Amp Up your Oatmeal!

Oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast or even as a snack but it can be monotonous if served as is. Add some of the foods below to boost flavor and pack in some health benefits along the way!

Oatmeal – 1 cup provides just 158 calories, 6g of protein and 4g of fiber! Whole grains like oatmeal can help control blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and digestion.

Walnuts – 1 tablespoon of any nut provides right around 100 calories so be sure to measure these guys. Walnuts are a good source of mono-and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats) and provide anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Bonus: may reduce the risk of breast cancer and diabetes.

Agave Nectar – Provides 20 calories per teaspoon compared to sugars 16 calories however it is sweeter and therefore you can use less of it. Agave nectar boasts a low glycemic index and is vegan.

Cinnamon – Source of manganese, fiber and is considered to be anti-bacterial/anti-fungal, can lower cholesterol and may benefit those with Type 1 and 2 diabetes although more research is needed.

Blueberries – Blueberries are a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K and contain polyphenols although the health benefits of wild blueberries such as those here in Maine are found to be greater than those of the larger, commercially sold blueberries.

Chia Seeds – Chia seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium and magnesium. Not to mention they swell slightly and help you feel full. Sprinkle on a few!


Protein Packed Vegetable "Meatloaf"

As I have been trying to make more prepare-ahead meals at home this year, Giada de Laurentiis’ book Giada’s Feel Good Food has become my go-to lately.  She includes a TON of vegetarian recipes that are light, healthy and vibrant in color.  But what else would you expect from her? 
Anyway, her recipe for a vegetable “meatloaf” piqued my interest.  As someone who was never a huge fan of ground beef to begin with, vegan imitation products like veggie crumbles just don’t do it for me.  My version of this recipe however, packs in a crazy amount of vegetables, legumes and whole grains so you can feel satisfied and good about what you’re eating.  It is low in sodium yet high in iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, potassium and thiamin.  Here is a great example of how foods can work together to create complete proteins, like rice paired with beans or lentils.  
See here for a link to Giada’s checca sauce she pairs with her version of this loaf or serve with salsa, guacamole or other topping. 

Vegetarian Loaf
Serves 8-10

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup orange bell pepper, diced
2 cups fresh spinach
½ cup frozen corn
2 cups cooked brown rice (I used minute rice for convenience)
1 15-ounce can cooked lentils, drained and rinsed
1 8-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup shredded cheese (mozzarella)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or other dried herbs
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté onion, carrot and peppers for 5 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place in a large mixing bowl.  Add spinach to same skillet and cook until leaves are wilted, about 3-5 minutes.  Squeeze excess liquid from spinach and transfer to cutting board to roughly chop.  Add spinach to mixing bowl.  Add cooked rice, lentils, black beans, corn, eggs and seasonings.  Mix well.  
Spray 10 x 14 inch baking dish with cooking spray and spread out mixture in an even layer.  Top with sliced tomatoes and top each tomato with a little bit of cheese, about 1/2 tablespoon. 
Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. 
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until loaf is heated through and cheese is melted.  Let cool for several minutes before cutting and serving.

Nutrition Facts: 446 Calories, 7.5g Fat, 73g Carbohydrates, 22g Protein, 19g Fiber, 63mg Sodium, 1016mg Potassium