Ways to Upgrade Your Breakfast & 6 Healthy Recipes

Walking through the breakfast isle in the store, I can’t help but think, this is what America is serving our youth…breakfast cereals laden with sugar, artificial flavors and colors, and highly processed white flour with virtually no nutritional value aside from the vitamins and minerals added back in after the fact. Unfortunately even those are minimally beneficial as fortified vitamins and minerals are rarely added in a form our body can easily digest.

Granola bars, toaster waffles, brown sugar and cinnamon instant oatmeal — these are all in the same category. They are highly processed “franken-foods” (thanks Dr. Mark Hyman) with little to no fiber, healthy fats, or protein. When protein, fat and fiber is removed, foods become less filling, resulting in a higher than desirable intake. This process also increases the speed of digestion, resulting in higher blood glucose levels.

Growing up I would live off these foods for breakfast (though add toaster strudel into the mix). Now, with the obesity rates rising and over 52% of the U.S. adult population having either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, I am here to provide you some better options!

I will start off with some things to keep in mind.

Choose Protein

Starting your day off with a healthy source of protein will help balance your blood sugar right off the bat and keep you full though the morning. Eggs are an obvious and nutrient dense choice; if able, choose organic pastured eggs for the highest quality. Full-fat cottage cheese and plain yogurt are also great options if you tolerate dairy.

Add Healthy Fats

Like protein, fats are very filling so will help keep you full until lunch. Also, fat will not impact your blood sugar at all, so replacing a portion of your carbohydrates with healthy fats will greatly lower the overall impact on your blood sugar. Grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocados and nuts are some of my favorite options.

Ditch the Sugar

Has anyone noticed how after you eat a big bowl of cereal you are starving an hour later? That is likely either 1.) Your body telling you you need actual nutrition because your Cocoa Puffs aren’t cutting it OR 2.) Your body telling you to eat something because your blood sugar is tanking. Replacing sugar with whole grains will help prevent both of these issues. Whole grains are minimally process and higher in fiber and nutritional value. Steel cut or rolled oats are a great example of this. Quinoa is a wonderful high protein option to make into a breakfast bowl. You can even roast some sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon as a healthier alternative to fried hash browns.

Recipes!

Now on to the exciting part…recipes! Here are some of my favorites:

I call this “veggies with fried egg”

This is so simple and probably what I eat most often. I also like to do this when I have left over vegetables that I need to use up before they go bad because you can literally put anything in there. Some of my favorite vegetables to eat with eggs are: spinach, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions, kale, and asparagus. I also like to buy that huge box of organic mixed greens from Aldi — I’ll put an over easy egg on top with 1/4 to 1/2 avocado, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and Everything But The Bagel seasoning. Is your mouth watering yet?

2 ingredient banana pancakes

This is another favorite of mine. Just like typical pancakes, they are very diverse. All you need for the base is 2 eggs and 1 ripe banana (I make this when our bananas are about to go bad)! From there, you can add anything from cinnamon to cacao, berries to coconut flakes. I also love to top them with a scoop of peanut butter. Check out my 2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes blog post for the full recipe!

overnight oats

This is a great grab-and-go option for busy mornings. Prep 2-3 servings Sunday evening to save you time during the week. This is also extremely versatile. Just start with this simple base: 1/2 cup dairy-free milk + 1/2 cup rolled oats + 3/4 Tbs chia seeds. Mix in your jar of choice — wide mouth mason jars work great for this.

From there you can go wild! Some personal favorites are frozen berries, cocoa and cinnamon. Or, if you prefer, just keep it simple. Let the mixture sit overnight and vua-la! Breakfast! For a protein boost, add a scoop of peanut butter or top some nuts in the morning. It can be served cold or you can feel free to heat it up to enjoy warm.

chia seed pudding

For all you low carb lovers, this is a tasty and filling option that also works best when prepared the night before. Chia seeds are a good source of essential fatty acids, fiber, and protein as well!

ingredients
  • 2 cups nut milk
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
instructions
  1. Add milk, chia seeds, vanilla extract and maple syrup (if using) to a jar. Mix well.
  2. Let sit for 15 minutes and stir again to prevent seeds from settling at the bottom.
  3. Store in refrigerator for at least an hour.
  4. Before serving, stir yet again and then top with berries!

Note: Makes 2 servings

zucchini and tomato fritata

This is a kid friendly, figure-food option to help sneak in some extra veggies! Check out the recipe here!

