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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted new content on the blog. Something about having three jobs, a husband and a toddler makes that difficult to do. As I was making pancakes Sunday morning, I decided this would be a good recipe to share with y’all. Please read instructions all the way through before starting.

How To Make Blueberry Banana Nut Pancakes With a Toddler

Set out ingredients: Coconut oil, unsweetened applesauce, banana, 2 eggs, vanilla, cashew (or other) milk, spelt (or GF) flour, almond meal, chopped pecans, himalayan pink sea salt (or other sea salt), cinnamon, ground flaxseed, frozen blueberries.

Tend to toddler who is politely demanding a pear. Peel the pear, because otherwise toddler chews and spits out all the skin and you find it all over the house. Ask him to please sit on the rug and eat it.

Take ~ 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil and melt it in a pan. You don’t have time to measure, so just “ballpark” all of your ingredients.

Toddler is requesting the pear be washed because it fell on the ground. Wash toddler’s pear, and ensure him all is right with the world.

Add to melted coconut oil: a bunch of applesauce (~1 cup), 2 eggs, a little vanilla (~1 tsp), and some milk (~½ cup).

Tend to whining toddler because the dog did something toddler did not approve of.

Where were we? Oh, right, we added wet stuff to a big bowl. Go ahead and add the dry stuff to a bowl. Mix it all together. Then add the blueberries, and mix just until combined.

Make sure pan is hot, and dump heaping spoonfuls of batter onto pan.

Realize you forgot to add the banana to the “Blueberry Banana Nut Pancakes.” Add banana to remaining batter, mashing it with a fork.

Keep an eye on the pancakes and your toddler, flipping over when lightly browned. The pancakes, not your toddler. Meanwhile, stop your toddler from dumping a box of plastic straws into the trash. Pull out a tupperware container so that he can practice putting the straws into container. Give him a blanket to sit on because that rug really needs to be washed.

Remove pancakes when done and put on a plate.

Tend to toddler who is banging on the door to the garage crying “daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy!” Take toddler outside to see that Daddy is busy building a nice wooden garden box. Then calm crying toddler because the sound of the screwdriver is terrifying. Explain how the screw goes into the wood to hold it together and then politely ask toddler to come back inside to eat pancakes.

React quickly to catch toddler who has catapulted himself backwards to initiate full-blown tantrum because he wants to do the opposite of what you’re asking. Calmly explain to toddler that he is hungry and that eating breakfast will solve his problem. Carry toddler who is now screaming, crying and kicking you into the house under one arm, keeping your composure.

Explain the ingredients in the pancakes and how healthy and delicious they will be. Give toddler applesauce to dip pancakes in because ain’t nobody got time for a toddler with a headache from the sugar in syrup (yes, even if it’s the good organic, Grade B kind, I ain’t ready for that).

Sit with your toddler while he eats pancakes because he asked you to “sit sit” and it’s absolutely adorable. Hopefully somewhere in the process you’ve put new batter on the stove and are flipping the new pancakes, because you have to remember to eat too.

After toddler is finished eating, clean him up and send him on his merry way. Finish cooking the rest of your batter, while noticing items being thrown downstairs from the top of the stair, over the banister. Ask yourself if he’s really tall enough to be able to do this already? Notice that the items he’s bending and throwing downstairs are the nice family photos you had printed to frame and hang.

Have a couple pancakes, pat yourself on the back, and consider pancake breakfast a success. Now it’s time to get dressed and get ready to leave.

But first, feed toddler, who is now demanding a pear…no, make that an orange… yes, an orange… right. this. second.

 

Peace, love, and sanity with children,

Melissa

 

It’s hard to believe, but my little angel turned one this past week! What an incredible, challenging and exhausting year it has been! We had his party this weekend and I was faced with the decision of what to do in terms of a birthday cake. I don’t want to be that parent who doesn’t let their kid eat anything “bad”, but I also am not ready to fill his body with sugar, dairy, gluten, etc., especially considering he has not yet been introduced to any of these potential allergens.

