with Hearty Apple Almond Crisp
You will quickly learn that I care a tremendous amount about breakfast, am a self-proclaimed breakfast-pusher and still believe it IS the most important meal of the day despite arguments and studies against the age-old saying.
This is why: breakfast jumpstarts my day and ultimately motivates me to end the day as well as it starts.
Eating breakfast is a daily reminder that I begin the day on the right foot, nourishing not just my body but also my mind. The positive start to the day gives me more energy physically and mentally, allowing me to concentrate better knowing that I am prepared to work or study without dealing with mood swings or cravings from lightheadedness due to low blood sugar levels. Choosing to have a healthful breakfast not only gets your engine going, but also prompts good decision making from the moment you get up. You are more likely to avoid the worse for you foods and prevent overeating at lunch or dinner.
Even if there are clashing studies on breakfast's physiological benefits, there are plenty of studies showing that skipping breakfast is associated with eating more throughout the day, greater BMI (body mass index), weight gain and metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes (1,2,3,4). Those risk factors include a large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol levels (high-density lipoproteins aka ‘good cholesterol’), high triglyceride levels, high fasting blood sugar and high blood pressure (5). Earlier this year a prospective study from Sweden also reported that adolescents who skip breakfast or have "poor breakfast habits" are at increased risk for metabolic syndrome later in life. Eek! Too young!!
If your main excuse to skip breakfast is that you don’t have enough time in the morning to prepare, then try making it the night before (ex. overnight oats or yogurt parfait) or making something that is easy to eat during your commute (ex. veggie omelet wrap, homemade smoothie or nut butter on toast). Remember, breakfast doesn’t have to be huge or even comprised of traditional breakfast foods, but it does need to be a nutritious combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, and limited in sugar and saturated fats.
Check out one of my favorite balanced breakfasts that you only need to make once but can eat for a week (i.e. meal prep) when you know your schedule is going to be extra busy. My Hearty Apple Almond Crisp is loaded with fiber (whole grains, fruit), protein and omega-3 fatty acids, all necessary nutrients to keep my brain focused, my hunger managed, my mood stabilized, my digestive system running and my heart healthy.
And the recipe is easy peasy: place the fruit mixture in the pan, top with the oats mixture and bake in the oven until the crisp turns golden brown and the fruit liquids start to boil through the top. This recipe includes apples (yes, I am still using my Annual Farm Crawl apples - 13 pounds is a lot!), plums and blueberries, but feel free to get creative and switch up the combinations to your fruit preferences.
Hearty Apple Almond Crisp
Yields: 8 servings (7" x 11" glass baking pan)
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Combine the topping dry ingredients in a bowl. FYI - the flaxseeds have a strong nutty flavor to them so if you don't want that to stand out, cut the amount in half.
In a separate bowl, chop up the apples and plums into 1"-2" pieces and combine with the blueberries. Add all of the spices, orange juice and maple syrup from the first list of ingredients and stir until all of the fruit is coated. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a baking pan (make sure to grease it - I misted it with olive oil).
Add the almond milk, maple syrup and olive oil to the dry mix. Spread the oats mixture evenly on top of the fruit base.
Bake the crisp for ~45 minutes until the topping turns golden brown and the liquid starts to bubble through.
Eat alone or top with some nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!! :D
All last month I was swamped (but very happily swamped) with work for National Nutrition Month. On top of the full-time job at the hospital, I was creating and presenting lectures to students ranging from kindergartners to high school seniors and teaching them about healthy eating habits and the importance of starting now.
I LOVE teaching! Opening minds to new ideas and getting people to really think about how ‘you are what you eat’ is very rewarding and also hopeful that the newer and current generations will start making smarter choices and rates of obesity and related health conditions will start to decline.
My favorite moment came at the end of discussing the sugar content in popular beverages. A teenage girl looked at the 20-ounce bottle of ice tea she was sipping throughout the presentation and declared: “I am never drinking this again.” She had no idea that it basically was liquid candy nor did she realize the consequences of drinking it everyday.
Sometimes we take for granted what we know in our specialties, but it is so important to remember that not everyone is privileged to the same knowledge. And sadly, nutrition is one of those subjects that is not a standard in curriculums, which is why I jump on any opportunity I can to spread the health and wellness lifestyle message.
One of the main themes in all of the presentations was choosing healthier snack options. These are kids and their seemingly endless growing requires lots of snacks on tops of meals. Simply put, a healthy snack should include fiber, protein and healthy fats while excluding excessive amounts of sugar, salt, saturated fats and definitely without ingredients you cannot even pronounce. A snack’s goal is to provide you with enough energy to keep you full until the next meal so you can get through your busy day while being properly nourished. Oh, and it should also taste good!