JJ Virgin Breakfast smoothie

I absolutely love this smoothie! I first found it in JJ Virgin’s book The Virgin Diet. If I make a smoothie in the morning, this is what I make because it is filling, get’s things moving (if you know what I mean), and is quick to throw together. Plus it has a full cup of dark leafy greens to get those veggies in first thing. Greens help with detoxification and are loaded with folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamin K. Spinach and kale are great options because you will barely notice the taste! Often times individuals will load smoothies with multiple servings of fruit which can cause blood sugar spikes. Berries are low in sugar and loaded with antioxidants.

ingredients
  • 1-2 scoops protein powder**
  • 1-2 Tbs fiber (fiber blend, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds)
  • 1/2-1 cup organic* frozen berries
  • 1 cup liquid (unsweetened almond or coconut milk)
  • 1/2-1 cup organic* leafy greens
instructions
  1. Add liquid of your choice, followed by choice of fiber, berries, and protein powder.
  2. Add choice of leafy greens.
  3. Blend.
  4. Top with some cinnamon and serve!

*Choosing organic leafy greens and berries when able is important because both foods are listed on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of most highly sprayed items.

**Many protein powders are low quality and sneak in unhealthy ingredients. Avoid types with fructose and other sugars, maltodextrin (corn), artificial sweeteners and artificial flavoring. Optimal vegan sources are pea, chia, brown rice or chlorella. Sunwarrior is a high-quality brand that tastes great. If you opt for a paleo option, the protein should be organic and 100% grass-fed. Both Vital Proteins and Ancient Nutrition make excellent protein and collagen powders.

Do you struggle with eating a healthy breakfast? If so, what can you improve? If you have any healthy breakfast go-to’s, tell me about them below!

Double Chocolate Muffins

Friends. I discovered something amazing! So, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and my self-compromise is to only eat “sweets” that are somewhat healthy and homemade. I have a particular preference for baked goods like brownies, cupcakes and banana bread, and I have a few select blogs (I’ll share these at the bottom) that are my go-to’s for finding healthy alternatives for these treats. The other day I was browsing through one of said blogs, and I stumbled upon this awesome recipe!

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Healthy, Dairy-Free Eggnog! (AKA Banananog)

This time of the year we are bombarded with sugar overload! You can only resist turning down unhealthy sweets for so long (or maybe not at all). Rather than inflicting hyperglycemia, bloating, fatigue and food remorse secondary to 2-3 long weeks of gluttonous feasting, I prefer find healthy alternatives.

This eggnog recipe is a fun twist on the typical sugar loaded version. It has no added sugar and has great nutritional value. Bananas are an excellent source of prebiotics (the food for probiotics), are great for digestion, have high levels of vitamin B6, and contain nutrients to help lower blood pressure.

Coconut is loaded with healthy fats, particularly medium chain triglycerides, which can be used as a quick source of energy and to promote weight loss.

*This recipe serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 bananas
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

*Note: For a creamier recipe, opt for full-fat coconut milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add bananas, coconut milk, and vanilla extract to a blender
  2. Blend until creamy
  3. Pour into 4 serving glasses, and sprinkle nutmeg on top
  4. Enjoy!

*Optional (but more fun): add a splash of rum to make it an adult beverage

Need some inspiration? Chocolate Covered Katie is a healthy dessert blog with alternatives to almost any sweet treat!

What are your favorite healthy desserts? Share below!

Recipe courtesy of the Institute for Transformation Nutrition

3 Warming and Nutritious Beverages

As winter approaches I find myself constantly preparing different types of warming beverages to sip on throughout the day. Waking up to an energizing cup of hot water with lemon and settling down in the evening with a soothing mug of herbal tea has been part of my winter routine for years.

These beverages also have many nutritional properties such as aiding in digestion, lowering inflammation, and providing beneficial antioxidants!  

My Favorite Types of Tea

  • Green tea has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years. It has been boasted for its powerful antioxidant content (100x more than vitamin C!), along with its ability to reduce inflammation, lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and boost metabolism. Caffeine content ranges from 30-50 mg per 8oz (compared to 95 mg for coffee). 
  • Tulsi tea is a more bitter type of tea that enhances liver detoxification and can help prevent cancer by inducing cell death in precancerous and cancerous cells. It is most well know for its natural adaptogenic properties, or its ability to help the body adapt to stress, making it a perfect beverage during the stressful winter holidays!
  • Hibiscus tea has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 7.58 mmHg and 3.53 mmHg, respectively (according to a 2015 review of 5 studies). 

*I prefer to buy organic, loose-leaf tea – it is cleaner, cheaper, and has less packaging so it’s better for the environment!

Hot Water With Lemon

The benefits of water with lemon should not be underestimated. Drinking a warm cup first thing in the morning on an empty stomach has been part of my routine for years! Below is a list of some of its wonderful benefits.