I elected to make him his very own CLEAN smash cake—free of all food allergens—using only foods he has been introduced to and we know don’t cause any adverse reactions. It was a huge success! In fact, almost everyone wanted to try the “clean cupcakes” just to see what they were like! I’ll consider that a win.

The recipe is below. Feel free to experiment with different proportions and different gluten-free (or other) flours. I personally started out just using quinoa flour but found I don’t really love the flavor, so I mixed it with a few others. Coconut flour on it’s own can be pretty dry and brown rice flour is okay, but mixing these together was perfect. We also have not yet introduced nuts, so almond meal was not an option.

I made these as cupcakes, but you could easily use a larger pan and make this a larger cake. Be mindful to adjust cooking times, and prepare the cake pan by lining with parchment paper or using coconut oil. On the other hand, if you use these as cupcakes, they make great breakfast muffins with or without the avocado on top!

Happy birthday baking!

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, vegetarian and vegan.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: One small cake or about 6 cupcakes/muffins
  • Prep time: 10 minutes (if you cook the sweet potato ahead of time, 50 minutes if you don’t)
  • Cook time: ~15-20 minutes

Ingredients

Wet

  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil
  • ½ baked sweet potato (no skin)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed

Dry

  •  cup quinoa flour (gluten-free)
  • ⅓ cup brown rice flour (gluten-free)
  •  cup coconut flour (gluten-free)
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • A pinch of baking powder (optional)
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds (optional)

“Frosting”

  • 1 ripe avocado

Preparation

  1. COOK THE SWEET POTATO: You can do this ahead of time if you would like. Use a fork to poke some holes in the potato, wrap in aluminum foil and bake for ~40 minutes at 400°.
  2. FOR THE CAKE: Preheat oven to 375°
  3. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine and mix dry ingredients
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix well. If mixture seems too dry, add additional applesauce. If mixture seems too wet, add additional flour.
  6. Coat the cake pan with coconut oil (and GF flour if you’d like). You can also use muffin tins to make muffins/cupcakes.
  7. Spread batter into pan
  8. Bake for ~15-20 minutes at 375° (baking times vary per oven). Remove from oven when the cake starts to brown on top.
  9. Let cool, then spread avocado on top of cake. NOTE: If you attempt to spread avocado on top of cake too soon out of the oven, you will smoosh the cake. I actually baked the cupcakes the night before and stored them in the refrigerator overnight. The morning of the party, I removed them from the fridge and let them sit out at room temperature until the party that afternoon. I frosted them right before we ate to keep the avocado fresh.

Feel free to be creative with the ingredients! Pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds, and nuts (if your child is OK with nuts) are nutritious additions! If you’re making these for yourself or other adults, I might suggest adding some cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, (baking soda/powder if you want the cake to rise more) and possibly some coconut aminos if you want added sweetness. Also, I am very loose when it comes to measurements for this (and most) of my recipes. If you find you prefer more or less of something, please feel free to customize this recipe to fit your taste! Enjoy!

Peace, love and clean-eating babies,

Melissa

 

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: ~12 muffins (depending on the size)
  • Prep time: 12 minutes
  • Cook time: ~17 minutes

Ingredients

Wet

  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp coconut nectar (or honey, or Grade B maple syrup)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed

Dry

  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup gluten-free quick cooking oats
  • ¼ cup sprouted pumpkin seeds (sprouted has more nutrients) (optional)
  • ⅛ cup sunflower seeds (optional)
  • A few dashes of sea salt
  • 2 dashes of cinnamon
  • 2 dashes of nutmeg
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp psyllium husk (optional)
  • ¼ cup raisins (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 365°
  2. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients
  3. In a separate large bowl, combine and mix dry ingredients
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix well. If mixture seems too dry, add additional applesauce. If mixture seems too wet, add additional oats/almond meal. This mixture should be “wetter” than a typical dough to ensure the muffins are soft when they are done baking.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or use a muffin tin with the paper muffin liners. (Or, omit liners all together, it’s up to you).
  6. Drop batter by heaping spoonful onto cookie sheet. Muffins/cookies do not change shape while baking, however they look when you drop them on the cookie sheet is how they will look when they are fully baked.
  7. Bake for ~17 minutes at 365° (baking times vary per oven). Remove from oven when the muffins start to brown on top.
  8. Let cool for a few minutes, then, enjoy!

