25 September 2013

Orange Walnut Quick Bites + Travel Tips

I love reading interviews with wellness experts because their perspectives are so vast and responses always interesting. They are asked fun questions such as: "If you had to convince someone that healthy eating can be delicious, what would you make for them?"; "What nutritional misconceptions are you always having to clear up?"; "What is your usual breakfast?"; and "What are your go-to meals when busy?". 

But the one question that leaves me feeling torn is when they are asked the following: "What are your non-negotiables when it comes to your diet?". I understand and appreciate the intention of the question, and I agree that having strong convictions about the food we choose to put into our bodies is extremely important. I also have strong convictions about food and certainly stay true to them whenever possible, because doing so is part of who I am, my lifestyle, and what makes me feel good.

But having said that, most of us are not monks or hermits, and we cannot remain in the comforts of our own home, kitchen, and routine all of the time. So thinking in terms of 'non-negotiables' makes me feel like there's no allowance for flexibility. It would put pressure on trying to maintain an 'ideal' diet when it's just not possible, which can provoke anxiety or frustration, making it that much harder to adapt when necessary and in the end doing more harm than good.

These thoughts were floating around in my head while on vacation. I was eager to jot them down to share with you because I think they are tied to a larger struggle in our society, that of striving for perfection.  Whether its perfecting our bodies, diets, careers, or partners, we (myself included) are always looking to make something just right, no? But life isn't about perfecting; it's about practicing, acceptance, and bringing a state of mindfulness to moments, actions, and decisions. 

So as strong as my food convictions are, I don't try to perfect them when I'm out of my routine. Though I do want to share with you some strategies I use when traveling that keeps me feeling good, both physically and mentally, and eases the transition from my usual routine to no routine.

And that's where these orange walnut bites come in. They are raw concentrated shots of energy and nutrition, quick to put together, and perfect for trips or busy days on the run. They can hold you over in the morning if you have less-than-desirable breakfast options, they're a great pick-me-up afternoon snack, or a small sweet ending to a meal. Or, as a friend suggested, drizzle over melted dark chocolate and include them as part of a holiday spread. Next time I think I'll add in unsweetened cacao nibs for crunch.

I will leave you here with the recipe and the strategies I've found helpful when traveling.

Do any of these ideas resonate with you? What are some of your strategies while traveling? Leave me a note in the comments below, I love hearing your thoughts!

Strategies While Traveling
  1. First and foremost, enjoy the experience and food for what it is. Enjoy being served when dining out and having a break from normal routine.
  2. Take along wholesome snacks that travel well, such as these orange walnut bites, nut butters, or dried fruit and nut mixes. It's a small thing but they have saved me many times when there were long stretches between meals or when there are few decent restaurant options on a long road trip.
  3. Take along a small plastic bag of shelf-stable super foods such as chia seeds and hemp seeds. They can easily be added to yogurt or juices on the go if you're feeling you need a nutritional boost.
  4. Do your research in advance. Find small hole-in-the-wall cafes, eateries, or juice bars whose food philosophies resonate with your own.
  1. Visit a gourmet grocer and buy goods for a picnic lunch. It may be pricier than a corner grocery store, but it's still cheaper than many restaurants, and it's fun to shop like a local, if only for a few days. Plus I always manage to find unique regional pantry items like oils, vinegars, olives, sea salt, etc to take back home with me.
  1. For longer trips, rent an apartment for part the time, if possible. It's fun to live like a local in a new place, plus having access to your own kitchen after  days of non-stop eating out can reinvigorate and refresh your senses. 

Orange Walnut Quick Bites
Makes ~20-22 bites

UPDATE: A favorite variation is to dip the formed balls in melted dark chocolate and let them set up in the fridge so the chocolate hardens. Store in the fridge for a week.

Notes: For maximum nutrition absorption I soak the nuts overnight, drain them, and dry them out in the oven on the lowest possible temperature for a few hours. Optionally, if you would like additional crunch stir in unsweetened cacao nibs right before molding.

4 dried figs
3/4 cup soft dates, pitted (if they are not soft, soak in water for 10 minutes)
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 tsp. salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse to break up the nuts and dried fruit. Keep pulsing until the mixture is sticky, has a crumbly sand-like consistency, and sticks together when pressed between your fingers.

Use a tablespoon to measure and scoop out the mixture. Mold in the shape of the tablespoon or roll into a ball.

Store in the fridge for a week or on the counter for a few days. They may also be frozen.


  1. Katie, this has been my favorite blog post (so far) and I have bookmarked plenty of them!
    I really appreciate your thoughtful observations, perspectives, and also tips.
    I like portable fruits (like apples, bananas, peaches, etc) for days when I'm on the go. Fills me up and deters me from poor choices.
    Thanks again!

    1. Karla, thank you for your kind words! And yes, I agree it can't get much better than fruit. :)

  2. looks delicious...just mouthwatering!


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