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Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate.

There seems to be a misconception that when you turn vegan you suddenly stop eating chocolate; this is not the case. There are many brands of chocolate offering dairy free options which don’t have to come from the “free from” section. If you like dark chocolate then you will find the transition easy. If you don’t enjoy dark chocolate it could take a while to make the transition however over time you will get used to the taste and start to love it.

It is possible to get milk and white vegan chocolate however it does have to come from the “free from” section because it isn’t naturally made dairy free. As a result the cost will be a bit higher than your regular chocolate bars.

Things to note:

  • not all dark chocolate is vegan so always double check the label.
  • dairy products are mostly always in bold however “butterfat” is sometimes not highlighted; so again double check the label.

Some facts about chocolate:

Chocolate is made from the cacao plant which in its most natural state is actually a health food. Not to be confused with cocoa, cacao is naturally high in antioxidants and has numerous health benefits. Alongside a healthy diet, cacao has the ability to balance blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque and ultimately reverse heart disease.

Other health benefits:

  • Its high in magnesium which increases energy levels and protects against osteoporosis.
  • Cacao boosts serotonin levels and endorphins which improve mood and balance mood swings.
  • It contains healthy fats which create chemical reactions for growth, immune function and metabolic function.

I have accumulated a section of photos on my trip around Tesco, finding all the vegan chocolate I could. Other supermarkets and health shops have more choice so you’re never short of options. These are mainstream brands, where as health shops have great raw chocolate varieties (and more!) but at a higher cost.

Other alternatives include raw cacao powder (to create your own great vegan desserts/ treats) and cacao nibs (to add to snacks, smoothies and oats).

Find some of your mainstream varieties below.

Green & Black’s

Tesco’s Own

Lindt

Green & Blacks Thins

Tesco Finest

Bournville

Ritter Sport (not their mint variety)

BENDICK’S

 

To find out more about how chocolate is made, go view my post on how I made chocolate in the Amazon!

Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire

Ashridge Estate – Hertfordshire

The Ashridge Estate and Autumn Colours Trail

What a place.

As a fully fledged National Trust member, I love to take advantage of this and find new great places to visit. This week I woke up to a gorgeous foggy day, not too cold, and with Autumn is full bloom I wanted to get outdoors and explore. Also, with the dark nights now setting in I am determined to get as much day light as I can. As Winter approaches it is far too easy to stay in and get depressed from a lack of Vitamin D!

I went onto the National Trust website and found places to visit in my county; this lead me to Ashridge.

The website has a selection of walks you can do but as it’s Autumn, it made sense to do the Autumn Colours Trail.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/lists/self-led-walks-at-ashridge

5.9 miles (9.4 km) – Moderate Level – Dog friendly

The walk is absolutely stunning. One moment you’re immersed in colourful woodlands of oranges, greens, yellows and browns, then you turn a corner and you’re welcomed by great open fields. Want to see Deer? Five minutes into our walk we saw our first herd! I couldn’t believe it. By the end of the walk we had seen a total of four herds.

The walk was beautiful and we got to see deer, cows, squirrels and riders on horse back. It was stunning.

Unfortunately there is one downfall to this walk and that is the signing.

Online and in the Store you are able to get a copy of instructions and a map. The problem is that the trail isn’t well sign posted so it is quite easy to get confused as to where you are going. We stumbled across many other confused walkers, on the same route as us, whom we had to confer with as to where we should be going. Although much confusion on the walk, we did end up completing  the trail and made it out before dark.

It is a bit unnerving being lost in a woodland, especially in the Autumn when daylight is short, but with so many other walkers around I’m sure you couldn’t get completely lost.

Overall the Estate and surrounding areas are absolutely stunning. It is a great location for walking, a picnic, a dog walk and so on. I will definitely be returning again and I will be less anxious about getting lost.

If you are in the Herts area or near by, it’s definitely a must see. There are lots of people there exploring the woodlands, it’s free of charge and is a brilliant day out for all.

P.S. If you happen to get lost and stumble across this cute house, turn left and you’re almost at then end.