Feel free to be creative with the ingredients! Nuts, seeds, raisins, etc. are all great additions, and if you don’t like something, feel free to omit it! You’ll notice that most of the dry ingredients are listed as “optional”. Also, I am very loose when it comes to measurements for this (and most) of my recipes. If you find you prefer more or less of something, please feel free to customize this recipe to fit your taste! Enjoy!

Melissa

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

Get ready for THE most amazing banana bread you’ve ever eaten. Yes, ever. Not only is this bread delicious, but it’s PACKED with protein and fiber!

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: ~8 servings
  • Prep time: 12 minutes
  • Cook time: ~50 minutes

Ingredients

Wet

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar (or raw honey if you’re not vegan)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • ~1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (add  at the very end, after dry ingredients have been combined with wet)

Dry

  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup gluten-free quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup sprouted pumpkin seeds (sprouted has more nutrients).
  • 1/8 cup sunflower seeds
  • A few dashes of sea salt
  • 2 dashes of cinnamon
  • 2 dashes of nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp psyllium husk
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice (optional: walnuts, almonds, pecans)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 360°.
  2. In a small bowl, mix wet ingredients except for almond milk together until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix well. Almond milk slowly, until the mixture is moist, not soupy. You will not need more than ~1/2 c.
  5. Drop mixture into a 9″x5″ pan* and spread evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for ~40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the foil and check the bread. You may need to cook the bread for an additional 5-10 minutes without the foil on to brown the top. I sometimes even throw the oven on broil for a quick 2 minute to brown the top. 
  6. Let cool, then slice and enjoy the world’s best banana bread! You’re welcome! 🙂

* If you use a different size pan, your cooking times may vary. For instance, if you use muffin tins, your cooking time will be shorter.

Feel free to be creative with the ingredients! Nuts, seeds, raisins, etc. are all great additions, and if you don’t like something, feel free to omit it! Enjoy!

Melissa

This recipe is gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian and vegan.

In the hot summer months, I try to avoid using the oven at all costs. However, the other day I had a really strong craving for a homemade baked goodie and wanted to incorporate the sweet potatoes in my pantry for a sweet, yet savory treat. I went looking for recipes and came across several Sweet Potato Biscuit variations. I wanted to make them Vegan (or at least mostly Vegan) and use ingredients I had on-hand.

The following recipe was adapted from the Happy Herbivore’s Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Vegan Biscuits recipe.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: About 12 biscuits
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Notes: I used a thawed, previously frozen banana, which added a little more moisture to the dough.
  • Notes: For a savory version, omit the sugar, honey and cinnamon and add a pinch of salt and a 1/4 cup of chopped fresh rosemary, dill or thyme.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil (optional, omit for vegan)
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 whole sweet potato
  • 1 cup whole wheat or gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • a dash of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 whole banana, cold

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Rinse, peel and cube the sweet potato, then toss in a bowl with olive oil and honey (skip the honey if you want Vegan biscuits). Turn out onto a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes or until fork-tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or mixer, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and optional cinnamon.
  3. Mix in the banana until dough starts to form, then add about 3/4 cup of mashed, baked sweet potato.
  4. Once dough is ready—should be wetter than most pizza dough, but dryer than cake batter—stretch out onto a lightly floured surface to about a ½ inch thickness.
  5. Use either a biscuit cutter or a half-cup metal measuring cup to cut biscuits. Transfer onto a cookie sheet and bake at 425° for 5-10 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and edges are turning golden brown.

