As summer rolls around I realize I will have several months of training and no races, so I decided to start writing more about the dietary aspect of my life, which some will hopefully find very helpful. Since these entries can be quite lengthy, I will break them into parts. Trust me, it’s for your benefit, as I tend to be long-winded!
We all remember this phrase as children: It’s the commonly repeated mantra of parents and educators nationwide: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You need to replenish your energy after a good night’s rest, and it’s best to try to eat within an hour or two of waking.
This can sometimes seem like a challenge when you have to cut certain foods from your diet. Having celiac disease makes these options difficult at times from a convenience standpoint. It used to be pretty easy to just grab a bagel, donut or breakfast sandwich on the commute to work, and going to places like the local diner or IHOP you obviously can’t enjoy French Toast or pancakes, and even IHOP’s omelets have WHEAT FLOUR in them (really guys?!?!)! So I think I can possibly enjoy…a pretty unremarkable fruit plate, and even that I would worry about from a celiac point of view because of shared cutlery and surfaces in the prepping area. Sadly, I haven’t been out to breakfast since my diagnosis, which should be no surprise to anyone!
So let’s make it even “harder” by cutting dairy, eggs and meat from the picture. When I decided to switch back to a plant-based (vegan) diet, it certainly did make things a little more difficult in the breakfast category, as the standard American breakfast can oftentimes consist of, you guessed it, meat, dairy and eggs.
People often ask me what I eat for meals (I think they assume I starve or eat twigs and gravel), and I am happy to oblige by giving you a full breakdown of meal and snack ideas in upcoming entries. So let’s start with breakfast, again, the most important meal of the day!
So as I worked on this list, this song by Annie immediately popped in my head: The Breakfast Song
I will say right off the bat that a nice thing about ALL of these breakfast ideas is that any of them are great to consume before a run, I think for some people dairy can really cause some GI distress. These ideas are all easy on the system and can provide fantastic energy for the day ahead.
This is easily one of my go-to breakfast staples for many reasons, and I have one every morning as part of my breakfast on weekdays. I hate admitting this, but I am not the biggest fan of fruit. I am really weird about texture, so if a fruit is too ripe, mushy or has lots of seeds, I sort of shy away from them. So basically, the raw fruits I eat would be apples and bananas and not much else! With a smoothie, everything is healthfully blended and can be consumed on the go. Another plus is if you have fruit that looks like it’s getting overripe, you can freeze it for smoothies for later without wasting them (and I HATE throwing fruit away); this is especially helpful when you have access to a produce market and end up with five pounds of bananas! Another fun thing is you can really play around with flavors, whether it’s with the juice that you use as the liquid or the fruit varieties. I have even used things like peaches, watermelon and frozen grapes. Some have been hit or miss, and others are definitely a home run!
I have never used anything but fruit juice for a base, I have yet to venture into the almond, rice or soy milk field when it comes to smoothies, as I know some people love smoothies with yogurt and milk. I tend to stick to fruit juice only. I admit I do love to use Trop 50 juices, they come in a variety of flavors, have no added or artificial sugars, and are sweetened with stevia, a natural, calorie-free sweetener I enjoy. My favorite so far has been the Red Orange, and their No Pulp Orange is also a pretty standard staple. I haven’t gotten super adventurous yet, but the Pomegranate Blueberry is another I’ve tried and found it to be great with the correct fruits.
Frozen fruit can be prepped when fresh (simply slice and store in freezer bags), or bought pre-cut and frozen in the grocery store. For someone with a busy schedule like I sometimes have, this is VERY convenient. I love being able to buy frozen peaches and mangos, as they can be very tedious to prepare. Wegman’s and Trader Joe’s has very good prices for their frozen fruits, as does Dole. Dole makes a great mixed fruit bag that you can buy in bulk size that contains strawberries, pineapple, mango and peaches, and it came to around $1.71 a pound, which is quite affordable! I also scored with a huge bag of frozen mango for around $1.61 a pound, which when you break it down is MUCH cheaper than buying whole, fresh mangos since so much of it goes to waste when you prepare it.
I found that putting the juice in the blender first and then adding the fruit seems to work best. I usually only use 8 oz. of juice and then add the fruit. I never really measure the fruit, but try to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the blender. If the blender seems stalled, as mine usually does almost every time, it might be a little low on liquid, so I slowly add extra water until it gets a smooth consistency. This can take a few tries and a few proddings with a spoon (make SURE the blender is completely OFF before trying to help get the unblended fruit into the mix!) I always pour it into a reusable cup with a screw-on lid and reusable straw, and these can even be stored in the freezer for a short time if you won’t be using it right away.
I have tried a variety of different mix and match options with smoothies, and I will say my favorite blend-in fruit has to be strawberries, with peaches and bananas tied for a close second place. The orange, strawberry and banana smoothie is by far one of my favorite combos, with orange, peach and strawberry being another winner. Orange, peach and mango is also a wonderful option, and throw in a strawberry or two for some color. Another wonderful surprise is that, yes, you can use watermelon! Frozen watermelon chunks with orange juice, strawberries and blueberries makes for a crisp and colorful smoothie. Can’t you tell I’m a sucker for orange juice as the base? I just have yet to get very adventurous with juices, and I’ve tried things like Pineapple Mango, and found them to be a little strong. One thing I will say is certain fruits do not blend as smoothly as others; I have found raspberries and blackberries to be a bit pulpy and tend to get caught in the straw, which can be a real pain.
Don’t be shy about adding things like chia seed, hempseed or flaxseed to smoothies for extra nutrients and healthy fats. The only thing I will say is don’t add a lot (a tablespoon is plenty for one serving) and make sure it blends well throughout the mixture or it might just sit in a heavy clump at the bottom.