Enjoy and thanks for reading 🙂

Travelling is tiring

Travelling is tiring

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Travelling is tiring.

I know it sounds ridiculous to many, but travelling is tiring. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Oh come on! You don’t have to work, you get to see awesome places, have freedom” etc. Yes, that’s true and I am not complaining at all. I am very grateful for all the travelling I have been able to do and I absolutely love it with a passion! But there are times when I just want to stop. Stop thinking about: where I’m going to next? Where will I sleep tomorrow? What great places should I explore in my next destination? Will I get good wifi to research the next destination, book accommodation, etc. It’s a completely different type of tiredness to the day to day “normal” living.

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Travelling is amazing but it is important to stop and be present in your environment. When you’re moving from one destination to another in a matter of days, that is tiring and that is when you just need to stop. Allow yourself a break. Feel fresh and motivated for your next hike, your next long drive, your next mini adventure; whatever it may be. You want to enjoy the journey and for that you need energy.

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I just wanted to share that for anyone considering travelling because some things you just need to be aware of. Yes, it is fantastic, you’re free to do what you like when you like but some times all you want to do is stop. Have a day doing nothing, reading, writing, watching television or just pigging out with a movie! It’s totally fine and you need days like that to recoup and start fresh again. Don’t get so tired that you miss out on something incredible.

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I just wanted to share that with you, and if you’re off on any travels then ENJOY! Just remember, it’s ok to take a break.

Love,

Hannah ✌🏼

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: What to expect.

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: What to expect.

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Tour company used: G Adventures.
Wow. Where do I even begin when I start this encounter with the Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail hike? It’s one of them experiences where at the time you will question: Why am I doing this? Why did I pay to put myself through this? Will I make it to the end of this journey? Will it even be worth it at the end? So many questions and so many slips of positive mental attitude, yet somehow you do make it (well, considering that you don’t back out or get trailed off with illness or exhaustion, for example) and then all them questions are answered. You can make it, you did make it, that is why you payed to do it and yes, it was worth every agonising second.

Before setting off on the four day Inca Trail, I can honestly say I didn’t quite know what to expect from it. I was made aware that the first day was the easiest, the second day was the hardest, the third day was the most scenic, the views are spectacular and that you had to be careful of Altitude Sickness. Other than those recommendations and snippets of information I just knew I was setting off on a four day hike to climb up to Machu Picchu – One of the “Wonders of the World”.

I had studied Altitude Training in my third year of University so I was aware of the precautions, signs and symptoms (see: “Tips for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu”) so in that aspect I wasn’t too concerned. The mental and physical aspects of it however, I hadn’t really set myself up for. I honestly thought that I’d be fine (ha ha, who knew I could be so wrong?!)

I’m going to give you a bit of information about what I experienced and how I managed with the hike but please remember, this is just my encounter. Everyone has their own experiences and opinions of the hike; we are all different, we all have different ways of coping, different mentalities, experiences and physical capabilities. I am a 26 year old female with quite a strong positive mental attitude. I practise yoga most days and go for long walks almost daily. I’m a healthy individual but I haven’t stepped inside a gym for about 6 months so my muscular strength isn’t spectacular (something I totally should have prepared myself for, but again that’s in my next post: “Tips for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu”).

So, let’s get into each daily activity and you can get an insight of what to expect when hiking the Inca Trail. Oh, I must also mention that the group I hiked with did have our own Porters whom carried 6kg of our luggage, per person, and then we were to carry the rest. I didn’t weigh my backpack but it was a fully packed 25l backpack plus a 2.5l water bottle in hand (also something I wouldn’t recommend, but again, check my next post for more information).

So, finally.

Day 1.

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The day you set off on route to Machu Picchu. You’re feeling apprehensive, nervous, excited, clean, fresh and alert. You’ve arrived by bus to the starting point, your bags are packed, the Porters have weighed and collected your duffle bags, your backpack is on, water’s in hand (or in your bag), suncreams lathered on, you’ve used the toilet (1Sol charge) and you set off with your group and tour guide(s). All raring to go you take your pictures under the Inca Trail sign and 2 minutes into the walk you hit your first pit stop: Check in. Here is where you will queue up, tickets and passport in hand and you wait to be checked in to start your hike. Depending on where you are in the queue you could be there for a while, we were the second group through and we were there for a good 30-45 minutes. Once you’re through however, the hike begins.

