A healthy way to start your day? Oats of course!

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Warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! :)

Oatmeal- warm, creamy, yummy- and good for you! ūüôā

What is your typical breakfast like? Do you grab a quick bowl of cereal before running out the door? I used to eat cereal in the morning too. Here’s the thing though, that isn’t your healthiest option and here’s why. While it seems to be something good (and quick) to eat in the morning, cereal is loaded with fillers that add no nutrition, it’s processed which is never good, and has additives that can be harmful to your mood, behavior and biochemistry. And that is NO GOOD! Breakfast cereals can¬†also contain numerous chemicals, gluten, casein, trans fat, sugar, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and genetically modified flavor enhancing compounds. Yikes, none of that stuff is the kind of thing I want to put in my body!

So what do you eat when you want a HEALTHY START to your day, and you need it quickly too? Why, oats of course! Oatmeal or granola with oats is one of the best ways to start your day, and I will show you how to make it so that you can have a delicious, nutritious,¬†and quick breakfast. My daughters are obsessed with this meal, and ate it twice while they were home for Thanksgiving. It’s easy, warm, comfort food that’s healthy- win win! Oats are low calorie, one cup of oatmeal cooked with water has about 166 calories, add 40 calories if you cook them with milk (like I do), and if you top with fruit add another 40 calories. Oatmeal provides about 4 grams of fiber per cup, which makes it filling and adds to the satiety of oatmeal. It’s considered a low-energy density food, which means that there are relatively few calories compared to the bulk of the food. In a 2010 study published in the “Journal of American Dietetic Association”, people who ate oats in the morning lost weight and enjoyed a greater decrease in their waist circumference measurement than those who ate the same number of calories in a low fiber food. So are you sold on the idea of eating oats in the morning? Good! Then stick with me and I’ll show you how it’s done!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

Gluten free oats are a must for my family!

First, things first, it’s all about the oats you choose. There are different kinds of oats on the market, whole oats that still have their hard outer hull, oat groats that have their outer hull removed, steel-cut oats, which are roughly cut groats with an intact bran, and rolled oats, which are steamed, flattened groats. The less processed oats are better for you (naturally) so make sure to avoid instant oatmeal which has added sodium, and oatmeal with flavors added because it’s usually not added naturally. Something I didn’t know until my daughter had a gluten allergy is that NOT all oats are gluten free so I have to make sure to purchase gluten free oats for Danielle. However, I also have steel cut oats at home, they just require a longer cooking time, and I can’t make them when Danzy is in da houz!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

Cooking the oats on the stove!

I usually cook the oats on the stove using milk as shown in the above pic, however, if you don’t have time to cook the oats in the morning here’s a tip for you. Cook the oats in a slow cooker the night before! Take¬†one cup of¬†steel cut oats, 1 1/2 cups milk or if you’re dairy free you can¬†use almond milk, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and FIRST SPRAY THE INSIDE OF THE SLOW COOKER WITH ORGANIC NONSTICK SPRAY (or¬†the oatmeal will¬†stick like glue), and add all the ingredients. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours. But remember cook times can vary, so¬†if you have a programmable slow cooker make sure¬†to use the timer feature. You can put the ingredients in¬†your¬†slow cooker the night before and¬†awaken to the amazing smell of oats and apples! Either way you cook them, the leftovers store well in the¬†fridge and will even freeze well too.

Homemade applesauce mix in- it's amazing!

Homemade applesauce mix in- it’s amazing!

For me, the key to delicious oatmeal is the mix-ins ingredients with which I choose to flavor the oats. Pictured above is my favorite mix-in, my homemade applesauce. I shared the recipe in my previous post, “An Apple a Day- Makes Applesauce!”, and when added to oatmeal it tastes like healthy apple pie- scrumptious! Just add a few tablespoons of applesauce to your oatmeal (or more if you really like it, like I do) for great flavor with no sugar added.

Pecans- my favorite nut!

Pecans- my favorite nut!

My next favorite mix-in for my oatmeal is nuts, specifically pecans. Pecans are my favorite nuts and I add them to many of my recipes. I chop them and add a sprinkle to my oatmeal. The nuts add a nice crunch and additional fiber and protein too. Definitely a healthy add-in!

Love, love, love raisins!

Love, love, love raisins!

Another flavorful and healthy add-in is raisins. Organic raisins add natural sweetness, fiber and iron to the oatmeal. Plus I love when I put them in the oatmeal and the heat and moisture makes them plump up and get really juicy. So very good!

A great addition to oatmeal!

A great addition to oatmeal!

