Archive for October, 2008

Quick and Healthy Breakfasts for Families on the Go!

Quick and Healthy Breakfasts for Families on the Go! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it sets the tone for the entire day. Breakfast is literally a “breaking” of your “fast” and it is essential that you make healthy choices for yourself and your family. With school starting up and the stress of early school drop offs beginning, getting systems in place for your morning routine will greatly help you reduce stress and send yourself and your family off nourished and relaxed.

Here are some helpful hints to get you off on the right foot:

Stock your pantry
This is easier than it might seem. Always have staples on hand so that you can prepare breakfast in a nanosecond if need be! At our house, I always have healthy cereals (Envirokidz and Barbaras for the kids and Dorset for me and my husband), frozen waffles by Van’s (whole wheat flax seed or blueberry ones), 7-grain bread, yogurt, almond butter, no sugar jelly, maple syrup. orange juice, rice and soy milk (or regular milk if that is what your household drinks) and some fresh fruit such as bananas, blueberries and strawberries.

Keep it simple
During the week, we keep it simple and quick and the children chose from cereal, waffles or toast. My daughter drinks orange juice and my son drinks milk and I always put out a bowl of fresh cut fruit. You are not a terrible mother if you do not make huge, lavish breakfasts during the week. I find that cooking complicated meals during the week only leaves you tired and harried and much more likely to be grumpy and snappy as you rush trying to get everyone off. When circumstances arrive and you do have more time then by all means make your child their favorite scrambled eggs or pancakes, but otherwise save it for the weekend! One of my son’s favorite breakfasts, believe it or not, is Zucchini French Toast (see recipe below) and my daughter’s favorite is scrambled eggs. These can be cooked together in under 5 minutes for a special treat

Prepare the night before
This may seem over the top but one of the most helpful things I do the night before is to set the table and prepare the coffee maker. If I know I am serving cereal for breakfast, then I go ahead and put the bowls and spoons out. If I know I am serving waffles, then I will put out forks and knives- and even the maple syrup. This cuts down on prep time in the morning and taking some additional time to put out some favorite placemats and napkins just makes for a nicer way to start the day. For further preparation, I also pre-cut fruit in batches that can be used for a few days for breakfasts or for snacks.

Make it fun
Try to vary what you serve your kids. If you have had cereal one day, then serve toast with almond butter and no-sugar jelly the next. My kids love Pb&j paninis (see recipe below.) Another fun breakfast to put out is a Yogurt Bar. Place a big bowl of vanilla yogurt (you can buy big containers of Stoneyfield or Brown Cow) in the center of the table. In other small bowls, place walnuts or pecans, raisons, dried cranberries, shaved coconut, fresh fruit, honey or whatever else you have on hand. This may sound complicated but again prepare the bowls the night before and just plop them on the table in the morning. The kids LOVE this! Another favorite in our house are Smoothies(see recipes below). Not only are they packed with nutrients but they are easy and fun to make! My son likes to make the chocolate green powder one below and literally throws in everything- flax seed oil, almond butter, kefir and tons of frozen fruit and loves to make his concoction!

One hint: Towards the end of the week take any fruit you may not use and cut it up and place it in ziplock bags in the freezer to use in your smoothies. Not only will this save you from having to throw out tons of fruit each week but it will also make it very easy to have frozen fruit at hand.

Do not overlook using leftovers
If you cook brown rice or quinoa for dinner, use the leftovers in the morning to make delicious hot cereals. Oats and barley are also good choices. These grains contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than Echinacea according to a Norwegian study. In humans, these antioxidants boost immunity, speed wound healing and may help antibiotics work better. In the morning, I prepare one of these hot grains with raisons, honey, rice or soy milk and top it with berries, bananas coconut, walnuts or whatever strikes my fancy. This is a great treat to serve your children in the morning- I serve all the toppings in small bowls and they love to make their own mixtures!

Don’t skip it
Whatever you do don’t skip breakfast. This applies more to us moms who don’t always seem to have the time to have breakfast. Hopefully, the points above will free up some time but if you just can’t or don’t want to eat during the morning rush, make sure you carve out some time after you get the kids off to school.

Oliver’s French Toast

4 eggs
2-4 slices of bread (whole wheat or whole grain preferable)
Zucchini (or carrot, banana or any other combo of fresh fruits or veggies)
Grated cheese (optional)
Non-stick olive oil spray (for pan)
½ cup soy or rice milk
Flax seed meal or oil
Maple syrup

Puree whatever vegetable or fruit you are using. I recommend pureeing a few things a la Jessica Seinfeld and keeping them in the freezer. Bananas or applesauce can be added or mashed quickly. In a bowl, wisk the eggs, milk, and flax seed oil.

If you are cooking for more than one person and would like to also cook scrambled eggs then add cheese and pour half of the mixture into an omelet pan. Add the puree to the remaining mixture, and press the bread firmly into the mixture and coat both sides. Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and cook toast on each side until golden brown. You can pour all of the mixture in the pan along with the bread. Serve warm with maple syrup, yogurt or fruit (however your crew likes it!)

PB&J Paninis

7-grain toast
Almond butter
Honey (preferably raw honey)

Slather bread with almond butter and honey and add sliced bananas. Place in Panini maker and grill. These are delicious and feel decadent (while actually being healthy and checking several food groups- carbohydrates, protein & fruit.)