  • It can help improve digestion by increasing production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in your stomach, which further helps to increase important digestive enzymes. 
  • An increase in acid and digestive enzymes can lead to more regular bowel movements (at least 1 per day is optimal).  
  • It can be a natural remedy for acid reflux. This may sound counter-intuitive, but many people with heartburn are actually under-producing acid! When you increase your digestive secretions you may notice a decrease in your symptoms.
  • Aids in detoxification of of anything potentially harmful or toxic (such as pesticides, alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs, and chemicals from personal care products) by increasing the livers detoxification processes.  

*Be sure to drink a cup of plain water after to rinse your teeth of the acidity

Healthy Hot Cocoa

An obvious fan favorite during the winter. However, with all the sweets floating around this time of year, sometimes I want that amazing chocolaty flavor without all the added sugar. Many commercial hot cocoa mixes also contain artificial flavors, caramel coloring, artificial sweeteners and trans fat. This recipe eliminates those toxic ingredients, replacing them with healthy fats and antioxidants.

Recipe

  • 1 cup boiling water or warmed nut milk
  • 1 heaped Tbs cacao powder
  • 1-2 tsp MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil or (my favorite) coconut butter
  • 1/2 tsp monk fruit extract or natural sweetener of choice (I prefer local honey)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 tsp Ashwaganda
  • Optional: 1 tsp Lion’s Mane mushroom
  • Blend until frothy and enjoy!

What are your favorite healthy winter beverages? Share below!

Healthy Office Snacks

As a dietitian working in a hospital setting, I am constantly exposed to treats and sweets. Whether it’s the weekly Tuesday doughnuts brought by volunteers, or the cannolis and cake at a coworker’s baby shower, they are everywhere…just staring at me.

From what I have heard, this is the case for many people in their workplace. Despite not buying junk food or sweets, and eating healthy at home 98% of the time, temptations at the workplace always seem to get in the way. So what can we do about it? Plan ahead!

In an effort to avoid noming on sweets or afternoon trips to the cafeteria when I’m craving a snack or feeling extra hungry, I have started to keep a few simple, strategic items at my desk. Let me share:

  1. Tea bags or instant coffee: Hot tea or coffee is a terrific way to stave off cravings and maintain focus. One brand of instant coffee I particularly like is Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee (no, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms) as it has half the amount of caffeine, but it does wonders for focus without the jitters! I like to leave a reusable coffee cup at my desk so I always have one on hand.
  2. Prunes: Yes, I keep prunes at my desk. They are super filling and perfect when you are craving something sweet!
  3. Peanut or almond butter: When I am running late in the morning, I will grab a banana or apple to go. Having some type of nut butter at my desk makes it more convenient, and adding the healthy fats and protein will keep you full much longer than eating the fruit alone.
  4. Skinny Pop popcorn (or similar brand): This popcorn does not contain any artificial ingredients, is non-GMO, and high in fiber.
  5. Trail mix: Most store bough trail mix is high in added sugar, expensive, and may contain undesirable additives. For this reason, I have started to make my own by adding a variety of nuts, gogi berries (or some type of dried fruit containing no added sugar), a sprinkle of cacao powder, and perhaps a drizzle of honey — mix it together and vwa-la! I keep mine in a mason jar at my desk.
  6. 70% or Higher Dark Chocolate: For the days those doughnuts are staring at you.

What healthy snacks do you keep at your desk? Share below!

Homemade Basil Pesto

Although the ingredients found in store-bought pesto tend to be fairly clean, nothing beats a homemade batch of the fresh stuff! I love being able to customize my pesto recipe as far as the types of nuts and seasonings I use. Basil is also an herb that is very easy to grow (even I haven’t killed mine) so I love making large batches when the basil is ready for harvest and freezing it for later use. This year we have multiple plants that have really flourished, so I have been using it in my salads, omelets and stir-frys as well.

Health Benefits of Basil

  1. It contains powerful antioxidants to fight free radical damage. Two particular antioxidants it contains, orientin and viceninare, help protect white blood cells responsible for immune function, as well as cellular structures where DNA is stored.
  2. Studies have demonstrated its ability to prevent and fight cancer by increasing antioxidant activity, positively changing gene expression, and inducing cancer cell death.
  3. It contains antibacterial properties effective against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
  4. Has adaptogenic properties to help individuals adapt to stress
  5. Reduces inflammation

I have found that pesto is a fairly versatile food. I love it on Banza chickpea pasta, spaghetti squash, sautéed vegetables, or even on my eggs!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packed cups fresh basil
  • ½ cup raw almonds (I sometimes use a combination of nuts, such as almonds + pine nuts, depending on what’s available)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbs Romano cheese (optional)
  • Sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add basil, garlic and cheese (if using) to a blender.
  2. Turn on blender and slowly add olive oil until it is your desired consistency.
  3. Add salt and any other additional items (ex. pepper, lemon squeeze) to taste.

*Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 9 months

Basil plant from my garden

Freezing Pesto

To freeze pesto, put a couple tablespoons in each compartment of an ice cube tray. When they are frozen, dump them into a larger container with a lid for easy storage in the freezer.

