the best thing I did for my health in 2012

We believe a lot of things just because we’re told they’re so. When these things come from those who we think know better than us, we’re all the more likely to believe them. It’s not until we have cause to challenge these beliefs that we find all kinds of new truths. This story starts back in 2006, when a doctor told me I had ulcerative colitis, an auto-immune disorder that falls under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD’s. I was 19 years old and a college sophomore.

I saw my first gastroenterologist, or digestive specialist, at my mother’s urging. I had seen blood in my stool, and had been having some stomach cramps. The doctor said that it was possible that my immune system was attacking my body for some inexplicable reason. This immune response would trigger inflammation in my colon, which would basically look like a bloody rash, causing the symptoms I’d been having. Pictures from my first colonoscopy confirmed exactly this, and the diagnosis was made: I had ulcerative colitis at age 19. I’d never heard of ulcerative colitis, but it seemed pretty scary. Apart from the fact that I had blood in my poop and painful stomach cramps, I was met with the news that I’d need to be on medication for the rest of my life, and that the likelihood of having part of my colon removed at some point was high. If I failed to take care of myself, they told me, I could completely lose use of my colon or be at high risk of colon cancer.

I immediately started taking the prescribed medication, which I was told was like Advil for your colon (an anti-inflammatory). I remember asking what I should or shouldn’t be eating- surely, that would affect what was happening in my colon, I thought. Gastroenterologist #1 scoffed at me. “What you eat won’t really have an effect on your disease- unless you have a flare-up (a period of especially bad, acute inflammation). In that case, just DON’T eat.” This seemed preposterous to me. Besides, Gastroenterologist #1 had an awful bedside manner, so I didn’t like him much anyway. I moved on to Gastroenterologist #2, and diligently kept a food diary in preparation to show her on our first appointment. But I was wrong again- #2 wasn’t interested in my diet, either. I dropped it, took my bottles full of pills, and moved on.

Fast forward to 2009, now three years into taking this medication and living my life as normal. Let me stress “normal,” because without the daily reminder of the pills I swallowed, I could have forgotten I had this disease at all. No symptoms persisted, except for the occasional gas which I’ve come to accept as part of my natural state of being. Gastroenterologist #5 (#’s 3 and 4 weren’t my favorites, either) said it was time for another colonoscopy to check on the state of things internally. The pictures came back showing a healthy colon- no inflammation at all! Did this mean I was cured?! Number 5 told me that while this was good news, I shouldn’t get too excited- this was just the medication doing its job. So I celebrated knowing my colon was healthy, but kept on the meds to make sure it stayed that way.

I realize now that had it not been for a certain turn of events, I could have stayed this way forever- believing I had ulcerative colitis, taking medication every day out of fear that if I didn’t, I could be at risk for potentially very serious health problems. But this spring of 2012, the following happened.

1. I decided to quit my job, and with no full-time employment lined up to replace it, this meant losing health insurance, too.
2. I looked into buying a private health insurance plan. The agent told me to not bother applying- ulcerative colitis fell under the category of pre-existing conditions, and I would be automatically denied once I reported that I had it.
3. I found out what my other options were; there were two. I could go on Cobra and continue my existing coverage for $400 a month, or I could go without health insurance.

I could write a book on the ridiculousness of this situation. Without health insurance, my medication would cost me more than the already crazy-high cost of my only insurance option. Either way, I’d be paying out the nose for this disease that I had. I began to question everything. How could I be forced into such financial hardship by something that was barely present in my life? I felt fine! How could insurance companies deny me coverage because I had been slapped with the label of ulcerative colitis 6 years prior? Even with the strides being made by the passage of Obama’s health care plan, I was still stuck.

