This high-protein, filling, gluten-free muffin, microwaved in a mug, is perfect to whip up if you have almost zero time, but don’t want to compromise your low-carb lifestyle on-the-go.
Have you missed my low-carb swap recipes? The thing is, I was really quite ill last week with some sort of virus and spent most of it in bed. I couldn’t face food, or even the thought of it. So it completely threw out my recipe testing and blogging schedule, hence the hiatus since late July in low-carb swap of the week.
But now low-carb swaps are back, and will resume being weekly(ish), as before!
I’d booked a ticket for the Brighton Pride Festival last weekend. So I was lucky that it was a day or two before that that I was up off my sick bed sufficiently to be confident that I had turned a corner and was well enough still to go.
To make sure I arrived well on time for the Pride Parade starting at 11am, I was due to be travelling to Brighton on a super-early train last Saturday (which, as it turns out, was cancelled due to signalling failures at Reading so I had to drive, but I know, TMI).
Now that I was well again, I was also keen to get back to the serious low-carb lifestyle that I’d been sticking to rigidly before I got ill, and which I’d felt very glum about sabotaging by having to eat dry white bread and cream crackers when I was sick. So all that meant that I needed a portable breakfast for the train that would save me from having to resort to high-carb offerings bought in a panic on-the-hoof from a coffee shop.
While the kettle was boiling for my first coffee of the day, my solution was to knock myself up one of these super-quick Microwave Mug Muffins to take with me. The night before, I even put all the dry ingredients ready for the morning in a mug (well, a tea cup actually, as they’re more muffin-shaped, but it just doesn’t have the same fabulous alliterative quality for the recipe title does it?!).
The muffin was cooked by the time my coffee had filtered. And it had cooled enough in its cooking receptacle to allow me to pop it into a small food-bag, and then into my handbag, as I ran out the door.
If you want something super-low-carb, then the fresh/frozen blueberries in this recipe are optional. Including them is my personal preference, and to me it makes it seem more like a traditional muffin. But you could omit the blueberries if you prefer – and I do that sometimes anyway if I don’t happen to have any kicking around. Or you could try substituting them with lower-carb raspberries (I haven’t tried this, but in principle I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Please do share with us here if you do give it a try!).
This recipe uses whey protein powder as one of the flour-substitutes in the ingredients, and since I like to include blueberries, I choose to use blueberry flavour whey protein. But I see no reason why you couldn’t use a different flavour that would go with blueberry, or whatever berry you choose to use, e.g. vanilla. And if you don’t include any berries, then that gives you carte blanche to be far more adventurous with the whey protein powder flavour that you pick e.g. if you buy online from MyProtein, who do a vast range of exotic flavours – e.g. sticky toffee pudding!
You could also decide not to use a flavoured whey protein, but a plain one (as I do in cooking fairly frequently). Once again, I haven’t tried this myself yet, although I do plan to have a play around at some point and post the results. So if, in the meantime, you decide to have a go yourself, you’d need to experiment with sweetening the mixture with whichever low-carb sugar alternative is your favourite, as the flavoured powders already contain Sucralose, which I find is all the sweetness you need.
Texture-wise, you’ll find these muffins a little drier and chewier than high-carb ones. Personally I quite like that. It means they don’t crumb everywhere when I’m eating them on the train. And having to chew for longer gives your gut longer to send messages to your brain that you have eaten and that you are full, which helps with portion control. That benefit is on top of the assistance in feeling fuller for longer that you’re already getting from the lower-carb and higher-protein ingredients in these muffins, compared with regular muffins.
I also sometimes split these open while still warm and serve them with a very small amount of grass-fed butter (5g, so just 36 calories). That gives me a small additional good fats boost, and makes the muffin seem quite buttery and indulgent.
I’ll be completely straight with you though, these muffins are not haute cuisine. And with the inclusion of e.g. a small amount of artificial sweetener Sucralose in the flavoured whey protein, they’re not perfect clean eating either. But they’re perfectly palatable and pleasant, and they’re likely to do your health more good overall, than the high sugar and flour alternative.
Perhaps even more crucially, whipping up one of these muffins is extremely expedient, and might save you, when you’re pushed for time and going to be out all day, from undoing all your hard low-carb work. And sometimes when you’re busy – even when, like me, you prefer to eat clean and gourmet, where possible – something palatable and expedient, and no more, is what it’s got to be about, as a trade-off for food pleasure against reaching and building on your health goals.
Nutrition count: Regular Blueberry Muffin vs. ‘Skinny’ Blueberry Muffin vs. 5-Minute Blueberry Microwave Mug Muffin
This gluten-free 5-Minute Blueberry Microwave Mug Muffin is enormously lower in carbs and calories than the alternatives e.g. that you can buy in Starbucks. And as with most, if not all, of my low-carb swaps, it will be far more filling too.
You can see below that, over a regular blueberry muffin, with my low-carb muffin you’re saving a whopping 52g of carbs and 310 calories, and 61g carbs and around half the calories over the skinny Starbucks version.