Day 1 is the easiest of the four and they start you off slowly. The trail is fairly flat with just a couple of short inclines that may leave you panting heavily but your guide(s) will give you lots of rest periods and breaks for “story time” (this is where they will give you some history about the Inca’s and the ruins etc).

You arrive to a camp site for your lunch break, enjoy a good feed (always three courses) have a rest, fill your water bottles, and set off again. You’ll arrive to your official camp sight by late afternoon where your camp site is all set up by your amazing porters, you’ll sit exhausted thinking “I thought Day 1 was the easiest” and wonder how you’ll manage Day 2. You get to know your amazing Porters in an informal introductory meeting and once that is done, tea is served.

Tea always consists of hot drinks (tea’s, coffee and hot chocolate) and a light snack (crackers, popcorn, biscuits etc). After tea you are served your dinner which is usually a soup to start then a well balanced main. The food is great, especially considering they carry all the food in their 25kg backpacks and prepare it all “camp style”. They ask before you set off your dietary requirements and cater to all your needs (did I say how amazing they are?). The vegan food was awesome, it was way above what I expected and couldn’t have asked for anymore from them.

After dinner you’ll most likely head to bed to prepare for the next day (Day 2 of course, you know you’re dreading Day 2 already).

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Day 2.

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Are you ready for Day 2? I know I wasn’t (well, I thought I was but that’s a different story!).

Day 2 is by far the most challenging: physically and mentally. I don’t want to put you off at all but this is the day when all of them questions at the beginning of this post will come running through your head. It will push you both physically and mentally as you climb 1000m to the “Dead Woman’s Pass”. It may not sound that high however it is a constant uphill climb, pushing and pushing, up and up, until hours later you reach the peak of 4,215m high. Be prepared for hundreds and hundreds of steps, winding around corners tricking you into thinking there may be a flat patch approaching. There’s not. Keep your head up, keep positive, you can do it, you will do it, but just take your time. It’s not a rush. You will get there. Take rest stops, have small snacks, sip your drink slowly and get to that peak. You can do it. Just take your precautions (see: “Tips for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu”).

Once you’ve battled your demons and pushed your body through hours of “torture” (slight exaggeration. Maybe. Maybe not), you will reach the top of “Dead Woman’s Pass” – Woohoo !!!! The rest of your trip from here on is a doddle. You can relax.

Reaching the top of “Dead Woman’s Pass” is amazing. You feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment and it’s awesome. The views are stunning and you feel like you’re in the clouds (well you are, unless it was just a cloud day?). Everyone encourages one another and you feel united as a group; lovely.

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From here the rest of the days’ hike is downhill. Depending on how you are with downhill (or where you’re campsite is of course) it’s not much further to the end of your day and getting back to camp. For me it was less than an hour which was amazing and downhill for me was easy so I was thoroughly happy!

When you arrive back to camp it’s lunch time so you have the rest of the day to just relax. As a note: Day 2 you power through from 6am – 1pm (well, our group did anyway) without a lunch stop so it’s just snack stops. Be sure to fuel up and hydrate as often as you can to keep you going!

Now is time to relax, refuel and rehydrate before Day 3.

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Day 3.

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Like I was told prior to the hike, Day 3 is the most scenic and for me personally the most enjoyable.

After Day 2 the hike couldn’t have got any worse so mentally I was feeling great. The hike in general was a pretty steady incline throughout but with lots of flats and a few declines. It’s a pretty steady, enjoyable hike.

Aside from the gradient, the views from Day 3’s hike were by far the most beautiful. We stopped at four Inca Sites along the way, which were all beautiful, and we got told all about them and their history and on the route you pass so much natural beauty and wildlife, it’s amazing.

