The next time you find yourself thinking, What should I have for breakfast?, consider this—this is your opportunity to start your day by putting healthy fuel into your body. How do you want to feel today? Energetic and on the ball? Or sluggish and foggy-headed?
Most people will choose option one. But their breakfast choices often don’t match their goals, and they end up eating oversized muffins, icing-drizzled scones, store-bought yogurt parfaits, sweetened coffee—these all clock in with more sugar than many desserts.
Fact: One cup of your average store-bought granola contains more sugar than six chocolate chip cookies.
All that morning sugar causes a spike in blood sugar levels that is soon followed by a mid-morning energy crash. The natural response is to reach for more sugar and maybe some caffeine as a quick pick-me-up, and the cycle continues throughout the afternoon.
Added Sugar: Energy Sapper
The average American consumes 77 grams of added sugar a day—the equivalent of nearly 20 teaspoons’ worth. All that sweet stuff tastes good, but it’s also a major contributor to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more. And breakfast foods packed with added sugar are low in fiber, protein and good-for-you fats.
If energy is what you’re after, start your day with foods that provide protein, good fats and whole-grain carbohydrates that help maintain stable blood sugar levels. That translates into sustained energy, less brain fog and a reduced risk for chronic disease.
The following recipes taste great and have the nutrients you want with minimal added sugar. They’re naturally vegan and low in saturated fat. And they are all suitable for people with type 2 diabetes, thanks to their ideal balance of fiber, protein and carbs.
Energizing breakfast #1: Overnight Blueberry Chia Oats. If you’re after an easy grab-and-go breakfast, this is your answer. Simply throw some oats, chia seeds, milk and a few other basic ingredients into your favorite container (I use mason jars), and store it in the fridge overnight. By morning, it’s ready to eat, no heating necessary. Nutritionally speaking, oats are more easily digested after being soaked—overnight steeping breaks down some of the starches and allows for optimal mineral absorption.
Oats are full of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, protein and fiber, all of which help power you through the day. Chia seeds and blueberries are the queens of antioxidants. Chia seeds also offer fiber and protein for blood sugar balance…and omega-3 fatty acids for heart health. A touch—no more than one tablespoon—of maple syrup adds the right amount of sweetness.
- ¾ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk (almond or coconut)
- 1 Tablespoon grade-A maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Juice of ½ small lemon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups rolled oats
- 3 Tablespoons chia seeds
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
Topping suggestions: Extra fresh or frozen blueberries, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, a dollop of your favorite nut butter.
Mix the ingredients in a bowl, and pour into a lidded container. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, stir in toppings. Add more or less liquid, depending on your desired level of thickness. Yield: Two servings.
Energizing breakfast #2: Superfood Granola. Grocery store granola is convenient, tasty and dons a health halo thanks to its often-high protein content and link with hiking and other healthy activities. But read the label, and you’ll almost always see two, three or even four types of sugar listed.
This recipe is super-versatile—mix it up with whatever seeds, nuts or dried fruit you have. Try to keep the quantities the same (e.g., if you substitute cashews for almonds, stick with a one-half cup amount.) No matter what seeds or nuts you choose, you’ll get a hit of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Yield: Seven cups.
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup sliced almonds—or any nut you have in your pantry
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup hemp seeds (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract together. In a second medium-sized bowl, mix together oats, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cinnamon, sea salt and any of the optional ingredients you choose. Add the oil mixture, and combine. Next, spread the mixture onto your prepped sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the granola begins to turn golden brown. No need to stir. Let cool, then store in an airtight jar on the counter.
Energizing breakfast #3: Tofu and Veggie Burrito with Chipotle Vegan Aioli. This is a hot, hearty, nutrient-packed breakfast that will sustain you for hours. Soy has a bad rap thanks to now-debunked links with breast cancer, but consumed in moderation, it offers a complete form of protein. It’s also high in bone-building calcium. Sautéed peppers and onions add antioxidants, and beans bump up the fiber content.
- 1 12-ounce package firm or extra-firm tofu
- ½ Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- ¼ cup minced cilantro
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 medium red bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 1 cup drained and rinsed black beans
- 1-2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ cup vegan mayo (I like Sir Kensington’s or Follow Your Heart brands.)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chipotle adobo sauce or 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 3 or 4 large whole-grain wraps or any wrap with minimal additives (I like Angelic Bakehouse 7 Sprouted Whole Grain wraps and Vista Hermosa corn tortillas.)
- 1 medium ripe avocado (chopped or mashed)
- Extra chopped cilantro
- Chunky salsa or hot sauce
Remove tofu from its package, draining the liquid. Slice it in half, and wrap both halves in several layers of paper towel for a few minutes to absorb excess moisture. Use a fork to break up the tofu into fine pieces in a bowl, and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add one-half tablespoon of olive oil, then tofu and seasonings. Sauté for seven to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
While sautéing the tofu, make the aioli. Combining the vegan mayo, garlic, lemon juice, salt and chipotle adobo sauce or chili powder in a small bowl, and stir together with a spoon. Set aside.
After seven to 10 minutes, transfer the sautéed tofu to a bowl. Return the skillet to heat, add remaining olive oil followed by onion and bell pepper. Sauté for three to four minutes. Now add spices, garlic, kale and black beans (in that order) to the sautéing vegetables. Mix all, and turn off heat once kale has wilted slightly.
To assemble, roll out a tortilla. Add roasted vegetables, tofu, avocado, cilantro and aioli. Roll up and enjoy. Best: Avoid “low-carb” wraps—they contain fillers that can interfere with digestion.