Where the Rubber Meets the Road
At one of the last meetings of TOPS that I attended one of the other ladies was totally discouraged. Each week she either lost or gained one quarter of a pound. TOPS counts in quarter pound increments. Well, a quarter pound can be a trip to the bathroom or a big drink, depending on which way the scale goes. No wonder she was discouraged. She really was not losing weight, just a little water back and forth.
Let’s look at a day in the life of a loser. No, not that kind of loser, the kind that puts knowledge to use through action and loses excess fat, builds muscle and ends up with a trim, fit body. We will begin with breakfast.
Your alarm goes off, and you roll out of bed. The first thing (after prayer if that’s your first, first thing) is to visit the bathroom and pee. Then walk to the kitchen and drink a full glass (at least eight ounces) or water. Next, if you take any pills or supplements take them with another glass of water. All of this water is to rehydrate you after a night of exhaling. Water gets your digestive system up and running, provides lubrication for your brain and joints and just generally helps you feel good all over.
Now, you can either fix and eat breakfast at this point, or you can shower, get dressed and then fix breakfast. It is up to you the order of things, but breakfast is a must. The reason some people do not eat breakfast is they claim they are not hungry. What time did you eat before sleep? If it was after seven o’clock in the evening, you are eating too late and yes, you probably won’t be hungry in the morning. But if you stop eating at seven, by the time you get up ten to twelve hours later, you probably will be hungry.
What do you normally eat for breakfast? (When you eat it, of course.) Cold cereal? Hot cereal? Bacon and eggs? Pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels? Whatever your normal breakfast is you can most likely keep eating it. We will just tweak it a little and use proper portions to make the most of the first meal of the day.
Read the label on your cold cereal, if one of the first ingredients is sugar, put that cereal aside and use it as a treat. Cereal should be made with whole grains, little to no sugar (and we won’t be adding any) and have lots of good fiber. Next read the portion size. Get out your measuring cups and only eat one serving size with the usually recommended one half cup of milk. Add a piece of fruit, either with the cereal, or on the side, and a nice boiled egg for protein and you will have a great breakfast.
Hot cereal is similar. Use the old fashioned cooking kind; it really takes just a few minutes to prepare and cook and it is easy to control the ingredients. Measure the portion, add a tablespoon of dried fruit, or chopped fresh apple, a teaspoon of brown sugar or honey and you have a nutritious, filling breakfast. I eat oats, cracked wheat, creamy brown rice, and regular brown rice for breakfast. All yummy. And for goodness sakes, do not call it “mush.” How unappealing can you get. This is hot cereal. Mush is what is in the gutters at the end of winter.
If your normal breakfast (or one that you eat at restaurants) consists of bacon, eggs, and toast simply cut your portions in half, unless you already eat only one of each thing. Many people don’t, so I just wanted to remind you. One egg, one strip of bacon (or sausage patty, link or small piece of ham) and one piece of toast, without butter or whatever spread you use, but with a little bit (measure a tablespoonful) of jam or jelly or honey. Again, add a piece of fruit and you’ve got a great breakfast. Remember, there is nothing we are totally cutting out, just cutting down to begin with. It is a starting place. We have to eat fewer calories than we use during the day, so unless we are a long distance runners we must cut in half the amount of calorie dense foods we eat.
Most restaurants are amenable to adjusting their servings. I was at a diner in Utah where the smallest plate was two of each thing, bacon, eggs, and toast. I asked if I could have a plate with just one of each. Of course, the waitress said. She served our breakfasts and it was just the right amount, no waste, and easier for my waist. You won’t know until you ask. The alternatives are eating more and expanding your waistline; leaving half on the plate to be thrown away, wasting food and money; or taking home a “doggy-bag” for later, which never tastes as good heated the second time. So just ask and go with the smaller portions.
Perhaps you think you do not have time for pancakes, especially homemade ones. Well, the other morning I got up and was in the kitchen at about 18 minutes after the hour and had homemade, from scratch, pancakes and syrup on the table at 32 minutes after the hour. Beat that! Practice makes it easy to do. Having a jug of homemade syrup already in the fridge helps too. I just put some in a pan, on low to heat while I am whipping up the pancakes. Everything is ready at once.
Here are the recipes I use for the syrup and pancakes.
Ratio = 2 parts sugar to 1 part water
To make a large quantity:
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 – 2 tablespoons molasses (more or less depending on how dark you like it)
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When just beginning to boil, turn off heat and remove pan, stir well, then serve. Store the remainder in a container (glass or plastic) in the fridge and just heat what you need each time. (I tried storing it in a squeeze bottle in the cupboard, but eventually it got moldy, so the next batch went back in the fridge. We like our syrup hot anyway.)
Whole Wheat Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix dry ingredients then add:
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup milk (you can use dry milk here, add the powdered milk, the amount to make one cup, to the dry ingredients, and then add one cup of water with the wet ingredients.)
Mix all together and pour or ladle onto hot griddle (325° - 350°), turning when the bubbles closed and the edges are done.
Recipe can be doubled, tripled or “fourpled” (a family term)
I mix it all up in an eight cup measuring pitcher and simply pour the batter onto the griddle from the pitcher.