Around the same time that I was presented with this frustrating quandary, I began a book for my studies in holistic health called The Body Ecology Diet. The book details the existence of bacteria in our gut, both good and bad, and how the balance of this bacteria can seriously affect our health. The authors argue that as a result of improper diet and certain environmental factors, bad bacteria commonly outnumber good bacteria; without enough good bacteria present, an overgrowth of yeast occurs that can cause digestive problems, immune-related disorders, and a whole host of other health problems. The book begins with a quiz that is supposed to tell you how at-risk you might be of your gut bacteria, or “body ecology,” being out of whack. In one section, the quiz asks your history with certain prescription drugs, particularly antibiotics. This makes sense- ANTI-biotics serve the purpose of killing bacteria that are making you sick- but as it turns out, they kill the good bacteria needed for proper gut function, too! The question that really got me thinking asked this:

“Have you, at any time in your life, taken broad-spectrum antibiotics for respiratory, urinary, or other infections for 2 months or longer, or for shorter periods 4 or more times in a 1-year span?”

I thought back through the years and my run-ins with antibiotics. As a kid with allergies and chronic sinus infections, there were many. Suddenly, one year of my life was illuminated in my mind. My sophomore year of college had been one of particularly persistent illness (probably due in large part to how little I was sleeping and how poorly I was eating). Sinus infection after sinus infection would crop up, and I would drag myself to the student health center for another round of antibiotics. Over the course of that school year, I remember counting no less than 6 Z-packs, or concentrated rounds of azithromycin. Azithromycin, as you might have guessed, is a broad-spectrum antibiotic like the quiz question asked about.

At this point, the wheels were turning. I saw myself in retrospect, at age 19, taking round after round of antibiotics, then being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, one with symptoms not unlike those of a gut-bacteria imbalance. Could it be that symptoms I presented back then and the inflammation that was seen in my first colonoscopy were mistaken for ulcerative colitis, but in fact were due to something else entirely? And if the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis that I’d been carrying around for 6 years was wrong, could I be eligible for private health insurance after all? I decided it was more than worth looking into.

This brings us to Gastroenterologist #6 and his team at UCLA, who finally listened to what I had to say. I told them my situation, and proposed my gut-bacteria theory. Number 6 was intrigued and very sympathetic to my cause, knowing how difficult it is for many with inflammatory bowel disease to be approved for health insurance. He agreed to let me do a trial with no medication for a few months; if I remained healthy and symptom-free, he would maybe be able to pronounce me disease-free and argue my case for insurance. However, #6 warned that what I was doing was risky; if I did indeed have the disease, months without medication would be damaging to my system. Understanding the potential danger, I began the trial immediately.
……..
Four months later, I lay nervously on an exam table in the UCLA Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Besides a few minor changes in my bowels, nothing alarming had happened while I lived life without medication. I felt healthy. But I knew that the true test would be a look inside; I couldn’t be free of my diagnosis until they performed a colonoscopy and saw that the disease was truly, internally gone. As I went under, I groggily asked the medical assistant to sing to me. When he wouldn’t, I apparently began my own short-lived rendition of our national anthem before drifting off.

I awoke to my parents’ excited faces and the sound of #6’s voice telling them the good news. He had seen a totally healthy, disease-free colon. My intestines were “good as new,” #6 reported. I was officially discharged as a patient from the UCLA gastroenterology offices. Number 6 wrote me a glowing report that told my story- he even included my own theory, calling my initial flare-up a likely “anti-biotic induced episode.” I attached his report, along with a letter I wrote, to my application for insurance with Blue Cross. Yesterday, I got my insurance cards in the mail. As of January 4th, I will be privately insured by Blue Cross. With my clean bill of health and zero prescription medications, I guess I made a great candidate.

This is a victory for me on more than one level. I feel personally vindicated that I didn’t just accept the medical fate that was handed to me. As a health coach, I am proud of the detective work I did to overturn my diagnosis. I am inspired by this experience on behalf of you reading this. Don’t for one second think that your health is out of your hands. Trust yourself and listen to your body. Listen to your doctor, but don’t be afraid to ask WHY. Question everything. You deserve to be happy, healthy and in control.

I wish you all a very healthy and happy 2013!

