Best Breakfasts: Protein Pancakes and Overnight Oats

If there’s one thing that keeps me centered and sane every day, it’s having breakfast. No matter where I am in the world or what I’m doing, the one consistency I try to keep in my life is starting my day with some good food.

Whether you are trying to eat healthy or not, breakfast is so important. But especially if you are trying to eat healthy or lose weight, breakfast is your key to success. We’ve all heard how people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who skip it.  If you skip breakfast, your body stays in the fasting, starvation mode that it was in while you slept. In this state, your body holds on to fat, trying to retain fuel, not knowing when the starvation state will end. Eating within 60-90 minutes of waking up will jump-start your metabolism and tell your body to get out of starvation mode and start burning fuel. Eating breakfast also gets your blood flowing, making you more alert and awake as it delivers nutrients to your body.

Here are a few of my go-to breakfasts.

When I need something quick that will fill me up for a long day, I go for one of the following:

  • Granola with Greek yogurt, homemade almond milk, or kefir (Make your own granola—it’s so easy!)
  • A slice of whole wheat toast with all natural peanut or almond butter and sliced banana or apple
  • Oatmeal (sweet or savory!)
  • Eggs, cooked as desired with whatever veggies I have on hand
  • A smoothie with whatever fresh or frozen fruits I have on hand, a scoop of protein powder, and whatever milk, yogurt, or kefir you like. Add water to thin as desired, or a handful of whole grain oats to thicken it and make it a more filling meal.

 When I have more time to spare, I love to treat myself to a slow-paced morning of reading, sipping my tea, and whipping up some of these:

Gluten-Free Protein Pancakes

  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (A post to come soon on my favorite brands…I like plant-based, soy-free powders!)
  • 2 Tbsp almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp Old Fashioned oats
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce OR mashed ripe bananas

Blend it all together, and then…well you know, do the pancake thing. Serve with maple syrup, honey, or vanilla Greek yogurt and top with any fresh fruit!

And when I really have ZERO time to make breakfast, (read: I’m way too familiar with waking up at 3:30am to be at the airport at 5am…) I might make a smoothie the night before and stick it in a travel mug for the next day, or I do my go-to of “Overnight Oats” (credit for the name goes to Catherine of Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth!) Here’s how to make them:

Overnight Oats

In a jar or portable container, combine 1/4 cup old fashioned or steel cut oats, water or milk of your choice (just enough to cover the oats), and any add-ins that you like (try some of the same combinations you use for conventional oatmeal!). Mix it all together and leave in the fridge overnight. And in the morning, voila! The oats have soaked up the liquid and softened to the same texture as if you had cooked them. I often grab the jar as I run out the door and eat them cold, but you could also throw the container in the microwave for a minute or two just to warm them up (make sure to use a microwave-safe container!).

With so many fast and easy options, breakfast is one of the easiest meals to get right. And if you can eat healthy for breakfast, then you are already guaranteed to have one-third of your meals be healthy ones—that’s huge! It gives you more wiggle room to indulge later on. So don’t waste the glory of breakfast on sugary cereals or greasy drive-through meals when you can so easily do better and have something more eatable.

Oatmeal: Sweet or Savory

I always joke that if I had to choose my last meal on earth it would be oatmeal. I’m only half-kidding. Oatmeal is one of the most delicious and comforting foods for me. Plus it’s so easy to make, so healthy, and I love that it’s like a blank canvas: you can do oatmeal a million different ways.

I use either 100% Whole Grain Old Fashioned Oats, or Steel Cut Oats. You can also find gluten-free oats, if you desire, but I’d stay away from the quick cooking instant oats if you can. I find these varieties to be a little more processed with added ingredients that I could do without. Whatever oats you choose, just please, PLEASE do not use the packets of flavored instant oatmeal. That’s not oatmeal. That’s a packet of sugar and artificial flavoring with a few oats throw in. Eat them as a dessert if you must, but not for an eatable breakfast. In only a few more minutes, you can make delicious and nutritious oatmeal anytime. And if you like the pre-portioned convenience and portability of instant oatmeal, buy your old fashioned oats in bulk and then divide it up into baggies for the week or to take with you on the road (more cost effective this way too!).

Like I said, oatmeal is a blank canvas. You can add anything you like. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:

-Fresh berries (or dried) and nuts
-Apple or pear with cinnamon and walnuts
-Pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup and pumpkin seeds or pecans
-Banana and peanut butter (and maybe a few dark chocolate chips thrown in..)
-Cardamom, cinnamon, and coconut flakes
-Chopped dates and nuts

If you like your oatmeal a little sweeter, you can try adding any of the following to liven it up:
-Honey
-Maple syrup
-Chopped dates
-Sweetened protein powder (See note below!)
-Stevia
-Cinnamon or vanilla

Try adding one or more of the following to give your oatmeal an extra health punch:
-Ground flax seed
-Hemp seeds
-Chia seeds
-1 tablespoon coconut oil
-Sub half of the oats for cooked quinoa
-A dollop of plain Greek yogurt for added creaminess and protein
-A splash of milk of your choice
-Half a scoop of protein powder (look for the good all natural stuff! I prefer plant-based protein instead of whey or soy. A post on protein powders coming soon!)