How do you like to use pesto? Share below!

Matcha Latte Recipe and Benefits

The gloomy weather over the past week has got me sipping all kinds of warming beverages, from hot water with lemon to an old favorite, matcha tea. In addition to its soothing taste, this beautiful green powder is a total powerhouse superfood. In fact, Japanese tea farmers have been growing it for over 1,000 years to obtain its health benefits! This type of tea is unusual in that the whole leaf is ground and consumed, as opposed to conventional green tea where the plant is simply seeped in water.

Health Benefits

  • METABOLISM BOOSTING. It contains a powerful antioxidant, EGCG, which is known to boost metabolism. One cup of matcha has 137 times the amount as a conventional cup of green tea.
  • ANTI-CANCER. One bowl of matcha contains as many antioxidants as 10 cups of green tea.
  • STRESS RELIEF. It is high in L-theanine, an amino acid helpful in reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
  • DETOXIFYING. For several weeks before the matcha plant is harvested it is shaded from the sun. This forces the plant to compensate for the lack of light by producing extra chlorophyll, a potent detoxifying compound that binds to toxins in the blood.

In addition to these incredible benefits, I also love matcha because it gives me steady energy without the jitters and, when prepared such as below, it’s filling and will help satisfy sugar cravings!

Collagen Matcha Latte Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond or
    coconut milk
  • 1 scoop collagen (optional)
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter
  • 1 tsp matcha
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp honey

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat the water and milk together in a pot
  • Blend, sip, enjoy!

*To make an iced matcha latte, add a cup of ice instead of heating up the water and milk.

Have you tried matcha before? How was it prepared?

2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes

Over the years, as I started paying more attention to food labels and limiting processed foods, pancakes were on of the foods I started making homemade rather than buying a mix. Unfortunately, top brands are most often made with highly processed white flour, sugar, dextrose (aka more sugar), unhealthy oils (soybean, palm, canola),  and have very little, if any, fiber.

My favorite part about these pancakes is that they only have two main ingredients and can be made in a matter of minutes! They are also very easy to customize by adding blueberries, chia seeds, nuts, cinnamon, cacao powder or dried coconut. Additionally, since the banana gives them a natural sweetness, minimal syrup is needed.

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

-2 eggs
– 1 banana (I typically make this recipe when my bananas are about to go bad as that is when they are the most sweet!)
– Optional ingredients to add to batter: cinnamon, cacao powder, coconut flakes, chia seeds.

– Top with: berries, nuts
– Drizzle with: honey, pure maple syrup

  1. Mash banana in a bowl using a fork.
  2. Add 2 eggs and scramble together with the banana.
  3. Add optional ingredients and mix together.
  4. Cook pancakes on preheated griddle or large pan for 2-3 minutes or until bubbles form.
  5. Flip and cook and additional 2-3 minutes until they are done in the center.
  6. Enjoy!

NOTE: I prefer to use coconut oil on the pan as it is stable at high temperatures and adds great flavor to the pancakes.

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

In an effort to save time and keep my meals nutritious during my busy workweek, I am constantly planning ahead. I pack my lunch the night before and place it, ready to go in my lunchbox, in the fridge. As for breakfast – although I prefer to cook breakfast, early morning alarms and a long work commute make cooking chaotic and time consuming.

This recipe has been one of my favorites for years. I make it all the time as part of my regular meal prepping and mix up the ingredients to get a variety. These are not only great for adults, but are perfect for little hands too!

The eggs serve as a great source of protein and healthy fats* to stabilize your blood sugar and help keep you full all morning. The vegetables are a great source of fiber and micronutrients. This is also a great way to get an additional serving (or two) of vegetables in each day!

*Eggs from organic, free-range chickens have TWICE the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in them compared to conventional eggs.

Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

8 organic, free-range eggs
1 zucchini (green or yellow)
1 sweet onion
grape tomatoes
sea salt
oregano or seasonings of choice

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Scramble 6 eggs in a medium size bowl.
  3. Dice 1/2 the sweet onion and 7-10 tomatoes. Add to the scramble.
  4. Spiralize then lightly chop OR grate the zucchini then add to the mixture.
  5. Using a muffin tin, grease 8-10 cups or line with paper cups. Spoon mixture into tins and bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly golden.
  6. Enjoy!

Avocado Cracker Recipe

Avocados have gained massive popularity in recent years, and for good reason! They are unique in that they are virtually the only fruit (yes, they are a fruit!) that is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They are also extremely nutrient dense as one serving, or 1/3 of an avocado, contains 20 different vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin E and magnesium. One serving also contains 3 grams of fiber which, along with fat, helps stabilize blood sugar and keep you full for longer. 

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