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spaghetti squashin’ it

finished

I’ve often been puzzled and intimidated by spaghetti squash.  If you’ve never seen it, it’s a big, oblong yellow squash that turns into NOODLES when you cook it.  It’s amazing how much it really looks like spaghetti, and how it doesn’t turn to mush when you stir it.  I told myself that it must be only by some hoodoo folk magic that this is possible.  But as it turns out, as with many tasty dishes that I’ve been afraid to cook, it’s a cinch.  And the goodies I added to it (also cinchy) made it extra good.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to The Farmer’s Daughter CSA from KMK Farms in Kingsburg, which brought us our spaghetti squash gourd this week.  Their program is fantastic- tons of produce, herbs, even eggs and olive oil.  Plus, you get to hand-pick your box every week AND there’s no long-term commitment; you pay when you pick your box up at one of their drop-off location.  I highly recommend for Valley residents in search of a local, organic bounty.
On to the spaghetti squash…
Super Cinchy Spaghetti Squash
  1. Cut the squash in half or quarters, length-wise.
  2. Scoop out the seeds and cuts, like you would any gourd.
  3. Spread butter or olive oil on the surface of the squash.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet* in the oven at 375 for 40 minutes.
  5. Let cool enough so that you can hold the squash pieces by their rinds.  With a fork, scrape length-wise down the cooked squash and see the magical squash noodles appear before your eyes!
  6. Add Sunflower Seed Pesto and a little olive oil.  Toss, and enjoy!
 *I placed mine face-up (rind down) on the sheet, and then later read that you’re supposed to do the opposite (rind-up).  Mine worked fine, but I did cook it longer- probably an hour total.  I’m thinking face-down would cook faster.
scraping the squash
Sunflower Seed Pesto
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
 Pulse all ingredients in food processor until combined and crumbly.
*I’m not sure if I’ve talked about nutritional yeast yet on this here blog.  It’s simply deactivated yeast that has a sort of buttery, nutty flavor and the consistency of cornmeal (sort of- flakier).  It’s a great source of protein and B vitamins, which makes it popular with vegans and vegetarians.  But most importantly, it’s delicious, and adds a lot of flavor and texture to things like this pesto.  

super breakfast week, day five: put an egg on it!

Please excuse the tardiness of this post- I know I promised you a new breakfast every day last week, but the week got away from me, and then so did the weekend! So today, I’ll give you the fifth Super Breakfast, which is really more of a concept than a recipe: Put an egg on it!

I like having eggs for breakfast, but they rarely satisfy me on their own.  Even with a piece of sprouted wheat toast, I’m left wanting more.  It’s the combos like broccoli eggs (a.k.a., loaded with vegetables) that really make me feel like I’ve eaten a complete, balanced meal. Recently I realized that SO many of the veggie-filled dishes I make for dinner could be transformed into breakfast in one simple step: Put an egg on it! The one prerequisite for this breakfast is, or course, that you’ve cooked the night before and have some leftovers.  Then all you have to do is roll out of bed, throw an egg in a pan, and lay that sucker on top of last night’s dinner.  Once you start trying this, your eyes will be opened to thousands of possibilities.  Honestly.  So many things are delicious with a fried egg on top!

Oh, you made a giant pot of vegetarian chili and have buckets left over? Put an egg on it!

Veggie burgers from last night’s barbeque staring you in the face? Put an egg on it!

Afraid you’ll be eating that quinoa salad for the rest of your life? Put an egg on it!

Really, guys- ANY kind of vegetable casserole/hash/stir-fry will magically turn into breakfast with the addition of an egg.  I’ll include some more recipe links at the end of this post.

