I don’t know about you, but I spend my pre-breakfast hours trying to match what syncs best with my coffee. And it is hard — most likely because what truly blends best with coffee are hefty, sweet, starchy foods like cinnamon buns, muffins and pancakes. Yum! Truth be told, these are definitely some of my favorite foods.

However, they are not what I choose for my daily breakfast. Unless of course, you want to start the day with anywhere from 600+ calories, 20+ grams fat, 5+ grams of saturated fat (the cholesterol-raising & limit as much as possible type of fat). I reserve these delicacies for special treats and I make sure to enjoy every bite.

What should we eat for breakfast? Like all meals, you want to go for a balanced plate — 50% produce, 25% lean protein, 25% whole grains. Whole grain cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving can absolutely work. Just be sure to monitor your portion size, top with fresh fruit and a lean protein source like nonfat greek yogurt or nonfat milk/non-dairy milk. Eggs and egg whites are excellent sources of protein. They can easily be paired with a cup or more of non-starchy veggies like spinach, tomatoes, broccoli and a slice of whole grain bread. Smoothies can also do the job, as long as you find that the liquid calories hold you over as long as solid foods do.

Since many people are leaning in to their baking skills right now, baking healthy breakfast items can surely be a part of your breakfast repertoire, without breaking the fat and calorie budget before noon. You can even turn some of your old favorites into healthier options:

Instead of heavy cream → evaporated skim milk

Instead of whole milk → nonfat milk

Instead of sour cream → light or nonfat sour cream

Instead of oil → applesauce

Photo by foodandnutrition.org

CARROT PANCAKES
Carrot pancakes are a tasty substitute for the old school carrot cake muffin. I created this recipe for a contest, of which I did not win :), but still felt (and my testers/family agreed) was worth sharing. This could be breakfast, brunch or ‘brinner.’

INGREDIENTS
3 large carrots, washed and peeled, finely grated (this is key)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional, if nutmeg is not your thing)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup almond milk (could also use nonfat milk)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, low fat (No buttermilk on hand? A quick sub: 1 cup any milk plus 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Let mixture sit for 5–10 minutes. Stir and good to go.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
Maple syrup or nut butter (optional)
2 Tablespoons crushed pecans (also optional)
Nonstick cooking spray

PREPARATION
In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, milk, buttermilk, vanilla and eggs. Add shredded carrots and mix to combine.

Add flour mixture to the milk mixture and fold to combine. Heat a griddle pan over medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup batter per pancake into the griddle pan, creating a small circle. Cook until small bubbles appear on top or until bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve pancakes with crushed pecans on top, a dollop of greek yogurt, a dab of maple syrup or your favorite nut butter, if desired. Makes 6 servings = 2 pancakes per serving.

Photo by on

Nutty Smoothie
This quick smoothie is filling and provides a balanced meal in your morning cup.

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries (or bananas, strawberries, etc)
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1–2 Tablespoons peanut butter or almond butter (or PB2 for an even lighter concoction)

PREPARATION
In blender, puree ingredients until smooth. Pour into tall glass and serve with thick (recyclable) straw. Makes one serving.

Photo by on

I Want An Egg!
For some folks, eggs are the only food that says breakfast. They are quick and easy to whip up in the morning, as well to experiment with your favorites veggies and spices.

INGREDIENTS
1 slice whole grain bread
1/4 fresh avocado
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 egg or 2 egg whites
3 radishes, sliced thin (and/or a cup of mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes)
Nonstick cooking spray

PREPARATION
Spray a small sauté pan with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add egg to the pan. Cook until edges are brown, flip egg and continue cooking until yolk is close to solid (or desired degree of doneness). Set aside.

Mash the avocado and lime together in a small bowl, until smooth.
Spread avocado mixture onto slice of bread.

Top with cooked egg and sliced radish (or other veggies). Perhaps a little hot sauce to taste. Makes one serving.

Pizza-style🍕: Skip the avocado and melt a little mozzarella cheese on top instead. Finish with a tablespoonful of marinara sauce.

Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever. ~ David Letterman

For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: amysmargulies@gmail.com

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.