If you want to save time in the morning prepare the ingredients the night before. Mix up the dry stuff and cover; mix up the wet stuff and put it in an air tight container in the fridge. In the morning, start the syrup heating, turn on the griddle and mix the batter. Instant pancakes for breakfast. Add some fruit and you have a wonderful breakfast. Just remember to limit your portions, three or four 2 ½ inch pancakes with 1 tablespoon of syrup and you will be good to go.
Waffles take longer to cook so we do not have those on work/school mornings, but they make a good choice on weekends or holidays. I use the same pancake recipe for the waffles.
If whole wheat is too much for you, try half and half. Half whole wheat flour and half white flour. Whole wheat, especially if you have ground it fresh yourself, (ask a Mormon friend about it) is the best nutritionally. But the kind you buy at the store works too. My husband did not like pancakes until he tasted my whole wheat ones. Our children too have become partial to the whole wheat pancakes and consider the doughy store bought mix ones often served at fund raiser breakfasts or church events, to be totally nasty. It is all a matter of what you are used to.
Store bought muffins have too much sugar in them and taste more like cake, plus they are usually huge, enough for four servings. Try these homemade ones for a better option.
Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
Mix together in bowl:
2 cups flour (half whole wheat and half white)
¾ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
2/3 cup raisins (stir in to coat with flour)
1 slightly beaten egg
1 cup milk (same thing as the pancakes, you can use dry milk and water)
¼ cup oil
Mix gently until it’s all moistened, then spoon into greased muffin tins. Makes 12.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
Just like the pancakes these can be mixed (dry and wet separate) the night before, prepare the pan and then fix in the morning. Turn on the oven to preheat while you mix them up and spoon them into the pan. Voila. Fresh, hot muffins. These with some scrambled eggs and some fruit make a great breakfast.
I have been serving bagels to my family for years. They are filling and that is good for growing boys with hollow legs. However, recently I read that bagels are nutritionally empty calories and therefore should have a limited place in our meals. Okay then. Instead of a whole bagel, let’s just eat a half, share the other half with another family member, with just a skim of cream cheese on it (instead of a quarter inch thick spread) and we will be okay. It is all about portion size, remember?
English muffins are a good alternative to toast with a meal, or use them for breakfast sandwiches. Toast the muffin, add a thin slice of cheese, half a slice of bacon, and part of an egg; the egg is beaten and cooked thin in an omelet pan. I can get three or four portions out of one egg this way.
Speaking of eggs, when fixing scrambled eggs I plan on one egg per person, with an extra one thrown in for good measure. So if I am feeding my whole family of seven, I use just eight eggs. One blogger I read says she rarely serves scrambled eggs to her family of nine because it takes eighteen eggs to feed them. What? All of the children are under 12. That’s way too many eggs. She could get by with under a dozen. Or rather I could.
Another egg saving breakfast is French Toast.
Mom’s Café Recipe for French Toast
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
Dip slices of white bread in mixture and cook on a medium-hot (325) griddle greased with butter. Turn slices and brown other side.
Makes about 14-16 slices depending on the size and kind of bread.
For making larger or smaller batches the ratio is ¼ cup milk to 1 egg.
If you want to make it special, add ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.
For warm weather breakfasts I like homemade granola with either milk or yogurt. Here is my simple recipe.
6 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned oatmeal)
½ cup honey (or maple syrup, but who has that?)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons orange juice (the kind from concentrate, unless you have an orange tree and want to squeeze some fresh)
1 cup chopped walnuts or other favorite such as almond, pecan, sunflower, etc.
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Combine the honey, oil and juice in a saucepan; heat until just warm.
In a large bowl combine the oats and nuts, then pour wet mixture over the oats and stir until well combined. Spread the mixture evenly in a shallow roasting or baking pan. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes, stirring and re-spreading every 10 minutes until a pretty golden brown. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Dried fruits such as raisins, craisins, or berries can be added (one cup) after it is cooled. Portion size is one third cup. (Or a half cup, if you are a teenage boy with hollow legs.) At one third cup this has 235 calories per serving. I can almost guarantee that it is filling and you won’t get hungry soon after eating.
Have you ever heard of Breakfast Salad? No? It is quite popular at our house. I think our son Joseph put the first one together. Take some leftover boiled potatoes from dinner the night before, peel and cut them into bite sized pieces, and set aside. Chop up a little bit of onion, and some bell pepper (any color, the more the merrier) and set them aside with the potatoes. Take some bulk sausage, not more than half a pound for six people and cook it until it is no longer pink, add the potatoes, onions and peppers to fry. In another skillet (or small omelet pan) scramble a couple of eggs. When they are done, the other should be done and you can add it all together. Voila! Breakfast salad. Hearty, and filling for teenage boys. For yourself, go ahead and eat some, just limit your portion to about one cup worth. See, you can have everything as long as you measure the portion.
Whew. I think we are done with breakfast. Oh, one more thing. How about a humorous anecdote? This summer our youngest son went on a little trip with some other youth and leaders from our church. In the morning the leaders quickly figured out that the hotel no longer served breakfast, so one of them went out to buy some food. When our son was presented with donuts and Sunny D he said, as politely as he could, “I don’t eat fake food.” When questioned about his preferences for breakfast he said, “My mom fixes me a hot breakfast every morning.” The women leaders were in awe. I promise, with practice it takes just a few minutes to serve a hot, nutritious breakfast to yourself and others.