the oil and honey and mix well.
• Whip the egg whites separately and stir them into the mixture too. Spread out on your baking tray and bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown.
• Stir the mixture after 20 minutes, and add the dried fruit and stir again after 30 minutes.
• Allow to cool completely and then store in an air-tight container. Enjoy!
Mara Yamauchi for World Athletics