While I’m encouraging you to throw eggs on everything, I should also say a little something about the kind of eggs that I buy.  I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “free-range,” “cage-free,” and “organic” tossed around when it comes to chicken and eggs.  While it’s great that an effort is being made in favor of producing eggs ethically and cleanly, it’s important to know what these labels actually mean; if they mean much of anything at all, in fact.  The definition of an “organic” egg is that the chicken was fed an organic diet, given access to the outdoors, and was not given antibiotics.  That organic feed could be a big sack of corn, though, when chickens are meant to eat grass and bugs in order to be healthy and produce nutritious eggs.  Their “access to the outdoors” could be as little as a porch attached to their giant, overcrowded barn; whether or not they actually go outside and get much needed sunshine (how do you think Vitamin D gets into the eggs, anyway?) is undetermined and not likely.  So what if the carton says “free-range” but NOT organic? Those hens had the same “access” as the organic chickens, but their feed wasn’t necessarily organic and they could have been given antibiotics.  And “cage-free” means exactly that- they didn’t have a cage.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t crammed into a dark, overpopulated commercial barn with no room to move.

All that is to say that personally, I don’t trust the labels that are put on eggs in the grocery store, with the exception of one.  To the best of my knowledge, the cleanest, most nutritious and most ethically produced eggs come from pasture-raised chickens.  This means that chickens spend most of their time outdoors, eating grass and bugs.  Simple.  The way nature intended.  These chickens are happy and healthy and, because of their natural diet and lifestyle, produce eggs with the best possible nutrient content.  Of course, these eggs are a lot more expensive!  But it’s worth it to me to know what I’m putting in my body and how it got to me.  An even better solution would be finding someone who raises chickens, or getting some of my own! A girl can dream.

To read more about the fallacy of an “organic” label on eggs, click here:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/06/08/why-you-dont-want-to-buy-organic-eggs-at-the-grocery-store-.aspx

To read more about the benefits of pastured eggs, click here:

http://www.cheeseslave.com/how-to-buy-organic-eggs-pastured-vs-free-range-eggs/

To read more about the brand of eggs that I buy at Whole Foods, click here:

http://vitalfarms.com/

And more things to put an egg on!

Curry Veggie Quinoa

101 Cookbooks Veggie Burgers

Veggie Enchilada Casserole

super breakfast week, day four: BOMB VEGAN BREAKFAST!

Today’s post comes to us from my good friend Joanne.  Joanne studied nutrition when we were undergraduates (and a cappella nerds) at USC together.  Since graduating, she’s built upon her nutritional knowledge and blossomed into a raw vegan maven.  Joanne posts her fabulous concoctions as Facebook notes entitled “Bomb Vegan Dinner 101.” As you’ll see in this post, Joanne knows her stuff! Don’t be intimidated by the bit of work it would take you to sprout those lentils ahead of time; it’ll be worth it. And I’m sure (though I haven’t tried or asked Joanne) that cooked lentils made ahead of time and stored in the fridge might also work.  Without further ado, I present to you: Bomb Vegan Breakfast 101!

Okay, so first I have a confession to make: most of the time, I actually am not much of a breakfast eater, for a few different reasons. I’m not a wake-up-hungry type of person – thirsty, yes! And after sipping on water and tea from the time I wake up, by the time I’m out the door I feel deceivingly full (of liquid)… even though it won’t be long before I’m snackin on some fruit, which I guess could be considered my actual breakfast. It also must be mentioned that having perfected my morning routine down to the minute, I need a breakfast option to be quick and easy to squeeze in between lunch assembly and dog walking, or it won’t happen. Lastly, and I may get some dirty looks here, but typical breakfasty foods just don’t excite me very much. Yeah, pancakes, crepes, and French toast are all delicious, but I just don’t feel great after eating them. I need something that will provide me sustenance and energy but without weighing me down. As a vegan who also prefers eating as much raw food as possible, my breakfast usually isn’t very thrilling – give me some fresh fruit and a handful of raw nuts and I’m good to go. But that’s not very blog-
worthy now, is it?