You’ll pass through bridges of lush trees covering the pathway, colourful moss growing on the rocks, flowers, caves and if your lucky wild lamas chomping on the trees blocking your path. The nature, the views, the wildlife and the terrain make for a rather long (the longest day at about 9-10hrs long!) but an enjoyable, pleasant walk.

I forgot to mention, during the lunch stop on this day (I don’t know if this covers all camp sights but I know for sure it does for all G Adventures groups) we were surprised with an absolutely incredible buffet lunch!! It was amazing and just what everyone needed. The chefs even made a personalised cake for the group which is astounding considering they’ve made that just on a small fire and pan (they steamed it first then frosted and decorated it; incredible). I didn’t get pictures because I just dived in (to the meal I mean, not the cake #vegan, but the others demolished that cake!) but it was awesome and instead of cake they made me some fried plantains with a sweet orange sauce; so good.

Once your day is over you arrive to camp and it’s almost straight to tea time and then dinner. At dinner you will have a gathering to say thank you for all the hard work the Porters have done, congratulate one another and enjoy your last meal together. Once dinner and acknowledgements are over its time for bed because Day 4 is approaching and it’s one heck of an early rising for you all…

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Day 4.

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The finale is in sight. The final hurdle to the one Wonder you have been working so hard towards reaching: Machu Picchu.

You are finally here. Finally at Day 4 and the end is near. It’s sad to think that these four days will soon be over but exciting to know that soon you will be seeing Machu Picchu and then arriving back to the Hotel to receive clean toilets, clean clothes and a nice warm shower.

Day 4 begins with a wake up call of…. wait for it…. 3am !!! You get awakened at 3am to be up, ready and rolling for 3:30am. 3:30am you leave to walk 2 minutes (depending on where your camp site is, 2-5 minutes) and stop again to wait until 5:30am for the check point to open! Here is where you will moan about waking up early to be sat waiting in the freezing cold and darkness for so long, however once the sun comes up and the bugs start creaking the excitement kicks in and through that barrier you go! (We were the second group in line so we’re through quick. The line was very long so if you’re at the back you may be waiting a while longer).

The walk begins and you’re headed to Machu Picchu.

Uphill you go for a couple of hours, the walk isn’t as easy as Day 3 but your excitement and knowing the end is near will keep you pushing through. After the approximate two hour uphill walk the terrain is fairly flat and easy and you get to two pit stops where you can admire the sights of Machu Picchu; it’s pretty awesome.

We were extremely lucky with the weather and had sunshine throughout but it was pretty cloudy, on and off, so we just waited for the clouds to pass and then admired our view. It was amazing.

The time flies by and you reach Machu Picchu before you know it. You take numerous photos with numerous poses and numerous angles. You’ll leave the site, drink and eat overpriced food and drinks from the restaurant outside the gates, but you won’t care because you’re so happy to be having a great meal after such an early start (or coffee for many peoples cases). You will then return back through the gates to Machu Picchu to receive a full guided tour and then free time in the site of Machu Picchu.

People will smell super fresh and super clean because they’ve just arrived by bus and train and you’ve been roughing it for four days without showering and smelling awful (which now you’re immune to). You’ll envy their cleanness and although you’ll enjoy walking around Machu Picchu you’ll be exhausted and dreaming about that shower you’ll soon be receiving, although it’ll be another 7 hours or so until you reach your hotel back in Cusco.

You want to know the end of the story in my case? We arrived back to the hotel at roughly 7:30pm, I checked in and found my room, emptied my bags and put my clothes into laundry, walked back to my room (on the 3rd floor I may add – it may not sound bad but you just wait until it’s your turn; you’ll understand), and passed out onto my bed. Next thing I know it’s 6am and I’m fully clothed and un-showered laid in bed ready to start the next day…

Enjoy the Inca Trail guys. It’s one heck of an experience!

