The alarm clock goes off at 5 am, we jump out of bed and rush downstairs to start our Sunday. We sit and have our breakfast, which consists of orange juice and homemade oatmeal topped with banana, maple syrup and a few almonds, while happily watching the weather channel say it is going to be a beautiful day with few clouds and temps in the lower 70’s. That’s perfect for a run and a bike ride. While my husband prepares our bikes (checking the air in the tires, filling up water bottles, gathering helmets, gloves) and loads them in the truck, I am putting together our food for the day. I take out energy balls from the freezer and put them in a zip lock baggy for our fuel along the way, and put recovery smoothies in a cooler.
We get to our favorite destination, park our truck and head out for our 14 mile run. We run up and down steep hills, pass wooded areas then as we approach the ocean and sea wall, we hear the sounds of the rolling waves, seagulls flying above squawking, cars passing with the top down, other runners, roller bladders, and people walking their dogs, and we are feeling energetic. After our run is done in under 2 hours, we grab an energy ball and some water to refuel. Then, we transition over to our bikes to begin our ride, keeping a comfortable 16 mi hr pace. We stop at the half way point and sit at benches overlooking the ocean long enough to have some water and another energy ball before riding back to complete 34 miles. At the end we feel strong and exhilarated. How are we able to successfully complete such long distances and still feel good at the end? It starts with diet and what we put into our bodies for the proper fuel—and that begins with breakfast. Our delicious homemade oatmeal made from whole oats and fruit has essential nutrients to get us out there for the day.
As soon as someone says oatmeal, we think of the mushy stuff that our parents used to make us eat when we were kids. The little packets that come in different flavors such as strawberry, brown sugar, or cinnamon. Simply tear open, add water or milk and microwave. However, these little packets of oatmeal, along with many other breakfast foods, are not always the healthiest. Aside from the added sugars, additives and preservatives, refined foods like white bread, bagels, muffins, dry cereals and many others are all made from wheat flour that has been processed and stripped of up to 75% of essential nutrients.
Before whole grains are processed, they are made up of the three parts: the bran (outer layer), endosperm, (middle layer) and the germ (inner layer). During processing the bran and germ, which have the most nutrients, are removed. Manufactures do this because this part is more perishable and cannot hold up for long periods of time on store shelves. What is left is the endosperm which is a very starchy carbohydrate and is low in nutrients. It is cheaper to process, has a longer shelf life and is used in thousands of foods. Manufactures often add back a small portion of what was lost, including synthetic iron and B vitamins, hence the word “enriched” flours. But this flour does not provide all of the essential nutrients that whole grains provide. Also, refined foods made from the endosperm (think bagels and white breads etc.) can cause inflammation from high triglycerides, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. They are digested into simple sugars which will cause blood sugar to spike and then quickly crash, draining your energy and causing tiredness and stress. On the other hand, whole grains that are not stripped of these important layers provide slower absorption of carbohydrate sugars into the blood stream, which keep you fueled and full of sustained energy for hours. They have been proven to increase performance and metabolism.
In addition to increasing energy, these nutrients will keep you healthy and strong. The bran (outer layer) provides fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and hundreds of phytochemicals that help to fight against the chronic diseases mentioned. The germ (inner layer) provides B vitamins, healthy fats, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. The endosperm, the largest part of the grain, provides carbohydrates, protein and few B vitamins. All of these layers work together as a whole to provide you with vital nutrients to keep you fueled and healthy. So, rather than waking up in the morning and rushing off to the nearest coffee shop for a bagel or donut, consider making this delicious low calorie oat meal that will keep you full. Take a few minutes to prepare it in a crock pot the night before and let it cook. When you wake up in the morning, your house will be filled with the aroma of cinnamon, apples and other spices. One bowl of this nutrient dense breakfast and you will feel great to take on the day for whatever you do.
CROCK POT OATMEAL
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
1 cup almond milk (or other favorite nondairy milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbls. cinnamon, ground
1 tbls maple syrup
1 tsp nutmeg
A dash of ground clove
1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 pinch salt
1. Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and set it on low for 6 – 8 hours
2. Once done, you can add either sliced bananas, strawberries, raisins, dates, almonds, cranberries, walnuts or even a dollop of peanut butter for a little added protein.
Remember, when eating grains, stick to eating the whole grains. Read labels to make sure they say 100%, and avoid processed white refined grains. Make dishes from brown rice, whole oats, quinoa, whole and wheat pastas.