Green Powder Smoothie

Berry Green, Kyo-Greens or Nature’s First Food Powder
Vanilla almond, soy or rice milk (I prefer vanilla almond milk)
Silk Milk vanilla creamer (optional but makes it richer tasting)
Frozen banana (optional)
Dash of agave nectar (optional if you need it sweeter)

Add green powder, 1 cup milk, ½ cup creamer and the frozen banana in the blender and blend. If you want to make it thicker, then just add ice. My 5-year-old daughter and I make this all the time for a healthy snack in the afternoon before or after sports and she adores it!

Chocolate Green Powder Smoothie

Chocolate Flavored Green Powder (I like Amazing Grass)
Vanilla almond, soy or rice milk (I prefer almond)
Silk Milk vanilla creamer
Frozen banana or any fresh berries
1 tbsp Almond butter (optional)
Flax seed oil (optional)
Dash of agave nectar and/or vanilla (optional)

Blend in blender and enjoy!

To Coffee or Not to Coffee?

To Coffee or Not to Coffee? To Coffee or Not to Coffee? That is the question. In the past few weeks, I have had several clients, friends and even my tennis instructor approach me and ask “so what is so wrong with coffee?” Experts have been arguing about the benefits and health consequences of coffee for decades, and the question of whether to drink or not to drink coffee is even one that many knowledgeable experts disagree upon!

Whether to drink coffee or not has been a question that I have been personally grappling with! I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have been certifiably “addicted” to my one cup of coffee in the morning, and without it I have been beyond cranky all day! My husband, on the other hand, gave up coffee and finds that he sleeps better and has much greater energy throughout his day. I understand the idea that you should not have to need anything to wake up and have been able to successfully give up coffee for periods at a time. At the end of the day, however, I find that having one cup in the morning works for me. And, I have gotten to the place where, while I do like to have one, I do not have to have one and that is very liberating!

Coffee is America’s most popular beverage. Drinking moderate amounts* of coffee has the ability to increase our energy, enhance our mood and sense of well-being, improve our memory and ability to perform complex tasks, and maximize our physical performance. Drinking coffee has also been said to lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 30%.

Even some top runners and other athletes use coffee to enhance their performance before races with no detrimental side affects. Not only has coffee been shown to improve mental clarity and energy but it also may enhance endurance in aerobic activity by reducing blood flow to the heart and encouraging fat burning instead of the usage of the glycogen. When we use our glycogen reserves instead of burning fat, we “hit the wall.” Because so many athletes used it to enhance performance, it was even banned in high doses by the International Olympic Committee until 2004!

So, with all of these benefits, why not drink cup after cup of coffee? On the downside, coffee has been linked to sleep problems, headaches, digestive problems, ulcers, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings and depression. Coffee has also been linked to dehydration, the interference of iron and calcium absorption, and an increased risk for heart disease and high blood pressure-points we will discuss in greater detail later. Drinking coffee can also raise our stress hormone levels and tax our adrenals. Are we drugging ourselves to enhance our mental performance and what we can accomplish during our day?

There are several areas where researchers sorely disagree. One such point of contention is the link of diabetes to coffee consumption. A new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that drinking coffee before breakfast can increase your risk of Type-2 diabetes. Researchers have postulated that caffeine makes our bodies insulin resistant, which leads to spikes in our blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that if you drink 4-6 cups of coffee per day you will lower your risk of Type-2 diabetes by 28% due to the antioxidants and chlorogenic acid in coffee. Clearly this is contradictory information.

Another point of contention is the claim that coffee is a diuretic and that drinking coffee will cause us to be dehydrated. While studies have shown that drinking coffee or any caffeinated beverage in excess of 575 mg (approximately 5 ¾ cups of brewed or more than a Starbucks Vente) will cause us to lose fluids in our body, amounts up to this show no diuretic effect. Most of us, hopefully, don’t drink that much!

Coffee has also been believed to be linked with heart disease so some patients with high blood pressure are told to avoid it. While large amounts of coffee may be detrimental, multiple studies show no connection and even in an Iowa Women’s Health Study those who drank three cups a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24%.

While caffeine does induce a small but temporary rise in blood pressure, a study of nurses and one study at John Hopkins both found that drinking coffee played little or no role in the development of hypertension.

Lastly, coffee has been linked to osteoporosis. While some studies have linked caffeinated beverages to bone loss and fractures due to the reduction of calcium absorption, there has been no link to calcium secretion and some have suggested that coffee and tea drinkers may intake less calcium rich products.

My overall feeling is that, if we drink coffee in moderation and just have one or two cups a day (preferably in the morning), then we should have no problem. Where problems start to exist is when we begin drinking cup after cup of coffee to do more and more throughout our day and tax our adrenals. When we lose sleep, we lose the primary way our body rests and heals, and this compromises our absorption of iron and calcium and other vital minerals as well as overall bodily function.

Coffee affects us all differently and we must each make choices that affect our lives in a positive way. If you have to drink a cup of coffee to get through your day then perhaps you should reevaluate your lifestyle and cut back on what you are doing. Have problem sleeping or feeling jittery? Then you should cut back on your coffee. Have just one cup in the morning and feel perfectly rested and happy? Then, continue doing what you are doing. The bottom line is that, instead of drinking a huge Vente at Starbucks or cup after cup of coffee, it is time to Be In Balance and make choices that allow us to rest and recharge our batteries and take care of ourselves.

* moderate amounts defined as 200 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to 2 cups of brewed coffee or ¾ of a Starbucks grande.