These make a satisfying, yet healthy, after-dinner treat with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, or as a  “grab-and-go” breakfast item.  The whole-wheat flour provides complex carbohydrates to fuel your body, while the sweet potato is rich in anti-oxidants and fiber.

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

I’m a big fan of natural energy/granola bars, but I’m not a fan of paying high prices for them. The ones I like the best—the ones that are the healthiest and taste the best, seem to be so pricey at the store! Especially when you eat one every day. $3-4 a day for an energy bar? No, thank you. So I decided to start making my own. I can now control the ingredients and the specific amounts of those ingredients, really making these bars something that I think are delicious, while providing my body the nutrients it needs for pre- and post-workout snacks. All without spending a bajillion dollars!

I was paying $3-4 per bar when I purchased them at the store. By making my own, I now spend less than $1 per bar. Much better! I even started cutting them into bite-sized pieces, making them last even longer! I have several different versions of these bars—this is the first of many!

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: ~8 bars (depending on size)
  • Prep Time: ~10 minutes
  • Notes: Feel free to experiment with ingredients

Ingredients

  • ~18 organic Medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • 1 Tbsp raw almond butter
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • ⅛ cup sunflower seeds (raw, hulled)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 Tbsp almond meal
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp brown rice syrup (or agave nectar)
  • ¼ cup organic raisins

Preparation

  1. Remove pits from dates, add to food processor.
  2. Add rolled oats, and process for just a few seconds to combine the ingredients without over-processing.
  3. Add walnuts and almonds, process for a few seconds.
  4. Add almond butter and coconut oil, process for a few seconds.
  5. Add ground flaxseed (yay for fiber and omega 3s!), almond meal and coconut flakes, process.
  6. If “dough” seems dry, feel free to add in additional almond butter or brown rice syrup/agave nectar.
  7. Stir in raisins by hand.
  8. Remove “dough” from food processor and flatten by hand (or use wooden roller) onto a cutting board. Cut the bars into desired size (either “bars” or bite-sized pieces), and store refrigerated in tupperware container. Wax paper can be used to separate layers of bars inside the tupperware, to keep them from sticking together while refrigerated.

I hope you enjoy these energy bars! They will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, but feel free to store them in the freezer as well! I prefer to eat them when they’re a bit softer, so I’ll take them out of the refrigerator in the morning, leave them out during the day and eat them before my evening workout! They’re also great for breakfast, or for a quick pick-me-up snack during the day! Heck, they even make a good dessert! They are rich in natural sugars, protein, fiber and omega 3s. Enjoy!

Eating healthy becomes much easier when we are in control of what and how we cook. It is possible to find healthy meals outside of your own home, but you lose control over how such items are cooked. Eggs cooked in oil, sweet potatoes fried instead of baked… restaurants typically take the cheap and easy approach to all things. This week, we are going to focus on cooking our own food. This is going to be an essential concept in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

This week, you will cook at least 6 meals on your own. That means you, not a spouse or anyone else. This week you will prepare breakfast twice, lunch twice and dinner twice. This should prevent folks from only preparing say, breakfast for example, and taking the easy way out of the challenge. But none of you would do that, right? After all, this program is voluntary, and the goal is to step outside your comfort zone to learn new ways to become healthier. Everyday, at a minimum, you will be preparing one meal for yourself.

For some of you, this will be easier than others. This challenge is currently geared towards those that do not prepare very many meals for themselves. If you currently cook at least 6 meals on your own each week, you’re going to need to find a way to make this challenge one you will find more difficult. For instance, say you always prepare your own breakfast, always bring a fresh lunch (prepared by you, not a frozen meal) to work, and sometimes cook dinner for yourself… this week, I challenge you to cook dinner for yourself every day. Or maybe dinner isn’t the problem, but you’re a slave to the sodium-filled Lean Cuisines at lunch. If that is the case, challenge yourself to bring your lunch every day this week.