So, as you can see, breakfast and I have had a very casual yet non-committal relationship. It’s not that I’ve been afraid to commit to breakfast; I think I just hadn’t found the right breakfast for me! After countless mornings of slipping out the door, trying to avoid scornful glances from the fruit sitting forlorn and uneaten in their baskets, I eventually broke down and agreed to seek counseling – after all, I had been neglecting breakfast, when breakfast had never been anything but good to me. The mediator I chose to help me reconcile with the most important meal of the day is called Raw Food: A Complete Guide For Every Meal of the Day. I’ve found some recipes here that give me exactly what I’m looking for in a breakfast: light, energy-rich foods that are quick and easy to throw together in the morning with just a little preparation. Lately, my go-to has been this fiber-filled fruity delight:

Sprouted Green Lentils with Apple

  • ½ C green lentils, sprouted*
  • 1 Apple (your favorite kind!), cubed
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Honey, to taste
  • And, pictured in Joanne’s version: Walnuts and currants!

Mix it all up in a bowl and enjoy!
* You can buy sprouted lentils at a market, but they’re also easy to make! All you need are lentils (duh) and a sprouting jar – any canning jar with a mesh top, or cheesecloth stretched across and secured with a rubberband. To sprout the lentils, soak 8-12 hours, drain and rinse once or twice a day until the tails of the baby sprouts begin to show (usually 2-3 days). Sprouting the lentils transforms it from a raw food into a “living” food. This is a raw-foodie idea in which soaking or sprouting (seeds, beans, nuts, lentils) activates digestion-assisting enzymes that lay dormant in raw foods; the enzymes are awakened in the living food, aiding in the digestion and absorption of nutrients – thereby maximizing the nutritional value of the food.

A couple variations I have tried using the above recipe: using maple syrup or agave instead of honey, adding shredded carrot, or crushed nuts (try walnuts or almonds!) for extra protein and prolonged satiety. I especially like the idea of adding some sort of nut into this mix, because this creates what most vegans know very well as a complete complementary protein – when foods are combined to provide all 9 essential amino acids (the ones that can’t be manufactured by the human body). These essential amino acids are found in animal protein, leading many people to the common misconception that people who don’t eat animal protein are lacking in protein altogether. However, I’ll let you in on a vegan secret – it’s actually really easy to eat enough protein! It’s all about combining foods to form “complementary” proteins. The easiest formula to follow is to think of foods in the three categories of grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds; then, combine foods from two of the three categories. Sound complicated? How about… rice and beans! Hummus and whole wheat pita bread! And – lentils and almonds! Complete complementary proteins are everywhere! Another cool thing about creating complementary proteins is that you can space them out between meals; have some nuts in the morning, and a grain or legume at lunch and you’re good to go!

So, at this point I’ve slightly derailed the breakfast blog, but now you can see why and how this seemingly simple recipe can be so fulfilling! The sprouted lentils with apples will give you tons of energy, fiber, and keep you satiated until lunchtime. Not to mention, it’s such a sweet way to start your day! Dear Breakfast, please accept this Ode to You as a reconciliation. You really are important, and I will neglect you no longer!

super breakfast week, day three: the green smoothie

Your third Super Breakfast this week has been my go-to for the past few months.  Once I realized that I could pack a couple servings of leafy greens into a cold, creamy, morning beverage, I was sold.  The concept is simple: a breakfast smoothie with spinach, kale, chard, or any other dark leafy green.  I’ll share the main components of mine and some different winning flavor ideas, but know that you have full creative license on this puppy.  You can’t mess it up!

The Freeze
I start with something frozen.  This can be (for one smoothie):

  • Half a banana (Once my fresh banana stash starts looking overly ripe, I’ll cut them in half and put them in a Ziplock in the freezer.), OR
  • 5 cubes of almond milk (just pour almond milk into an ice cube tray the night before.), OR
  • A handful or so of any other frozen fruit.
  • This will ensure that your smoothie is nice and cold, and also thickens the texture a bit.

The Greens

  • Then add as many dark leafy greens as you can! For me this is usually roughly between one and two cups of spinach, kale, or a mix of both.  A couple of handfuls is a good start, but the more the better!