And you’ll have noticed by now that that means that the skinny Starbucks version – while it has fewer calories and a lot less fat than the original – has more carbs. What you’re seeing in action here is what nutrition scientists call the sugar – fat seesaw. That means that, if manufacturers take out some of the fat in a food so they can market it as ‘lite’ or ‘skinny’ or low-fat’, then what they’re not making transparent is what they have used to substitute for it to make it as close to the original as possible – which is usually carbs/sugar.
|Per Muffin||Starbucks Regular Blueberry Muffin||Starbucks Skinny Blueberry Muffin||5-Minute Blueberry Microwave Mug Muffin*|
* Figures calculated from verified product data on the MyFitness Pal app
Other Health Impacts
Let’s have a look at the health impact of the main ingredients.
The biggest constituent component of this muffin is an egg. Read here what I’ve said before about what perfect little nutrient bombs eggs are, being high especially in complete protein and vitamin D, and also containing vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, folate and iodine. Buy eggs like these, laid by hens fed to produce ones with an omega 3 fatty acid content.
In the same place, I also previously recommended that you buy an almond milk brand which is both unsweetened and carrageenan-free.
Similarly, coconut flour is another go-to low-carb ingredient of mine, and I’ve mentioned before why it’s good for you in terms of healthy fats and fibre.
So the main ingredient we need to examine in a bit more depth here is the 10g of whey protein you’ll be using. That’s a small amount in itself, and 96% of that is whey protein concentrate. So clearly this is predominantly a high-protein ingredient and one that contains dairy, as it’s derived from milk. MyProtein say they use whey from grass-fed cows, which means the milk should have a fatty acid profile that includes more omega-3.
Since they will be included in such tiny amounts, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the other ingredients in the whey protein. But in case they are allergens for you, or you have concerns about them from a clean eating perspective (and I would in one or two cases if I were consuming a lot), you should know that they are:
- Soy lecithin – used as a natural emulsifier, and a source of the essential nutrient choline, which in general we don’t get enough of.
- Sulphites – used as a flavouring in the whey protein I’m using. They occur naturally in the human body and some foods, and can be an allergen for asthmatics.
- Colourings – in the blueberry whey I’ve been using these are from natural Beetroot Red (usually extracted from beetroot juice) and anthocyanins, usually extracted from many different fruit and vegetable juices e.g. grape juice, and which it is debated may have an antioxidant effect in the body.
- Sucralose – a calorie-free, artificial sweetener made from sugar, but around 600 times sweeter. A scientific review just last month (July 2017) concluded that evidence does not clearly support what are known as ‘nonnutritive’ sweeteners, such as Sucralose, for managing weight. Further, it suggested that regular consumption may be associated with increased BMI and cardiometabolic risk. But I don’t consume sweeteners like this regularly, so I’m not concerned about the tiny amount here.
Finally, if you’ve included blueberries in your muffin, then I’m sure you know already that they are great nutritionally. There is no such thing as a ‘super-food’, despite what may be sensationalised on the basis of some scientific studies. However, blueberries are a good source of vitamin K, and also contain fibre, vitamin C, manganese and anthocyanins, which may have an antioxidant effect. So based on nutrition science, there is no doubt they are a very welcome inclusion to a healthy diet.
Recipe: 5-Minute Blueberry Microwave Mug Muffin
Makes 1 Muffin
Prep: 2 mins
Cooking: 2-3 mins
- 10g blueberry flavour whey protein powder (or flavour of your choice – I used MyProtein blueberry)
- 10g coconut flour (I use Tiana)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free if you like)
- 25ml unsweetened almond milk (I use Alpro)
- 1 large egg
- 25g fresh or frozen blueberries (optional)
- With a fork or teaspoon, mix the whey protein powder, coconut flour and baking powder together in a mug or large tea cup.
- Add the almond milk and mix well until there are no lumps.
- Crack the egg into the mixture. Again, mix well until all is combined and there are no lumps.
- Stir in the blueberries if you are using them.
- Place in the microwave and cook on High for 2 minutes.
- Check if the muffin is done, first by ensuring there is no wet mixture left on the top. If there isn’t, then slide a knife around the edge of the muffin to loosen it, and turn it quickly out onto a plate to inspect the bottom. If there is no wet mixture left on the bottom either, then it’s done. If there’s still some wet mixture, then it needs cooking a little longer.
- Keep returning the muffin to the microwave, giving it an extra 30 seconds and repeating your inspections, until all the wet mixture has gone and it looks done.
- How long your specific muffin will take to cook will depend on whether or not you included blueberries, or different berries; whether or not the berries were fresh, frozen or defrosted; and the strength of your oven.
- On average, in my 800W microwave, a muffin with no blueberries will be done at the 2 minute mark. A muffin with frozen blueberries usually takes 3 minutes, and one with fresh blueberries, somewhere in between.
- During cooking, the blueberries will have sunk to the bottom (which becomes the top once you turn the muffin out, if you see what I mean). And depending on their size and age, they may have burst. As long as all the mixture has set, don’t be alarmed if the muffin looks a bit ‘cratery’ and damp from the blueberries. Just leave the cooked muffin on a plate to cool down. Any wet blueberry juice will soak into the muffin, and after a short while it should be dry enough to be portable if you’re not eating it at home.