The point of these challenges is to make them difficult for yourself. If you come across a challenge that is going to be easy for you, find a way to modify it to ensure you will be learning something and at the end you will have taken something positive away from the week’s challenge. This is all about you, don’t forget that!

Below are some helpful resources I recommend for healthy recipes. Please try some new recipes this week, and if you find one you like, please share it with us! Do exercise caution, however. Healthy recipe sites will sometimes contain recipes that might contain healthy ingredients, but could be high in calories, etc. If you have questions, please feel free to email me!

Live Whole Be Free

CLEAN Program Recipes

Whole Foods

Chef Chloe

My New Roots

The Urban Poser

Skinny Scoop

100 Days of Real Food

You are in control of what you put into your body. You are responsible for how you look on the outside, and how you feel on the inside. Think of food as fuel. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to eat going to give my body the proper nutrients to function optimally? Good luck this week!

Peace, love and responsible eating,

Melissa

 

Congratulations on finishing the first month of the Biggest Achiever Program and welcome to month #2 of our three month program! I am proud to announce that many of you have been extremely successful on this program so far, not only with weight loss, but with an increasingly positive outlook on life in general!

I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback on the program thus far, and as expected, some folks would like the program to be tougher and some think it’s tough enough already. That’s the beauty of a program like this, everyone is different. Everyone will progress at different rates and hit plateaus at different times. Just remember, when you feel like quitting, that’s a plateau, not failure. We all hit plateaus, it is normal to feel frustrated an uncertain any time you try to make a change, regardless if it’s for the better. Stay focused.

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. – Thomas Edison

As we enter the second month of the Biggest Achiever Program, I want you to continue to take it at your own speed, a speed at which you can be successful at, but one that also pushes your limits. If you don’t experience a sense of uneasiness, you will never see a change. So welcome that uncomfortable feeling you have, as it will make the feeling of accomplishment so much greater in the end.

This month, there will be more than one challenge at a time. You can choose to do one, two or three challenges. However, whatever you decide to do on Monday, you must stick with through the entire week. For instance, if you chose to participate in two challenges, you must finish both challenges. This teaches discipline. If you select one challenge, however, you CAN decide to add on more challenges as the week progresses. Since both a healthy diet and exercise are required for optimum health, some of these new challenges will involve exercise. Please check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to participate in these exercises.

Week #5 Challenges

Main Challenge — 12 Hour Detox

This week’s challenge is to leave a 12 hour detox window between the last thing you eat at night and the first thing you eat in the morning. Yes, it requires a little planning, but mostly, it requires you to cut out unnecessary late night snacking!

The detoxification process kicks in 8 hours after your last meal and needs 4 hours to function optimally. It is after that 8 hour mark that your body has finished processing the last meal you ate. Once digestion is completed, accumulated toxins from the tissues are released into the bloodstream so that they can eventually be neutralized and eliminated with the help of nutrients. If the toxins are not eliminated, not only can they be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, but the free radicals that they contain corrode tissues and damage cells on contact. This is one reason why late night eating is discouraged. If your body never finishes processing your food before you eat again, it doesn’t have the chance to release other accumulated toxins. The reason we call that first meal of the day “breakfast” is because that’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re breaking the fast that has occurred overnight.

Secondary Challenge — Get Moving!

It’s important that we train ourselves to move more often. So that whole taking the stairs for a week thing? Yeah… we’re going to try to make that more of a lifestyle instead of just a weekly challenge. Read here for ideas on how to incorporate more movement into your everyday life, burning more and more calories, leading to… you guessed it… weight loss!

For years, researchers have stated that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, is it? Well, yes, it just might be. It is especially important if you are trying to lose weight. Eating breakfast helps kick-start your metabolism so that you can burn more calories during the day and stabilize your blood sugar levels, leaving you less likely to crave junk food. Studies show that those that ate a healthy breakfast every morning were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than those that did not eat breakfast. It’s also true that making healthier decisions first thing in the morning makes you more prone to making healthier choices throughout the remainder of the day.