I love adding maple syrup to oatmeal instead of sugar. It adds a deep, rich flavor that I think tastes better than sugar and goes well with the cinnamon rich applesauce that I’ve already added to my oatmeal. As you can tell we like maple syrup so much that we used it all that morning!

It's a honey of a mix-in!

It’s a honey of a mix-in!

Honey is another great addition to oatmeal. It definitely adds a natural sweetness that substitutes for sugar and tastes light and sweet in the oatmeal.¬†It is always my go-to natural sweetener as I discussed in my post, “A Honey of a Cure!”. Try it, you’ll like it!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

I always add a pat of butter to my oatmeal for decadent richness!

Butter is another essential for my oatmeal. It adds a creaminess to it and in my opinion nothing else adds that same richness that butter does. And now that we know butter is good for us as I wrote in my past blog post, “Fat doesn’t make you Fat!”, I can eat my butter and be happy! It’s a yummy mix-in!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg add tons of flavor and are good for you too!

Don’t forget your spices! Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc, can add substantial flavor to your oatmeal and are non-caloric. It’s like loads of flavor for zero calories! I always add cinnamon to my oatmeal (and many other things as well). It really gives it a warmth that makes it delicious.

So that’s how I make amazing oatmeal! I make it either on the stove or in the slow cooker, but it’s¬†super both ways¬†thus it really doesn’t matter how you cook it. Make sure you don’t use processed oatmeal with artificial flavors, and make your mix-ins healthy and flavorful without adding sugar if possible. Let me know what mix-ins you like to use. You’ve got it now? Ditch the cereal and eat oatmeal. It will help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!

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Coffee11This morning after a late night at the Fleetwood Mac concert, which was such fun by the way, I really needed my morning coffee. My coffee is a necessity to give me a much¬†needed boost of energy in the morning. It’s also warm, homey and comforting to me. It really is a hug in a mug! I have previously spoken of my love for coffee and it’s benefits but today I want to talk about the stuff that goes into your coffee and how important it is to keep those things healthy. Otherwise, you can add HUNDREDS of calories to your coffee, and it can easily go from a healthy start to your day to a caloric wasteland. Besides being high in calories, some of the things you can add to your coffee can be downright BAD for your health, full of chemicals that can’t even be pronounced. I wanted to use this opportunity to save you all the calories and chemicals, and show you what I use so that you can benefit from my experience and drink delicious, HEALTHY coffee.

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

1. Start with high quality coffee- If you can find organic coffee, by all means use that. I have an espresso machine that I’ve used for the last few years. I really enjoy espresso but I recognize that many people don’t like the intensity of it, so use whatever works for you.¬†But for me the first step is to use really good coffee/espresso that doesn’t have any artificial flavors or additives in¬†it (artificial flavors=chemicals). Nespresso sells high quality, sustainably raised coffee in their espresso cubes. You¬†put the cube¬†into the machine and it¬†makes delicious¬†espresso.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

2. Add REAL cream- I don’t use artificial creamers in my coffee. I will only use half and half, but the cool thing is that I use a milk frother. I pour the half and half into the frother, press the button, and it whips the milk up into a foamy deliciousness that makes me feel like I’m getting my coffee from a professional barrista! Of course I only use organic half and half also. I use an organic hazelnut half and half and add a¬†splash of that to the regular half and half and whip them together so I get a bit of sweetness into the cream.

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. NO FAKE SUGARS- As I’ve said in previous posts, artificial sweeteners are bad for your health in MANY ways. They are full of chemicals and are NOT a component of a healthy lifestyle. In an effort to keep the calories down and impart sweetness to my coffee, I use a small splash of hazelnut half and half as I said above, and I also shave a small amount of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee. I use a very small grater and shave no more than a half teaspoon of it into the coffee before adding the cream. I let the chocolate melt into the coffee, and then I add the cream and stir a few times to combine everything without adding too much air to take the fluffiness out of the foam.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

4. Add different flavors to enhance your coffee- Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom can really jazz up your coffee, adding a lot of flavor without adding calories. I add organic cinnamon to my coffee whenever I make it. Cinnamon is a healthful spice and has been said to help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and blood sugar spikes. It also is very warm and flavorful, and really complements the flavor of coffee. It’s a must for me!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

Well, that’s how I make a perfectly delicious and healthy cup of coffee. The idea is to add layers of flavor so that you get an amazing¬†taste without adding a lot of chemicals or calories. Coffee can help enhance your memory and workouts, as well as preventing liver damage, helping to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, lessen our stress, and add antioxidants to our bodies. So I am perfectly justified in indulging in my morning cup of Joe, and I know it’s good for me too. Drinking coffee with healthy additions to it can help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!