The Fat

Some good healthy fat will not only make this smoothie stick to your ribs, but will also help thicken and smooth out the texture.  I recommend choosing ONE of the following per smoothie:

  • Nut butter! Peanut and almond are my favorite. Use one hefty spoonful.
  • Avocado- This may sound strange, but you will not taste one iota of avocado flavor, but you’ll be reaping the benefits of the monounsaturated fat and creaminess. I use about 1/4 of one avocado.
  • Coconut oil- Despite being high in saturated fat, coconut oil is proving itself to fit unconventionally on our list of “good fats.” Without going into too much detail, know that the TYPE of saturated fat matters very much- coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides which don’t harm us like the kind of saturated fat in animal products.  It’s also rich in vitamins and minerals and will make your smoothie absolutely delicious. One tablespoon is plenty.

The Grain
When I want my smoothie to be extra filling, I’ll add some grain.  This could be:

  • Raw rolled oats, OR
  • Cooked quinoa or brown rice- Make extra the next time you’re cooking dinner and save it in the fridge! (I wouldn’t recommend using it if you’ve cooked it with vegetable broth or anything salty.)
  • About 1/4 of a cup of any of these grains oughta do it. But this is a non-essential ingredient; I only do it when I know I need my smoothie to last me several hours until my next meal.

The Flavor
Try any of the following to give your smoothie some extra flavor (and sometimes to mask the bitterness of the greens, especially if you’re using kale):

  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Shredded coconut

The Boost

  • Finally, I crank up the nutritional punch in my smoothie with a green superfood supplement.  One little scoop of this stuff contains tons of concentrated greens- we’re talking wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella- as well as antioxidants and probiotics.  All of this together is supporting immunity, healthy digestion, and helping to keep an alkaline balance in my system.  I’ll warn you that it’s a little earthy tasting, but the energy you’ll feel from this stuff is incredible.
  • A spoonful of ground flax for some extra Omega 3’s can’t hurt, either!


Blend all of that together and enjoy! Starting your day with a big glass of vegetables is setting yourself up for success. You’ll feel full and energized and ready to keep making great decisions about what you put into your body for the rest of the day!

super breakfast week, day two: broccoli eggs

Today, I ate a whole head of broccoli for breakfast.

Ok, it was a small head.  But still an impressive amount of vegetables to be eating for my morning meal, I daresay!  That’s the goal, my friends: EAT AS MANY VEGETABLES AS YOU CAN!  This means cramming them into meals where one might not normally eat veggies.  But with today’s recipe, having broccoli for breakfast is easy and tasty.

I’ll start by saying this is probably the most time-consuming of my Super Breakfasts.  But all things considered, it’s pretty darn quick, and some prepping ahead of time could make it even quicker.  I have my boyfriend’s sister Erin to thank for this amazing breakfast!  Erin is a busy, working mom doing her best to eat well.  When we visited her a few weeks ago, I was immediately excited when she asked if we wanted “broccoli eggs” for breakfast.  “Whatever that is…YES,” I responded.  Here is my version of what she made for us that morning:

Broccoli Eggs (serves one)

  • One small head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • Two eggs
  • Splash of almond (or other) milk
  • Roasted sunflower seeds (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cheese of your choosing (optional- I used goat cheese crumbles)
  1. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil on medium.  Add broccoli- the finer you chop it, the more easily it will be incorporated into the scramble.  Stir until broccoli is tender (a few minutes).  Alternatively, you could throw a little water into the pan and cover it to let the broccoli steam.
  2. Beat your eggs with the splash of milk and add them to the pan.  Mix the eggs and the broccoli immediately and keep mixing as the eggs cook.  It should turn into a nice scramble.
  3. Once egg is distributed throughout the broccoli and has cooked thoroughly, add sunflower seeds, cheese, and salt and pepper.  Then EAT!

I realized after making this batch that I went a little crazy on the broccoli.  That head I used was probably two full servings.  If you’re down with that, then by all means, broccoli it up! But if that much broccoli feels a tad ambitious, then use less and it will be more like a typical scramble with veggies.

