Portion Controlled Breakfast Bowls

We all know that café or bakery meals can be delicious and the best thing of course is that you aren’t left with the dishes! However, as much as you’d like to pretend otherwise – these meals generally provide far more energy than you should be having in a typical breakfast. The total energy, fat or sugar content can often be double or triple what’s appropriate – especially if you’ve decided to go one on one with the ‘Big Breakfast’. Needless to say, this gets seriously problematic for your own muffin top if a cafe meetup or bakery stop on the way to work is a regular feature in your week!

And even seemingly ‘good’ choices such as the Boost ‘Breakie to go’ smoothie has 18 teaspoons worth of sugar in it – about the same as 5 mini magnums to give you a comparison! Yipes …. give me the 5 mini-magnums anyday!

So, how much energy you should be consuming at breakfast is dependent on many factors – your gender, age, height/lean mass, activity level, whether breakfast is consumed first thing or combined with morning tea or any weight loss/gain goals just to name a few. Life Nutrition can certainly work with you to determine your individualised target, (please don’t hesitate to contact us!) – however, a reasonable recommendation for most adults will lie somewhere between 400-600Cal (inclusive of beverages).

In response to a client request for some more information on how she can pre-prep some ‘breakfast bowls’ (as she was very rightly concerned that some of the ‘smoothie’ bowl recipes/café creations are ‘calorie bombs’ and not terribly well balanced) – being a nerdy engineer in my prior life – I’ve developed the below system whereby you can ‘build your own breakfast bowl’. A simple meal that is tailored to your estimated energy needs and preferences and that won’t require a complete overhaul of your pantry or blowing your food budget for the week at some fancy ‘super-food’ store!

It’s probably worth noting at this point, that there are other ‘breakfast bowl’ types which incorporate eggs, steamed veg, salads etc and these warm, nutritious bowls are fabulous!….if you have the time that is! Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time nor the motivation in the morning to cook quinoa, steam veg and poach eggs for breakfast – instead, reserve your energy and use any extra time in the morning to make a balanced, nutritious lunch to take to work and experiment with these bowls on the weekend when you have more time! So, with that in mind – I’ve focused on the oat/calcium/fruit/nut type of combination for this article as this seems manageable for most.

 

STEP 1 – DETERMINE YOUR ‘BREAKFAST ENERGY TARGET’

Before building your breakfast bowl, determine your estimated total ‘breakfast energy target’, then deduct any typical beverages you’ll consume – eg a café latte, made with 250ml of reduced fat milk and teaspoon of sugar will tend to be around 150Cal.

To illustrate: Consider a woman who is on a 450Cal breakfast target – she’ll be left with 300Cal to build her breakfast bowl after she allows for her latte. If instead she has tea or instant coffee with 1 sugar and 50-80ml of reduced-fat milk (around 50Cal) she will be left with 400Cal to build her breakfast bowl (but she maybe cranky as hell as she’s only had a crappy coffee – so beware!).

 

STEP 2 – PREPREP YOUR BASE

Create your base in just a few minutes – literally! The below recipe serves approximately 4 x 300Cal portions or 6 x 200Cal portions and will generally last around 3-4 days in the fridge

  • 2 cups rolled oats (whole oats, not ‘quick’)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, dried shredded/flaked coconut (omit if you don’t like the taste/texture)
  • 1/3 cup of mixed dried fruit
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (Queens squeezie tubes are great!)
  • 2 cups milk or milk alternatives such as calcium-fortified almond or coconut.
  • Add spices if you’d like (eg cinnamon works really well)

Mix all these ingredients in a large container and stir until well combined. If you like to be super-organised, divide evenly between 4-6 containers (depending on your breakie bowl energy target), and chill overnight in the fridge.

Having some quality containers on hand are essential to meal-prepping of any kind and I find that the Sistema range lasts well, doesn’t leak and can go through the dishwasher (nope, no affiliation in case you were wondering). This clever Kiwi brand have developed containers which are perfect for the ‘breakfast bowl’ concept – where you put the ‘wet’ ingredients in one section and the ‘dry’ in the other. Sheer genius.

This is a fabulous way to pre-prep a few breakfasts in advance – though noting that ideally fresh fruit shouldn’t be cut in advance. Kiwi will quickly go mushy, fruits like pear or apple will brown within minutes of cutting it, but berries and mango tend to fare ok in my experience. In any case, beside loss of taste/texture –  the longer the fruit is cut – the more vitamin loss will result as it oxidises. So try to leave a few minutes in the morning to cut the fruit.