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Eating Vegan whilst travelling Peru: My experience

Eating Vegan whilst travelling Peru: My experience

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Oh Peru, you little (well, not so little…) beauty you. Peru is such a brilliant country with such diversity. I arrived looking out onto rolling hills, stepped onto sandy beaches, swam in the ocean, sand boarded in the dessert, climbed mountains and finished with a boating tour of the incredible Lake Titicaca. It seriously has so much to offer and besides from scenery, the food in Peru was fantastic.

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I left Ecuador and entered Peru with no expectations but the hope for fruit and easily accessible whole foods. Peru didn’t disappoint.

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Peru offers vegetarian restaurants and cafes almost everywhere I visited, and with vegetarian restaurants there are always vegan options.

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Secondly, not only does it have many veggie restaurants but, from my experience, your standard restaurants also offered a complete veggie section including vegan options!
Lima beans are big in Peru and are often on the menu with rice and a salad, or their local dish “Saltado” you can order a vegetarian option and it’s great. It’s like eating local just without the meat 🙂

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Quinoa grows like wild fire here in Peru so everywhere you go you will have quinoa on the menu in some shape or form (soups, burgers, salads…). Quinoa is such an incredible food and in the UK it can be quite costly, here however, it’s served like rice. It’s brilliant. The quinoa soup is to die for!

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Not only are the restaurants great but the people are also really accommodating. For example, if you have any home stays or excursions they will ask your dietary requirements and cater exactly to your needs. Not only do they cater to your needs but the food you get is really good and creative (they also have tons of avocado in Peru so you’ll eat avocado to your hearts content), so don’t worry about excursions and going hungry.

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Supermarkets in Peru are also brilliant. They tend to be large Metro’s which are the equivalent to Tesco or Walmart, so offer everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to hot food counters, dairy free milk and great bread (yes, bread will forever be your saviour in South America, trust me).

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Fruit markets; yes ! Peru offers many fruit markets with lovely fresh fruit and vegetables so pick up cheap fruits here when you can. I recommend their mangoes and papaya!

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Lastly, the wonder that is Cacao (see my Cacao post in Ecuador if you missed it!). Cacao also grows here in Peru and you can find organic cacao chocolate literally everywhere; it is incredible. Have you tried dark chocolate with quinoa before? If you haven’t, you must! It’s heavenly! There are also Cacao museums in Lima, Cusco and Ollantaytamboa (maybe more places but here is where I found them) which offer everything you can imagine made from cacao: shampoos, body lotions, lip balms, alcohol, chocolates, tea, spreads and more. It’s an awesome museum and shop and you can even have chocolate making classes here. They give out free samples of everything and with a flyer you get 10% off whatever you purchase (and I guarantee you will purchase at least an individual chocolate piece, and then go back for more because it’s so damn good), so definitely go and check it out when you’re in Peru.

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That was my vegan travel experience in Peru and I hope this helps to reassure any of you who may be travelling there. Do bear in mind that I’m staying only in hotels and do not have access to a kitchen, therefore everything I say or recommend is based around that rather big inconvenience. If you’re using hostels your life will possibly be a lot more simpler as rice is accessed absolutely everywhere and you’ve access to canned beans, corn etc. This is simply food on the go and making do without a kitchen.

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But anyway, I hope this helps and have a wonderful time on your travels.

Love, happiness and health,

Hannah 🙂

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Why I despise calorie counting

Why I despise calorie counting

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Is it me or has the world gone calorie counting obsessed? Counting calories is one of my biggest pet hates and something I wish everyone would stop doing. Wherever we look we are faced with calories; from TV programmes to going out to dinner, to wearing a watch on our wrists counting every calorie we burn to calorie tracking apps. When we go out for a nice meal it is a treat, a place to socialise, be happy and enjoy ourselves. Why is it that when looking through the menu we have to be faced with the caloric value of our food? The thing is: would you rather eat a whole foods salad with raw veggies, healthy fats, complex carbs and whole lots of vitamins and minerals which contains 750 calories (for example) OR eat a Burger and Chips for 700 calories but contains saturated fats, high cholesterol and very little nutritional benefit at all? The problem is that instead of eating nutritious food and enjoying it we are so obsessed with the number of calories we are eating that we don’t enjoy the food any more and our focus is on how much we will eat and when we should stop. The thing is, when we forget calories and eat whole nutritious foods we can eat until we are full, stay full and nourished until our next meal AND enjoy ourselves with no guilt at all! When we calorie restrict, we don’t eat until we are full, we eat until we have reached the caloric value we desire, get hungry again soon after and then pig out later on unhealthy accessible foods to feed ourselves up and more than likely until we are so over full we feel sick. This isn’t healthy and it is not a fun way to live.

