It’s not always obvious knowing what is ‘healthy’ and what isn’t. Particularly as it can change quite significantly over time. Remember back when fat was bad and sugar was just sugar? Too much sugar would just rot your teeth and make you fat. It’s not quite so simple any more. One rule does not fit all. Some fats are bad, some are good. Some are bad at certain temperatures, good at others. No longer are we advised to cut as much fat out of our diets as possible as we need to consume a certain amount of the right types of fat: too little can lead to mental confusion and depression, amongst other things. Butter was good for you, then bad for you and now it’s good for you again. Unless you have a dairy intolerance, of course, when it’s still bad… Rapeseed oil was hailed as the only oil to use for several years but more recently nutritionists have been recommending replacing it with coconut oil. However there is still a debate as to whether coconut oil is bad for you because it has too much saturated fat (saturated fat raises ‘bad’ cholesterol levels) or good for you because it also raises your ‘good’ cholesterol. Confused?
One thing I think we can all agree on is that too much refined sugar is bad for you: the evidence is pretty overwhelming. Instead we should be using natural, unrefined sugars. For a while unrefined sugar was the answer to all our sugar problems. Agave had its moment of glory because it was a natural sweetener but it turns out that it contains almost as much fructose as the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup (bad because of its effect on blood sugar). Which just goes to show that just because it’s not refined white sugar doesn’t mean it’s good for you: it’s still ‘sugar’. Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates: all natural and unrefined and ‘better’ than white sugar but still bad for you if you have too much. Still confused?
So the only thing we can be sure of is that our understanding of foods and the effects they have on our bodies is constantly changing. But fat is bad and/or good and sugar is bad. Most probably anyway. Almost definitely, in fact. So what should or shouldn’t we be eating? I certainly don’t know the definitive answer to that but I like to think that avoiding processed foods, trans and hydrogenated fats and generally being sensible is a reasonable approach. Eat cake and sweet treats, just not too much too often. And ideally make it yourself with the ‘best’ ingredients you can. So this recipe for ‘healthy’ flapjacks tries to take all these points into consideration. They contain ‘no added sugar’: the sweetness comes from the dried fruit and maple syrup. I used coconut oil, which is currently advised in moderation, because I wanted them to be dairy-free. You could also use butter. However by using less fat and deriving the sugar from dried fruit and a minimal amount of maple syrup instead of using a larger proportion of butter, brown sugar and golden syrup, like a traditional flapjack, and by adding fruit, nuts and seeds that do not absorb fats and sugar like oats do, you end up with a much crumblier result. It’s not the dense, sticky flapjack I grew up with but it’s still delicious. Make sure you press it down into the tin as much as you can but it’s likely it will still be crumbly. I thought by making bite size flapjacks I’d eat less but it didn’t really turn out like that… Must remember to live by my own rule: moderation. Sometimes much easier said than done!
100g coconut oil or butter
75g maple syrup or syrup
150g porridge oats (gluten-free if preferred)
200g dried fruit, eg raisins, cranberries and cherries
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
Set the oven to 180°C and grease one or two small cupcake trays. I used two different trays that were somewhere between the size of mini muffins and standard muffins but you could also use muffin tins and just half fill them: just adjust the cooking time if necessary.
Put the oil or butter and syrup into a saucepan and heat gently until melted.
Prepare the dried fruit and seeds and chop the nuts.
Add the oats to the syrup mixture and mix well to make sure that they are all evenly coated.
Add the fruit, nuts and seeds and mix well.
Divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Press down firmly with the back of a metal spoon. You can grease the spoon to stop the mixture sticking to it.
Bake for around 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool for a while in the tin before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.