So the plastic containers are obviously a very functional solution to packing your breakie to take on the run – but please note that this concept can be very easily tarted up for a fancy weekend breakfast or brunch party by spooning the base/arranging the toppings in some stemless wine glasses/glass bowls – yup, playing with your food is not just fun for the kids, get creative when you have the time!

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NUTRITIONAL INFO ON THE BASE:

In case you wanted a bit more nutritional information for this ‘breakfast bowl base’, the following are the approximate values when it’s made up with reduced fat cows milk:

  • 200Cal serve: Carbs: 31g, Fat: 6.7g, Protein: 2g, Fibre: 5.5g, Sodium: 57mg, Added sugar (ie excl natural milk sugar): 6.5g
  • 300Cal serve: Carbs: 47g, Fat: 10g, Protein: 3g, Fibre: 8.3, Sodium: 86mg, Added sugar (ie excl natural milk sugar): 9.8g

Note that if you make this up with Rice, Oat or Soy milk – the energy value will be similar but protein will slightly decrease (especially Rice milk which is very low in protein)

Other milks such as almond or coconut can be considerably lower in energy than traditional dairy and are very low in protein (note: when referring to ‘coconut milk’, this is not the cans which you may use for curries – but the tetra packs in the ‘milk’ section). Brand-dependent, using coconut/almond milk may lower the energy content by around 30-50 Cal/serve depending on whether you are portioning this batch for 4 or 6 serves.

When choosing which milk you’d like to use in your base – weigh up what is right for you in terms of taste, any issues you may have with dairy, and desired protein content vs energy content – you maybe tempted to choose a milk that has less energy so that you can put on more toppings, but this needs to be weighed against the loss of protein (and fat) which is influential on the satiation of a meal and the overall nutritional balance may suffer. More about milk alternatives here.

 

STEP 3 – ADD-ONS

In the morning, top your base with the appropriate amount of add-ons’ (depending on your breakfast energy target). For ideal balance and to keep changing it up, mix up fresh fruit, nuts, yoghurt or a few sprinkles of granola. In minutes – you’re ready to eat a lovely, nutritious, balanced and appropriately sized breakfast!

To make it easy for you to compare options and estimate the energy in your add-ons – I’ve created the following list of typical additional toppings that have been portioned to each be roughly 50Cal – mix them up/combine as required.

50 Cal portions of Fruit and nuts – note that these are just estimates as size/season can change these values

  • Nuts – Watch the quantity of this topping carefully – nuts are fabulous for you and should definitely be a regular feature in your diet (assuming lack of allergy here – please don’t head down the anaphylaxis path on my account!) But 50 Cal is generally only 2/3-1 tablespoon of cut nuts, 4-5 cashews/almonds/hazelnuts or just 3 whole macadamias (plain, unsalted).
  • Half a cup of mixed fruit or blueberries – frozen berries are great to have on hand
  • Strawberries or de-pipped cherries – 8
  • Half a medium banana (or one small lady-finger banana)
  • Half a small mango
  • Apricots – 3 fresh or dried
  • Nectarine or small peach
  • Small apple or pear
  • Kiwi x 2,
  • Passionfruit – 3
  • Sultanas – 20g (though the 25g kids snack boxes are close enough!)
  • Half a baked or stewed small apple/pear/nectarine or peach

Random 50Cal add-ons

  • 90ml or about 3 heaped Tablespoons of no-fat Chobani greek yoghurt
  • Approx 30-50ml of most flavoured yoghurts (about 1-2 heaped tablespoons). Measure this out with your favourite yoghurt if unsure as there’s wide variations between brands/lines.
  • 3 level tablespoons of chia-seed jam 
  • Granola or toasted muesli – crunchies on top of breakfast bowls are the bomb! Just watch that your brand is not too high in fat/sugar and that you portion out 50Cal worth correctly – this will typically be only 1 tablespoon of storebought granola or around 2 tablespoons of our recipe.
  • 2.5 teaspoons of honey (yummy, but not a terribly nutritious topping!)

 

VISUAL EXAMPLES

  • 250Cal bowls:

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  • 300Cal Bowls

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  • 350Cal Bowls

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  • 400Cal Bowls

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OTHER OPTIONS

Option 1: If you forgot to prep up and you need to create something in 5 minutes – or if you simply would like a change, substitute the oat base with 200Cal of yoghurt. Generally, this will be around 130-150g of full-fat/flavoured options or up to a huge 340g portion of unflavoured, no-fat greek yoghurt (eg Chobani) – the choice is yours, just check your brand as these values can differ considerably and choose a yoghurt with a sugar content that is no higher than 5-10g/100ml.

