Finding Balance

Yoga thought for the day: “Finding balance with ease and joy, whether in life or in a yoga pose, is a constant state of adjustment and attunement. It is about replacing the knowing of the mind with the benevolent curiosity of the heart. It is about remembering, did I come to yoga to get it right and to be frustrated when I don’t? Or did I come to yoga to feel better, to practice loving myself more, and to enjoy the journey of learning? Additionally, can I use my yoga practice as a microcosm and a playground for understanding and transforming my life experience?” – Jenny Sauer-Klein, “It’s Playtime,” Yoga International, Fall 2012

Finding balance is so important to achieving a sense of peace and contentment. I think we can all agree that the question of balance comes up a lot in our diets – eating the foods we enjoy while remaining ever mindful of health and nutrition. This past weekend I did quite a lot of baking. I enjoy a little something sweet for dessert with my lunch. I am well aware of the supposed evils of sugar, but as with anything we eat, quantity and rate of consumption matter.  I keep my sugar consumption to a minimum, and when I bake I experiment with just how much sugar is necessary to give the desired sweetness. It’s a great compliment to me when people tell me that my baked goods are delicious, because “they’re not too sweet.”

I’ve also been experimenting with sources of sugar and with gluten-free baking. I myself do not have a gluten intolerance, but even I like to balance my consumption of flours, pastas and grains that contain gluten and those that do not.

These fabulous cookies are gluten-free vegan coconut almond “sugar” cookies made with stevia extract. Now stevia is not a sugar – it’s an herb that produces a sweet taste. I make this cookie in regular or chocolate. These cookies are also low in fat and are absolutely scrumptious.

My gluten-free vegan blondie brownies are made with coconut sugar from Indonesia. Coconut sugar is low-glycemic so it won’t cause an energy crash like other sweeteners. Coconut sugar has nutritionally significant amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, as well as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Coconut sugar does not add a coconut flavor at all – rather it tastes and looks a bit like brown sugar. But it has a more subtle sweetness. I did add vegan chocolate chips to my brownies so that’s some additional sugar. But, you know, if you look at other recipes you will realize that my gluten-free vegan blondie brownies have less sugar and far less fat than most brownies out there, and they are DELICIOUS!

Crunchy and light with a definite maple flavor, my gluten-free vegan maple oatmeal cookies are low in fat and the perfect morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening or night time snack.  They are made with organic maple syrup. Maple syrup is definitely a sugar, but it is not refined so it contains a more complex array of nutrients than refined white sugar. I’ve had things to say about white sugar and alternatives in other posts, but I will note again that most refined white cane sugar is not vegan, because of the process used to make it.

And then there are my vegan pumpkin muffins. I make all my muffins with one tablespoon of grapeseed oil and one tablespoon of organic unsulphured molasses.  Note that molasses is a good source of potassium, calcium and iron and vitamin B6. I’m afraid most people would find that my muffins are simply not sweet enough. But I love my muffins. I have a muffin every single day as part of my breakfast. They are truly a deliciously nutritious marvel.

There is plenty of information on the Web about all the different kinds of sugars from discussions about nutrition, baking characteristics, environmental impact, etc. If sugar consumption is an important issue for you, look into it. And then remember, it’s all about finding balance.