 

Sometimes I want more a savory breakfast instead of something sweet. Well, have you heard of this new trend of savory oatmeal? It may sound weird, but give it a try. It helps not to think of it as oatmeal, since we are so accustomed to sweet oatmeal. Think of it more like a grain, such as rice or barley, but for breakfast. I find that the Steel Cut Oats work better for savory oatmeal, since the texture is more grainy than traditional oatmeal. Mixed with savory ingredients, it almost tastes more like quinoa or Bulgar rather than oatmeal. I always feel good about starting my day off with some greens and protein. But savory oatmeal makes an awesome lunch or dinner too! It’s even good cold, so it travels well for an easy, healthy meal on the go. Try some of these combinations in your savory oatmeal, or create your own! (Add a little salt and pepper or other spices if you like.)

-Chopped ham or lean ground turkey sausage and shredded swiss cheese
-Cooked kale and butternut squash
-Bacon (get the eatable stuff please!) with maple syrup OR shredded cheddar cheese
-Fresh figs or fig jam with a little bit of brie or other salty cheese
-Sauteed spinach, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes
-Broccoli and nutritional yeast (don’t know what this is?? I’ll tell you soon–it’s one of my new found favorite ingredients!)
-Black beans, corn, avocado, and salsa
-Fresh basil and softened tomatoes (or tomato sauce), topped with parmesan or mozzarella cheese
-Sauteed veggies of any kind

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner: oatmeal is always my go-to for a quick, cheap, healthy, and delicious meal! What’s your favorite oatmeal add-in?

Fruit and Nut Granola

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and granola is one of my favorite breakfast foods. It’s quick, healthy, delicious and keeps you full for hours, especially when you combine it with a protein like Greek yogurt or kefir. But, like any processed food, granola can be a major impostor–a bowl full of sugar and food-like substances posing as a ” healthy” breakfast. There are good ones out there, (check out my last post on how to weed through the junk to find the eatable ones!) but the best option is to make your own. And it’s actually one of the easiest things to make: just mix it all together and bake it up!

So this year for Christmas I decided to make a huge batch of granola and give it as gifts to friends and family. What better way to say you care about someone than by giving them something healthy AND delicious!

You can make granola any way you like. This is the version I made, just because of what I had in my pantry. It’s packed full of protein, fiber, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These ingredients/measurements are really just suggestions, so feel free to add or omit anything. Get creative and try other types of nuts, fruit, or other add-ins. Just be sure to start with oats, add some kind of nuts or seeds, some kind of fruit, a little sweetness and spice, and something sticky/oily to make it all stick together. Chia or hemp seeds would be great substitute for (or in addition to) the flaxseed. I was thinking of adding some pumpkin puree next time to make it like pumpkin pie granola, or subbing out some of the honey for peanut butter and adding banana chips. Chocolate is also always a good choice.

I made a double batch and used two baking sheets, but here’s a smaller version if you are only making it for yourself. Although, even if you are just making it for yourself, I suggest making a huge batch anyway since it keeps really well, and then you always have a quick, healthy breakfast on hand.

Easy Fruit and Nut Granola

You will need:

  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds, but pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts would be great too)
  • 2/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup whole or ground flaxseed (I only had ground, but I think whole would be great too)
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit of your choice (I did a combo of dried currants,  cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, and dried apples)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, your choice)
  • 1/2 cup honey (or agave syrup or pure maple syrup)
  • 3 tbsp melted coconut oil (you can also substitute unsweetened applesauce)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground fennel seed (optional)

1. Combine the oats, quinoa, flaxseed, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and spices in a large bowl.

2. Gradually add in the honey/syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Stir to evenly coat the dry ingredients. If it seems a little too dry or like it’s not sticking together, add a little more honey/syrup.

3. Spread evenly on a baking sheet (or 2) lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake at 300F for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Stir gently (more like a toss) if you want to keep more large chunks. Bake until almost golden brown. Stir in the dried fruit and coconut and bake another 5 minutes, or until desired brownness. Remove from oven and let cool, then transfer to an airtight container to store.

As long as it’s stored in an airtight container, the granola should last a couple weeks, or even longer in the refrigerator  (when the nuts and seeds give off their oils over time they begin to smell rancid. For this reason, I always store nuts in the refrigerator). This granola is great with your favorite milk, yogurt, kefir, or just as a snack! And it makes a great gift.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good bite! 🙂