In this day and age, it seems everyone follows one diet or another, gluten-free, vegan, raw, paleo. Some people swear by cutting out dairy, grains, or legumes, but I will always love my cheese, greek yogurt, and oatmeal. I also don’t believe in sticking strictly to one method. If I feel like eating a big salad, I will, but if I feel like a big plate of scrambled eggs and cheese, I’ll eat that instead.
So now you may be thinking, Claire, this is a blog about a healthy lifestyle, what do you consider healthy?
This is a tough question to answer because healthy means a different thing for each person. I believe the healthiest diet is a diet high in natural foods, but a diet that makes the consumer happy. I feel happiest when I eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy protein, but there are some times when happiness can only be found in a melty chocolate chip cookie, homemade whipped cream, or a buttery scone. Sometimes, happiness is a giant fruit salad, but sometimes, it’s a giant milkshake. The trick is finding a balance between what makes your body happy, and what makes you happy.
In my opinion, life should be a combination of “balanced bites” and “feel-good food”. Not to say that a food can’t be both, but this is generally a good way to split things up. Seventy percent of the time, eat the foods that are good for your body, but the other 30 percent of the time, indulge yourself. Enjoy that chocolate. Don’t feel guilty about that second piece of cake.
However, no one wants to spend 70% of their life miserable. Do yourself a favor and experiment. Expand your food horizons. Find nutritious foods you love, and find happiness in them. Learn ways to prepare your healthy food so you can truly enjoy eating well. Because life is short. Too short to be miserable.
Like any long-term relationship, your relationship with food won’t always be smooth-sailing. I know this all too well. I struggle with letting myself indulge in that 30 percent. Sometimes I fall into the “all healthy, all the time” frame of mind. So just in time for the new year, let’s commit together. Most of the time, eat the “balanced bites”, but find joy and happiness in eating food that is good for you and tastes amazing. The other 30 percent of the time though, eat the “feel-good foods” you love, and savor them. Here’s to 2014, food for a happy, healthy body, and food for a happy, healthy soul.
My Favorite Oatmeal (vegan + can be made gluten-free)
Breakfast. It’s the foundation of a healthy day. The most important meal, which just so happens to be my favorite. I would eat breakfast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I could.
Oatmeal is also one of those foods that, for me, is both a balanced bite and a feel-good food. Nothing beats a morning that starts with a creamy bowl of oatmeal, a bowl of oatmeal that nourishes your body with whole grains and fiber, and warms you to the bone.
I consider myself an oatmeal expert. When I was younger, oatmeal was a feared food. If I entered the kitchen to the sound of the microwave and the smell of brown sugar and cinnamon, I knew I would be spending a long morning sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a bowl of pasty, gluey, microwave instant-oatmeal. When I discovered the virtues of rolled oats and a pot on the stove, there was no going back. I have tried it all: oats in the microwave and on the stove, rolled, old-fashioned, and steel-cut. I’ve debated overnight oats vs. baked oatmeal, experimented with adding protein powders and other mix-ins, and even tried savory oats mixed with cheese and topped with a fried egg. But it all boils down to this.
This simple recipe, this effortless combination of almond milk, rolled oats, coconut sugar, and maple syrup, is the sum of many trials. Hundreds of bowls of oatmeal, some successful and some not so much, led to this fool-proof method. Granted, it is a little more involved than microwaving a packet in some water, but I promise you, the results are worth it.
⅔ cup of old-fashioned oats*
1 cup of water
1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 tsp of 100% pure maple syrup**
2 tsp of coconut sugar**
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
In a medium pot, combine the old-fashioned oats, water, and almond milk. Bring them to a vigorous boil over high heat. Make sure they are really boiling strongly. Stir the oats a few times and let them boil for a moment. Then, reduce the oats to a simmer and let cook. This could take 10-15 minutes depending on how you like your oatmeal. Just keep an eye on them, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the liquid is absorbed to the consistency you enjoy. At this point, stir in the maple syrup, coconut sugar, and vanilla extract, and remove from the heat and serve immediately with your favorite toppings.
*For a gluten-free version, make sure your oats are certified gluten-free.
**This is my preferred level of sweetness but feel free to adjust to your taste
Nutrition Information (for entire recipe)
Carbohydrates: 51 g
Fat: 7 g
Protein: 8 g
Sugar: 13 g
Add a dollop of your favorite nut-butter and fresh berries.
Sprinkle on no-sugar-added dried fruit and chopped nuts.
Stir in a diced apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger halfway through the cooking process for apple pie oatmeal.
Stir in grated carrot, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and raisins or pecans halfway through the cooking process for carrot cake oatmeal.
Mix in a scoop of plant-based protein powder, chia seeds, or ground flax seeds for an extra boost.