People who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories during the day than people who eat a morning meal, probably because hunger drives them to make unhealthy food choices and overeat at lunchtime, says MayoClinic.com. Furthermore, skipping breakfast has been associated with decreased daily levels of physical activity.

The National Weight Control Registry shows that among those who’ve lost 30 or more pounds and have kept it off more than a year, 90 percent report eating breakfast most days of the week.

Every day this week, the challenge is to eat a healthy breakfast. What constitutes a healthy breakfast? I’m glad you asked! Click here for some examples of items you can consume for breakfast, as well as some things to watch for that might make a seemingly healthy breakfast your new worst enemy. (Enter large amounts of sugar, sodium, saturated fats, chemicals, etc.). There’s no denying that eating breakfast in the morning fires up your metabolism. What you need to make sure of though, is that you do not eat something that is going to cause your blood sugar to spike. Refined sugars/carbs from donuts and other pastries are the culprits. The sugar rush only lasts a short while and by mid-morning you may feel sluggish, hungry, crave more sugar and have difficulty concentrating.

What you’re looking for in a healthy breakfast is whole grain carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Whole grain carbohydrates (oats, barley) release sugar more slowly than refined carbohydrates (sugary cereals and pastries), providing sustained energy (low glycemic index).  Fiber (fruits, veggies) will help fill you up, warding off hunger cravings until lunch, and keeps your digestive system healthy. Foods that are high in protein (eggs, nuts, yogurt) aid in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and may also help you feel fuller longer.

As far as what to avoid for breakfast… Bacon, sausage, high sugar content cereals, pastries (including low-fat muffins, croissants, donuts and kolaches), some breakfast bars, pretty much anything from a fast food restaurant (McDonalds, Whataburger, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bueno, etc.), also exercise caution at Starbucks and even smoothie places, it’s usually best to make your own!

Peace, love and healthy breakfasts!

Melissa

What do you eat for the most important meal of the day? Is it loaded with the fiber, protein and whole grain carbohydrates your body needs to start the day off on the right foot? You want to eat something first thing in the morning that will boost your metabolism, get your engines firing on all cylinders and yes, even help kick start weight loss! Below you’ll find the seven easiest healthy breakfast items you can eat that will properly fuel your body for a productive, happy day!

Oatmeal

Get real oatmeal… with 100% real oats. The ingredients should say “whole rolled oats” and possibly also contain barley, rye and flaxseeds. Oats and barley in particular contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than echinacea. They boost immunity, speed wound healing and may help antibiotics work better. Oatmeal is high in whole grain carbohydrates, which your body needs carbohydrates to function properly. If you have time to cook them, cook steel-cut oats, they are less processed than the rolled or quick-cooking oats.

For added nutrients and flavor, add cinnamon and fruit to your oatmeal (bananas, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.). If you MUST add sugar (which I recommend avoiding), try stevia, honey or agave nectar. Also try preparing your oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk instead of water for a creamier dish.

Warnings: Watch for high sugar content and artificial ingredients. Avoid flavored oatmeal, as these tend to have added sugar, sodium and other ingredients you don’t need.

Fruit

Fruit is good, quick and easy. If you’re not eating breakfast at all right now, having a banana is a great place to start. Even better than just a banana? Adding some protein… like peanut butter! Or my personal favorite, honeycrisp apples and almond butter. Other good fruits for breakfast include strawberries, blueberries and grapefruit (do not pile on the sugar or artificial sweeteners, just eat the darn thing in it’s natural beauty. If you’re dying for some sugar, try stevia).

Warnings: Buy organic to avoid dangerous pesticides that contaminate the entire fruit, not just the outside, and to avoid genetically modified products.