Below is a new snack I made the other day that is just the perfect healthy sweet treat for any day, especially a warm day, and can even be served as dessert! There’s a bit of preparation, which is totally worthwhile because it has all the nutrients I just listed, is made from only three ingredients and natural sugars, and is about 150 calories per serving (perfect amount for a snack). This will definitely satisfy a juice or soda craving but actually provide positive benefits to your body! ;)
Try it out but also stay tuned for a future post on my favorite and go-to snacks!!
Mango Coconut Chia Pudding
Combine the chia seeds and coconut water. Stir well, wait five minutes and stir well again. Let the pudding rest over night (or at least a few hours until it begins to become gel-like).
When you are ready to eat your pudding, puree the mango. If you would like some texture, take 1/3 of the mango and dice.
Pour the puree over the chia pudding and top with the diced mango. Add additional toppings if desired (I used 1 Tbsp. of hemp hearts to add some additional protein. This brings the calories up to about 200 per serving - still okay for a snack.).
Serve and enjoy!
Yields: 1 serving
February was National Heart Month and March is both National Nutrition Month AND National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so eeeeeverybody is talking about fiber fiber fiber! But why???
Because most of us are lacking it in our diets! It’s recommended that women get at least 25 gm per day and men at least 38 gm per day (a bit less for both if you’re over 50 years of age), however, the average American diet only includes about 15 gm of fiber per day (1).
You’ve probably heard that you need fiber to maintain regular bowel movements, preventing constipation and stimulating the muscles of the digestive tract to stay healthy and toned. Yes, toned. Yet there are so many more reasons it’s vital to our health.
First it’s important to know there are two types of fiber:
1) Soluble fiber – absorbs water, forming a gel-like substance, solidifying and adding bulk to stools.
2) Insoluble fiber – mainly remains intact and speeds up stool’s movement out of the body.
In particular, soluble fiber helps reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It binds with LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and takes it out with your digestive trash, and it slows down the absorption of sugar aiding in regulating blood sugar levels. Fiber also works to keep our waistlines from expanding. Most sources of fiber are low in fat, sugar and calories, and soluble fiber actually slows the movement of food in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract keeping you feeling full. Additionally, while studies are mixed, many of them have shown that fiber helps reduce the risk of colon cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the USA with about five percent of the population being diagnosed with it (2).
So where does one get all this fiber? Plant based foods.
Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants. For example, it is found in the bran (outer shell) of grains, which is why eating whole grains is preferable to refined, processed ones that have stripped the grain of its outer fiber containing layer. Soluble fiber sources include oats, oat bran, cereal brans, barley, rye, fruits, vegetables, legumes (aka beans and peas), seeds and seaweeds. Insoluble fiber is found in whole-wheat flour, whole grain items, brown rice, wheat bran, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds (3).
And how does one get enough fiber in his or her diet?
To start, get your recommended 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Choose whole fruit and vegetables, not the juice forms, and eat the skin or peels, such as on apples, carrots and potatoes, because that’s where a lot of the fiber is in additional to a multitude of vitamins and minerals. Make a fruit and nonfat plain yogurt parfait for breakfast, add it to your whole grain cereals or eat fruit for dessert. Throw vegetables into everything from salads, soups, sandwiches, sauces, etc.
Choose whole grains, especially in bread and pasta products. Look for labels that say ‘100% whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain,’ and that include whole wheat, oats or barley as the first listed ingredient. Add oat bran, flaxseed meal or chia seeds to yogurt or cereal. When baking or cooking, substitute at least half of the flour with whole wheat flour.
Try substituting plant-based protein (ex. nuts, beans) for meats and cheese. Add nuts, beans or peas to soups, salads and pasta dishes, or even mash them up to make a fresh homemade dip for some cut up broccoli, carrot sticks or whole grain crackers.
ALWAYS read food labels. Look for at least 4 gm of fiber per serving. And be creative!
What else do you need to know? If you start to increase the amount of fiber you’re eating, do it slowly because adding fiber to your diet may cause you to feel bloated. Make sure to drink enough water for the fiber to absorb and to help it function properly in your system. Lastly, be careful not to just eat fiber filled products because too much of anything, even good for you foods, can be harmful, and too much fiber may lead to mineral deficiencies.
Below I’ve included a winter appropriate 'fiberful' sweet treat recipe. It's also suitable for vegans. Enjoy for breakfast, a snack or even dessert! :)
Zucchini Carrot Flaxseed Meal Whole Wheat Mini Loaves
Sift together the flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a bowl. Set aside.
Mix the coconut milk, applesauce, coconut sugar, maple syrup and vanilla in a bowl. Add the zucchini and carrots. Add the nuts if desired.
Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.
Lightly grease the baking pans and spread the mixture evenly into each one.
Bake @350*F for about 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick/knife comes out clean.
Yields: 4 mini loaves