One way you could make this recipe much faster would be to chop and cook your broccoli ahead of time.  Steam a whole bunch at the beginning of the week, chop it up, and throw it in a tupperware in the fridge.  Then all you have to do is combine it with the eggs and throw it in a pan; it should heat up while the eggs cook.  On that note, don’t limit yourself to broccoli- kale and spinach make awesome egg partners, too!

So there you have it, veggies for breakfast.  At the end of the day when you’re counting your blessings and how many vegetables you ate (or is that just me?), you’ll be grateful that you started the day with a big ol’ handful. Tune in tomorrow for another vegged out breakfast- my current favorite, the Green Smoothie!

super breakfast week, day one: overnight oats

Welcome to day one of Super Breakfast Week! For our first Super Breakfast, I will be a huge cop-out and re-post a previous entry in which I detailed the incredibly delicious, satisfying, and convenient overnight oatmeal recipe.  See below for “The Joy of Overnight Oats,” with new edits from me in italics.

“Another trend in my life (because that’s why you read this, to know about trends in my life?) is OVERNIGHT OATMEAL! Caps lock very necessary.  Basically, I can’t currently think of a better breakfast option than oatmeal in terms of ease, simplicity (I always have rolled oats and water, usually nutmilk, and they’re so easy to fancy up with whatever else you have on hand!) and, most importantly, nutrition; basic whole grain, very amenable to the other nutrient-rich stuff you throw in it (fruit, nuts, nut butter, flax!).  I know they can be microwaved, and that even on the stovetop they don’t take very long, but I’ve stumbled upon a way to eat them that I like even better and takes even LESS time.

Allow yourself to consider eating cold oatmeal for a second.  Not cooked oatmeal that’s been sitting out for god-knows-how-long-but-you-eat-it-anyway, but delicious, RAW oats that have been soaking in nutritious nut milk all night, topped with other delicious goodies.  And, the best part is, you do all the work at night, and literally just have to grab the tupperware out of the fridge on the way to work! I think that’s my favorite part and the root of the obsession- the 15 minutes I’ve shaved off my morning routine.

Here’s a basic how-to:

  1. Start with 1/4 cup rolled oats.
  2. Add 1/2 cup soy*, almond or hemp milk (or regular milk, I suppose- haven’t tried it).
  3. Stir in 1 tablespoon ground flax OR chia seeds.
  4. Put it all in a sealed tupperware overnight, give it a quick stir in the morning, and enjoy!

*Due to controversy surrounding the consumption of unfermented soy products, I no longer consumer soymilk or recommend it to others. 

Flavor/texture ideas:

  • Vanilla or almond extract
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Organic canned pumpkin
  • Honey
  • Nut butter (you can add this in the morning or at night)
  • Fruit! Bananas especially! (add this in the morning)
  • Cinammon, nutmeg, cardamom- add these with some pumpkin and you’ve got yourself pumpkin pie for breakfast!

The oats will absorb the liquid and acquire a texture not unlike cooked oats, but a little better in my opinion- less mushy, I guess.  Do NOT omit the flax or chia seeds.  These both absorb liquid, too (chia seeds especially- 10 times their weight!) and help “cook” the oats.  They are also both omega fatty acid superstars, so you should eat them, anyway! Chia seeds turn into gelatinous little blobs, which sounds gross, but isn’t. It’s pretty cool, actually. I promise.

I don’t consider my bowl of oats complete unless it has something a bit sweet (so if I don’t add a banana, I’ll use honey in the mix at night) and some kind of nut butter.  Almond is a great neutral flavor that I found works great with the pumpkin pie flavors, or with applesauce and cinnamon.  Peanut butter is a stronger flavor but I know I don’t have to remind you how awesome it goes with bananas.”

I generally find these oats sustain me much longer than a bowl of plain cooked oatmeal, and I think the credit there goes to the add-ins.  The flax or chia will add fiber and healthful fat, nut butters or nuts will add protein and more good fat, and any fruit will be even more fiber!  Remember that a rounded breakfast that includes protein, carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, and some beneficial fat will be the breakfast that keeps you full till lunch!