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I understand that people feel the need to count calories to lose weight but it isn’t maintainable. We should be counting the nutritional value and benefits of foods and focus on this. Eating whole foods with tons of vitamins and minerals means we can eat until we are full and have no need to restrict, no need to pig out soon after and can eat without any guilt at all. Yes, we all get cravings, I am one for this absolutely. I have one of the greatest sweet tooth’s on the planet and if you are a female then I know that there is one time of the month in particular when your hormones are out of control and all we want to eat is sweet foods! But all junk food out there has a healthy alternative and can be made a healthier option. For example: want chocolate? Opt for a high cocoa dark chocolate option. Try dates with nut butter. Raw vegan brownies. Raw vegan cheesecake. Make some icecream with frozen bananas, dates and raw cacao. We all have times when we over indulge and thats not be felt guilty about; it is normal (Binge eating and over indulgence are two very different things!) How we chose to indulge is our choice of options and what we eat. If you chose a packet of chocolate digestives and know that you’re going to eat the entire packet and feel guilty about it, don’t do it. You’re much better eating an entire jar of almond butter and dates for example, feel full and satisfied but without the guilt, and at least you’re body isn’t going to hate you for it.

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My point is: don’t be consumed by calories and focus on the nutrition of food instead. When we all switch our focus to nutrition that is when we will all begin to strive and live the healthiest version of ourselves. There will be times when we over indulge because that is normal but dieting and binge eating will be no more. Eat fruit and vegetables in abundance, carb up on complex carbohydrates and stay hydrated. When we change to this way of eating then exercise will be enjoyed for the health benefits, not the calories burnt, eating out will be enjoyed for the company and food, not the fear of calories and weight gain and life will become a whole lot less stressful. Experience what it’s like to be confident in yourself as you know that what you are eating is allowing you to thrive in life and not leave you feeling unhappy, under nourished and dissatisfied.

Stay healthy and happy everyone,

Hannah

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Chocolate Cashew Bars

Chocolate Cashew Bars

My. Oh. My. I am in LOVE with these Chocolate Cashew Bars; I can not tell you how many times I have made them. They are so easy to make and have hardly any ingredients in them at all. The one problem is, my Mum loves them even more than I do and always pinches them off me. Cheeky Cheeky. Although it does keep her from munching all the biscuits!!

I found a recipe from Unprocessyourfood on Instagram which I adapted slightly for my own preference. I change it every now and then, depending on what I am fancying that week. I have done it with a few more dates, with and without cinnamon, blended it for less time so its more of a crumbly/ dry bar. It is all preference and that’s why I love simple recipes; so easy to adapt to what you like.

These bars are perfect for afternoon snacks to keep you going during the energy slump most of us endure around 3-4pm. They have slow release carbohydrates and protein to keep you full until dinner time but also a healthy hit of sugar to give you some energy and put a smile on your face, and your belly ( Hello? Chocolate!!).

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I hope you enjoy 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 Cup Cashews
  • 1/4 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 6 Dates (chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup (honey if not vegan)
  • 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
  • Dark Chocolate Chips (vegan or non-vegan)
  • Flaked Almonds
  • Pinch Sea Salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Blend oats, cashews and sea salt in food processor
  2. Add dates, cinnamon and honey and blend until a cookie dough texture
  3. Press onto a lined baking tray and top with dark chocolate chips and flaked almonds (you can use chopped nuts of any kind, they would also be good).
  4. Leave to set overnight in the fridge and then enjoy (alternatively, keep in freezer for an hour and then remove to enjoy).