Muesli is a very popular breakfast meal. When homemade, it gives total flexibility in choices of ingredients, their ratios, as well as fruit and berries extras and liquid toppings. Homemade muesli can be as healthy as you want, you can always go organic for both grain and dried fruit options.
I haven’t made muesli for quite some time, and had to do my research for this blog post about currently available gluten free grain options for muesli, both in supermarkets and health food stores. I was looking in particular for healthy puffed grains and grain flakes, with high protein and fibre content and low sodium in them. I was pleasantly surprised in seeing such a variety of quality grains available, with even organic options on the shelves in supermarkets.
Muesli is a flexible mix of uncooked grains, nuts, dried fruits and seeds, with a special attention to fibre extras if necessary. I can only share my choices from these groups of nutrients, and explain the arguments behind these choices.
For grains I would use quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth. All of the three are pseudo-grains with high protein content (nearly 13%) with a good composition of amino acids among plant proteins. They would be preferred options, compared to rice or corn. Corn among other gluten free grains has lower protein content and poor amino acid composition. I could find brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth flakes, as well as all of them in puffed form. For my own muesli I selected quinoa flakes and amaranth puffs. For an extra crunch in muesli I like to use variety of crispibreads by Freedom Foods.
As an option I can recommend any good quality Freedom Foods crispibread, crush it and use as a part of grain variety in muesli. I used buckwheat and corn crispibread I had in my pantry.
Dried fruit options
Dried apricots provide the best nutritional value without the addition of too much sweetness. Both Australian and Turkish dried apricots are very good. With apricots, as with practically all dried fruits, sensitivity to sulphur containing preservatives, can limit their use in muesli only in organic form. Those naturally dried by sun fruits are more expensive, but widely available. Dried apples, dried pears, dried peaches are very good as extras, which provide additional chewiness and flavour. If preservatives are not tolerated, organic raisins, or golden or green sultanas are a good budget option, too. Compared to ordinary sultanas they have less sugars in them and have better flavour.
For extra indulgence juicy dates and figs can be added to a dried fruit mix. I like to add dried papaya, which has an enzyme, that helps to break down proteins. Together with dried figs (and prunes, if added to the mix) they stimulate and regulate digestive function. Organic dried apricots are always darker in colour (as shown on the photo above on the right).
All nuts are good and provide fats, beneficial to our health. My first choice goes to walnuts, which are not only one of the best in terms of nutritional value and taste, but also have an advantage to be bought and stored in shells. This greatly reduces the risks of shelled nuts oxidation and fungi contamination, when shelled nuts are stored and sold without packaging, especially with a long shelf life. I also like to mix in some pine nuts, to add extra flavour to muesli. Some nuts can be used sliced or slivered, if it is your preference.
For extra flavour and benefits of thermal treatment, shelled nuts can be toasted for a short period of time in hot oven or in the dry pan.
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels are a good source of healthy fat. They also substantially increase fibre content in the mixture. Both types of seeds can be toasted as well, but only if small quantities of muesli are prepared.
Chia seeds can be added as well, but I prefer to use them in reduced sugar/honey frozen berries sauces, conveniently made on budget, from frozen berries.
As with any cereal based meal, and daily meals on any gluten free diet in general, adequate fibre quantity in a meal have to be considered. It can be in the form of rice bran, a touch of psyllium husks, or flaxseed meal. I personally like flaxseed meal, sprinkled on top of anything. They provide not only the necessary fibre, but excellent fats and also contribute to gut motility. I used shredded coconut and flaxseed meal as a source of extra fibre in my muesli. Commercial flaxseed meal has to be stored refrigerated, to prevent fats oxidation, and an appearance of a bitter taste as the result of it. Flaxseed meal has to be added separately to each bowl of muesli.
Because particle size of quinoa flakes and puffed amaranth were so tiny, my muesli, when mixed, looked completely indulgent. All grains went to the bottom of the bowl, and left nuts, seeds and dried fruit pieces on the surface. I like to have my muesli with a piece of fruit in winter, and mixed berries in summer. Among fruits – apples and pears are my favourites. Bananas might be another convenient option, too.
As a topping – dairy, non-dairy or nut milk can be used. I, however, prefer plain yogurt with fruit and berries sauce made with chia. When eating this breakfast I nearly started to feel guilty, before I realised that all what was on the plate was simply good for me … I have to add in moderation. Goes very nicely with a hot strong cup of tea.
This breakfast might not look like a serious meal, but it is well balanced, filling and will sustain for a long time. Reasonably high contents of good fats will slow down glucose release into the bloodstream. Proteins from buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, chia and yogurt will contribute substantially to recommended daily requirements. Dried fruits, nuts and seeds will contribute greatly to the intake of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, while fresh fruits will be the source of water-soluble vitamins and some essential minerals.
And the best thing of all – it tastes great!