Smoothie

Smoothies are a great option for breakfast. They are easy on your digestive system since your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the foods incorporated in the smoothie, and you can get lots of vitamins and minerals in one shot. I usually do a few frozen peach slices, a banana, 1/4 c. apple juice, 1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk, and a scoop of superfood powder in order to ensure I’ve incorporated my greens! Instead of superfood powder, try kale, spinach, celery (delicious in smoothies) or parsley!

Yogurt

There are a myriad of options out there when it comes to yogurt. At the grocery store, if you stand back for a moment, and look at all the available options for yogurt, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s how to find a healthy yogurt: First, if you do not eat dairy, look for an almond, soy or coconut-based yogurt. I prefer almond, myself. (Healthiest, tastiest, least amount of sugar. Soy hurts my tummy.)

If you do eat dairy, you have quite a few choices ahead of you. Look at the sugar content before anything else. It doesn’t do your body any good to eat a fat free yogurt with 30g of sugar in it. Your body has to work incredibly hard to break down all that sugar. Healthy yogurt contains only two ingredients, live cultures and milk. The more ingredients listed, the less healthy the yogurt is. In general, the higher the protein and the lower the sugar content, the more nutritious and healthy the yogurt is. The major health benefits of yogurt are derived from the live cultures they contain.

Warnings: Be wary of fruit-flavored yogurts and yogurts with the fillings you mix in, as those tend to be the worst culprits. My suggestion is to buy plain yogurt, and add your own fresh fruit and granola to it. Plain yogurt is the most nutritious variety of yogurt, containing about half the calories, twice the amount of protein, fewer fillers, more calcium, and no added sugar compared to yogurt with fruit and other flavorings.

Eggs

There are lots of options when it comes to cooking and eating eggs. Hardboiled, scrambled, or over easy, eggs contain the protein you need to help get your day started properly. If you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, egg whites are a great option, especially with some added vegetables. Try sliced mushrooms and spinach, broccoli and tomatoes, green bell pepper and red onion or diced celery and parsley. The veggies provide fiber, vitamins A, K, C as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients to help fight disease-causing free radicals. If egg sandwiches are more your style, try your eggs on a slice of whole grain toast, with avocado slices instead of cheese for healthy fats.

Warnings: Be sure not to pile on the cheese and keep any addition of salt to a minimum. Try to avoid sides like bacon, but if you must, opt for low-sodium turkey bacon. Also, buy organic, cage-free eggs, they’re worth the extra cost.

Cereal

This is a tricky one, since most cereals claim to be “healthy”, “whole grain”, etc., but are really just processed crap. Keep in mind that marketing teams spend countless hours trying to make their product look as nutritious and healthy as possible. It doesn’t meant that it actually is. If you’re wondering what’s in your cereal, look at the nutrition facts and ingredients label.

Warnings: The ingredients should be things you can pronounce and the sugar content should be low (less than 5 g per serving). With your cereal, be cautious when adding milk, as it actually contains quite a bit of sugar. Try unsweetened almond milk for a nice change of pace. Choose regular cheerios instead of honey nut, corn flakes instead of frosted flakes and avoid anything with marshmallows or other “candy” in it. Avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup.

People who ate high-fiber whole grain cereal for breakfast every day had nearly a 30% lower risk of heart failure than those who chose other foods, found the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study.

Breakfast/Granola Bars

Although convenient, you really  have to know what you’re eating when consuming a breakfast/granola bar as your first source of fuel for the day. These bars concern me since they are typically just loaded with sugar. Most of them should be labeled as candy bars instead. However, if you are like two-thirds of the American population and eat these for breakfast here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Be sure to find a bar with less than 6g sugar, with at least 5g of protein and 5g of fiber. The fiber content of breakfast bars made with whole grains will be higher than multi-grain bars. Read the ingredients too. Rolled oats, wheat or barley should be listed as one of the first ingredients. Kashi typically has some good options.

Warnings: Avoid products that contain any trans fat, partially hydrogenated oils, shortening or high-fructose corn syrup, and again, watch that sugar content!