Smoothies are by far one of the main staples of my breakfast traditions during the week; you easily get a couple servings of fruit in ONE meal, which is pretty great! I also find them to be quite filling and satisfying.
I do realize, too, that there are a lot of healthy vegan protein shakes on the market, but I find them to be a bit heavy, and I find pure fruit to be much more of a refreshing and simple way to start my day. I will likely review a few shakes in upcoming entries, which I find to be an efficient way to replenish protein after a long run or race, but for the average work morning I don’t think I need to be loading up on extra protein!
Gluten-free toast or a frozen waffle with nut butters, Earth Balance spread or jelly
There are a variety of gluten-free breads on the market, but most contain dairy and/or eggs. Besides making my own in my bread machine (I use Bob’s Red Mill mixes and veganize the recipe, which I will be happy to share another time), I found a couple other products that are gluten-free and vegan:
Ener-G brand English muffins: I absolutely love these English muffins. They are hearty enough where half of one is sufficient, so a four pack can last longer than a week as long as you store them in the refrigerator once opened. Not only are they excellent for breakfast, but they are great for a base for a quick homemade pizza or open-faced sandwiches. I can find these at my local Giant, but their store locator can help you find them in your neck of the woods. I can’t recommend this product enough. It’s just nice to find a gluten-free bread that isn’t overly dry and toasts well.
Ener-G also makes sliced breads as well, perfect for sandwiches, and their tapioca rolls are a staple in my refrigerator for veggie burgers and sandwiches. Yup, I’ve even made breakfast sandwiches with them. Not only are their products wheat and gluten-free, but they are free of a multitude of major allergens, such as dairy, tree-nuts and peanuts, to name a few.
Another company I will mention if you are gluten-intolerant is Food for Life. They make a variety of vegan, gluten-free breads, tortillas, crackers and English muffins. They use all-natural, organic, non-GMO ingredients and truly do provide an amazing variety of products. The only downside is they also manufacture other products that contain wheat, such as their popular Ezekial Bread. This disclaimer is printed on some of their packaging (“This product is processed and packaged in a facility that also processes wheat…”) and is something for people with celiac disease to take very seriously. When perusing their selections, make sure you inspect the packaging for the disclaimer, some, but not all, may contain this warning. I can usually find their products in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
Trader Joe’s Wheat Free Toaster Waffles: Careful with these in your toaster as the edges tend to burn! But they are low in sugar and half a serving (one waffle) is perfect. Another vegan alternative if they are in your neck of the woods is Wegman’s Gluten Free Homestyle Waffles (and they also come in blueberry), equally good and affordable. Both the TJ’s and Wegman’s brand are less than $2.00 for a box of 8 any time I’ve seen them in stores. The Wegman’s brand does contain sugar as an ingredient, which Chris tends to shy away from, but we will buy them in a pinch (the sugar content is still quite low, only 4 grams for 2 waffles). The TJ’s brand uses evaporated cane sugar as well as fruit juice sweeteners.
If you use your toaster oven in the workplace, make sure you use a toaster bag or aluminum foil. NEVER, EVER place your gluten-free food directly on the surface, as I can guarantee someone else used it for their bagels, pizza, or other gluten-filled fare. Also, gluten-free breads tend to scorch quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them, I’ve ruined MANY waffles by walking away and assuming the toaster would do it’s job. Trust me, it can happen in the blink of an eye.
Obviously any nut butters will be gluten-free and vegetarian, except I would avoid anything like Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, as it’s a gluten-filled disaster, or Nutella, which, while delicious, contains dairy and loads of extra sugar. I’ve tried plenty of brands of peanut butter but my go-to is still Trader Joe’s creamy salted natural peanut butter; it has by far the best texture and flavor and never lasts long in my house. Trader Joe’s also makes an incredible raw unsalted creamy almond butter, but it’s difficult to find as it’s usually in limited supply and runs out fast. If you REALLY want a treat, I cannot recommend Peanut Butter and Company brand peanut butter, who makes certified gluten-free and vegan products. Their peanut butters come in a TEN different flavors, and trust me, I’ve tried them all. My absolute favorite is Mighty Maple, which is obviously AMAZING on a gluten-free waffle!
Earth Balance spread is a vegan butter substitute that I have adopted for many recipes, and also goes great on toast! It’s non-GMO certified and has no trans fats. On a side note, Earth Balance also makes a wonderful coconut peanut spread that goes great on toast! Who would guess that coconut and peanut butter would go so well together? Definitely a match made in heaven!
I don’t consume jelly or jam much these days, but my husband still likes it once in a while. We try to find all-natural brands that aren’t loaded with sugar, such as Wegman’s Organic fruit spread (the first ingredient is actually FRUIT), and sometimes he loves just a simple all-natural apple butter from the local orchard.
Sometimes it’s fun to throw some raisins on top of your toast or waffle for additional sweetness, and sometimes I have even sprinkled some chia seeds on top. A drizzle of maple syrup is also a nice way to add some flavor to nut butters, and it’s best to put it on the bread before adding the nut butter so it soaks into the bread instead of running off the top and onto the plate (or your hand, both of which have happened to me often).
So that is Part One of my gluten-free and vegan breakfast ideas post. Again, long-winded, right? But hopefully helpful. I’ve only scratched the surface on breakfasts and will get more into it in a future entry. Next time we’ll get into some more fun stuff, like cereals and pancakes! I promise it isn’t all sweet stuff, but sometimes my non-sweet options can be a little interesting and not standard breakfast fare.
Much more to come!