Option 2: If you don’t have time for cutlery or energy to bring the spoon to your mouth this morning – whizz a portion of this base up in a blender with an additional 200ml of milk or milk alternative and an appropriate quantity of fresh or frozen fruit as suited to your energy target (eg bananas, mango, berries). Drink your breakfast ‘smoothie-style’! A few drops of stevia or xylitol are a good way to bring out the sweetness of the fruit without adding extra energy.

I hope this article has given you a few good ideas about how you can build your own balanced, reasonably sized breakfast bowl with only a few minutes of prep and referring to my quick list of portioned toppings. Not heading past the cafe every morning will save you $ and time but most importantly, taking more ownership of and prioritising your nutrition will improve your health and energy both now and into the future. Happy eating!

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Beautiful Blends!

Blending is a process by which whole fruits and/or vegetables gets both annihilated and consumed and an occasional blend (limit yourself to maximum one/day) can certainly be a handy and enjoyable way to top up to your micronutrient and fibre intake. For more information, please refer to our article Blending vs Juicing – does either live up to the hype?

With much experimentation (my family and friends have often been subjected to very suspect concoctions) I have found that the best blend ratio – both from a health perspective but without tasting like you’re drinking a blended salad – is a vegetable to fruit ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. However, by all means – if your tastes allow, increase the vegetable component! If you make a blend with a higher fruit content, it’s highly advised to add extra fibre (for example, chia seeds/gel ground flaxseed or raw oats) as this will help slow that sugar release – or if you like thinking of things in GI terms, this effectively will lower the blend’s GI. You also need to be aware that if a blend is used as a ‘meal replacement’, it’s best to also include some protein and good fats – avocados, soft tofu or nuts are commonly used.

Each blender will be slightly different and you may need to experiment what works best for you, but the following approach works for us:

  1. Blend ingredients first with only a little water for at least a minute, then add your liquids/ice (a good 2-3 cups worth of ice– there is nothing worse than a warm blend!) and blend some more until everything has been pulverised and is smooth.
  2. Some people literally blend the whole fruit – pips, rind, stalks – but I find that this often gives the blend a really bitter funny taste and leaves your blend gritty – even with a good blender. However, a few small pieces of citrus rind (including the pith!) can add flavour and contain great oils, vitamins, flavanoids and anti-oxidants) –  but definitely include skins on apples, pears, peaches and other fruits and vegetables
  3. Sweeten it to taste with a low-calorie sweetener like stevia liquid. Stevia is naturally derived, mixes in well and is easy on your digestive tract. Others prefer Xylitol though watch out for increased possibility of gastrointestinal issues with that one. Don’t use sweeteners like Agave Nectar as due to the high fructose content, this is worse for you to have to metabolise than standard white sugar!
  4. If I’m doing a really ‘green’ smoothie – adding ginger, lemon or lime juice and/or rind and basil, lime leaves or mint really helps palatability and adds variety and interest.

So, the following are a few of my favourite recipes – addgreen smoothie whichever greens you prefer or have on hand (spinach followed by kale are probably my favourites and even frozen peas can be great – a funny idea I know, but something that I found out quite by chance when I was mid-prep a few months ago and found myself without ice!) Adjust water, ice and sweetener volumes to your preferred taste and consistency and sometimes replacing water with coconut water, green or peppermint tea can add a really healthy, yummy twist. All of these will give around 3-4 large serves, so adjust quantities as often blends don’t keep well in the fridge (they tend to lose their smooth consistency and nutrient quality will decline once the fruits and vegetables are exposed to oxygen.

 

Blend 1: Green bananas,

  1. 2-3 good handfuls of greens

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    Banana’s are a powerhouse!

  2. One small-medium fennel bulb – trust me on this – or use a few sprigs of basil if you don’t have fennel
  3. Kids packet of sultanas
  4. One ripe, peeled then frozen banana
  5. Juice from one small-med lemon
  6. 1 apple
  7. Chilled water, ice, stevia to taste

 

 

Blend 2: Tropical refresher

  1. 1 cup of frozen pineapplepine-apple
  2. 1 ripe pear or orange
  3. 2-3 large handfuls of greens
  4. 2 cups of chilled peppermint tea (make the night before)
  5. Few sprigs of fresh mint
  6. Chilled water, ice, stevia to taste

 

Blend 3 – Ugly Duckling. Weird name, I know – but if you make it you’ll see why. Given this will undoubtedly be the most hideous concoction you’ve ever made or seen, I dare not take a photo of it – but your bravery in trying it will be well rewarded!

