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Put new twists on your favorite power-breakfast foods

If there was ever a group of individuals who should shun a low-carb diet, it is trail runners. …

Photo by Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” goes the old saw. Not to belittle lunch or dinner, but a nutritious morning meal can bestow huge benefits on your running performance and health. Breakfast helps refill energy stores—Particularly glycogen—which helps your body recover and prepare for daily training.

Australian researchers recently determined that adults who skipped breakfast had a higher risk of heart disease than their peers who ate a morning meal, perhaps partly due to a lower intake of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. “A hearty breakfast can also keep your waistline trim by preventing overeating later in the day and revving up your metabolism, which has slowed to a crawl after an overnight fast,” says sports dietitian Molly Kimball, nutrition director at the Ochsner Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.

But there is a big difference between shoveling an elephantine muffin into your mouth and fuelling your body with an ideal breakfast. “Think 100-percent-whole-grain carbohydrates rich in fiber as well as foods that provide protein and healthy fats,” says Kimball.

Despite breakfast’s benefits, perhaps you have become bored with bland oatmeal or lackluster fried eggs. We’ve gussied up some favorite breakfast meals to make them a whole lot healthier — and tastier!

Eat this: OATMEAL

Make it better with: Steel-cut oats, walnuts, dried tart cherries and maple syrup.

Walnuts are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids which may help quell inflammation. Phytonutrients in tart cherries have been shown to speed exercise recovery by reducing oxidative muscle damage. A star among its sweetener brethren, maple syrup, not the corn syrup faux stuff, contains unique disease-thwarting antioxidant phenols such as the quebecol (whimsically named after the province of Quebec—the largest syrup producer).

Steel-cut oatmeal is made from oat grains (a.k.a. groats) that have only been chopped up. The upshot is that steel-cuts oats take longer to digest than the instant kind, supplying your body with energy all morning long.

If you are crunched for time on weekday mornings, make this big batch of creamy steel-cut oats on Sunday afternoon and reheat portions on the stovetop with a little milk all week long. Serves four.

2 cups water

2 cups low-fat milk or unsweetened non-dairy milk

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup steel-cut oats

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Blueberries, or other berry of choice

Peanut butter or almond butter (optional)

  • In a saucepan, bring water, milk and salt to a boil.
  • Stir in oats, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in walnuts, dried fruit, cinnamon and maple syrup.
  • Simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until creamy.
  • Serve with berries and a dollop of nut butter, if desired.

Eat this: SMOOTHIE

Make it better with: Almond butter, brewed coffee, cocoa powder, Greek yogurt and wheat germ.

Almond butter provides more of the bone-strengthening minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorus than peanut butter, plus a healthy dose of heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. More than a morning perk-me-up, java is surprisingly rich in antioxidants as is “natural” or “raw” cocoa powder.

Greek yogurt supplies twice as much muscle-friendly protein as traditional versions. Wheat germ is the by-product of converting whole wheat into refined wheat and is highly concentrated in a number of nutrients including vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, selenium and energy-boosting iron.

This spruced up smoothie is perfect for mornings when you need to bolt out the door. Serves one.

1 cup brewed coffee, cooled

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 frozen banana

1/3 cup dried pitted dates, chopped

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 tsp. unsweetened natural or raw cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1/4 tsp. cardamom

1 Tbsp. almond butter

  • Place coffee, yogurt, banana, dates, wheat germ, cocoa, vanilla extract and cardamom in a blender.
  • Process until smooth.
  • Drop almond butter into the liquid and process for 10 seconds more.

Eat this: PANCAKES

Make it better with: Whole-wheat pastry flour, ground flaxseed and canned pumpkin.

Whole-wheat pastry flour tastes lighter than regular whole-wheat flour, but with the same nutrients and antioxidants that have been stripped from enriched white flour.

The nutritional-dense resume of flaxseed includes hunger-quashing fiber and inflammation-taming omega fats. Pumpkin is chockablock with beta-carotene, an antioxidant converted to vitamin A in the body that strengthens bones (think fewer stress fractures) and ramps up immunity. Serves two.

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts or walnuts

1 cup low-fat milk or unsweetened non-dairy milk

1 large egg

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

1 Tbsp. olive oil

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and nuts.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and egg.
  • Fold in pumpkin and olive oil.
  • Add pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently.
  • Heat a greased non-stick skillet with butter or oil over medium heat. Drop batter, 1/3 cup at a time, in the skillet and cook pancakes for two to three minutes per side, or until golden brown.
  • Serve with pure maple syrup and fresh berries, if desired.


Make it better with: Ricotta cheese, avocado, baby spinach and sprouted bread.

Ricotta cheese contains more whey protein, a very high-quality protein muscles adore—whey protein works very fast after consumption to help repair and build lean body mass—than other cheese varieties. Creamy avocado has a smorgasbord of nutrients including folate, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin C. Nitrates in spinach have been found to improve the efficiency of working muscles during exercise.

Made with a variety of sprouted grains, sprouted bread contains higher nutrient levels than traditional slices as well as a nuttier flavor. Serves two.

4 large eggs

1/3 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. salt

4 slices sprouted bread

1 ripe avocado

  • In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs.
  • Whisk in ricotta, spinach, tomato, curry powder and salt.
  • Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Cook egg mixture, occasionally scraping bottom of skillet with a heatproof spatula to form large, soft curds, until just barely set, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Mash avocado with a fork in a small bowl and spread avocado over two slices of toasted, sprouted bread.
  • Spoon eggs over avocado and season with black pepper.

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