  1. 2 cups or so of frozen watermelonspinach
  2. ½ a cup of frozen raspberries
  3.  Cucumber – about a 10cm chunk
  4. Two large handful of greens
  5. At least 6-8 basil leaves
  6. Juice from a lime,
  7. Chilled water, ice, stevia to taste

 

Blend 4: Refreshing and lightginger

  1. Two ripe pears
  2. Three sticks of celery and about 10cm of cucumber
  3. A large handful of greens
  4. 3-4 pitted medjool dates
  5. A few sprigs of mint and a thumbsized knob of ginger
  6. Chilled water, ice, stevia to taste

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (or L-Ascorbic acid, ascorbate) is a water soluble vitamin that is largely stored in the adrenal glands but also found in high levels in the pituitary glands, white blood cells (leukocytes), brain and eye tissues. It is required to form collagen, serotonin, norepinephrine and thyroxine and helps certain enzymes to function. It acts in the body as an antioxidant, or reducing agent, protecting tissues against oxidative stress which is important for disease prevention.

Deficiency in Australia today is uncommon with most children and adults consuming around double their recommended daily intake, though many will have heard of the vitamin C deficient condition of ‘scurvy’. When scurvy occurs, gums bleed easily around the teeth and teeth become loose as cartilage weakens and capillaries under the skin break. Inadequate amounts of collagen synthesis is associated with haemorrhaging and massive internal bleeding can result. Muscles, including the heart degenerate and the skin becomes rough, brown and scaly with poor wound healing. Bone rebuilding slows, causing soft malformed bones, increased likelihood of fractures and deficiency can be associated with hysteria and depression.

Vitamin C is released from the adrenal glands in times of stress. So those with high activity levels or suffering from burns, temperatures, heavy metal toxicity or drugs will require higher levels of vitamin C intake than the general population. Similarly, smoking can significantly raise the requirements for vitamin C and smokers will often have significantly lower vitamin c levels in the body (up to 40% for male smokers). The amount of vitamin C required for optimal health varies throughout the lifespan and is notably higher during pregnancy and lactation.

Though most people can quite efficiently excrete excess vitamin C, some maybe susceptible to it’s accumulation, especially in response to a high dose of supplements taken over a short time. Such excess vitamin C can cause abdominal cramps, urinary tract infections and diarrhoea. It can also cause both false positives and negative results when testing for diabetes and can interfere with anti-clotting medications. Excess vitamin C can also lead to kidney stones in susceptible people and can cause or exacerbate iron overload as it enhances absorption. This is especially relevant to haemochromatosis patients (affecting about 1 in 300 Caucasians) where it could exacerbate iron-induced tissue damage.

For these reasons, it is recommended that generally daily intake should not exceed 1000mg for adults, so if you are taking supplements, it’s worth a check to verify that this is not exceeded. The role of supplementing vitamin C to treat or prevent illness is still controversial and the evidence is far from conclusive. Most of the controlled clinical trials have found no significant effect of supplementation to reduce the frequency or incidence of colds though there is fair evidence to support how supplementation of 1000mg/day or slightly above can alleviate the symptoms and duration of colds. Such supplementation however, should only be taken after careful consideration of the possible adverse or side effects that may affect some as noted above.

Consuming foods rich in Vitamin C with those containing iron, leads to increased absorption of iron which can be valuable for those whose iron intakes may be low.

Vitamin C is easily destroyed in oxygen and heat and the concentration can vary in natural produce based on the season, shelf life and storage method. Ideally, eat your vitamin C-rich fresh fruit and vegetables as soon as they are cut and refrain from reaching for juices or supplements to top up your vitamin C as they are generally unnecessary. Juices can contribute towards weight gain as they are very high in sugar but low in fibre, and generally the vitamin C in bottled juices is often artificially added after processing to replace such losses through manufacture and storage.

If you are concerned about your vitamin C intake or would like to increase it, try adding some more of these particularly vitamin C-rich foods your diet: citrus fruits, capsicum, kiwi, berries, cabbage, cruciferous or dark green vegetables, cantaloupe and tomatoes. Life Nutrition can also help analyse your diet and work with you to improve your vitamin C intake, so please do not hesitate to contact us further.