Crustless Quiche Cups

Today was my day off, yay! I started my morning off by relaxing on the couch watching this week’s episode of “The Following” with my big cup of coffee. And then I made some Crustless Quiche Cups for breakfast! Perfectly pre-portioned, low carb and high protein. I made mine in a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan, so if you use a 12-cup muffin pan, be sure to adjust the cooking time.

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What you need:
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
6 eggs
1.5 cups liquid egg whites (~8 egg whites)
1/4 cup milk
Thin slices of cheddar cheese (~2 ounces total)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your muffin pan using cooking spray and set aside. Heat oil in a medium sized frying pan on low.
Add garlic, veggies, salt and pepper and saute for 8-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

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While veggies are cooking, whisk together eggs, egg whites and milk.

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Divide egg mixture evenly between your muffin cups, and spoon veggies into each cup.

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Top with thin slices of cheese

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Pop them in the oven for 25 minutes or until the centers are set!

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YUMMY!

Calories: 153
Fat: 9 grams
Carbs: 3 grams
Protein: 16 grams

Day two: A HEALTHY DIET IS NOT EXPENSIVE.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Yesterday my boyfriend sent me flowers. Aren’t they pretty?

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It wasn’t the best Valentine’s Day. We received bad news about my poor kitty at his vet appointment today. His cancer has worsened, and it’s not looking good for him. So upset. This is Baby’s favorite sleeping spot for the night: in his new box with his pink camouflage blankie. I love him.

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Today, I did my best to keep track of how much everything I ate was costing me. Dinner was tough to give an estimate – homemade vegan chili I pulled out of the freezer. Didn’t feel like cooking. But a can of tomatoes, beans and rice, some of the main ingredients, are cheap. So I’m just saying it’s around 99 cents for what I ate (about 1/3 of the batch I made). Good enough.

Cost of breakfast: $0.60
16 ounces of coffee (~2 tablespoons Maxwell House grounds): 30.6 ounces for $6.99 = 6 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford half and half: 32 ounces for $1.59 = 6 cents
1 Thomas’ Bagel Thin: 8 for $2.99 = 37 cents
1 tablespoons of Hannaford Natural PB: 16 ounces for $2.99 = 11 cents

Cost of lunch: $2.05
1 Zone bar: 6 for $4.34 = 72 cents (Normally I don’t eat these, but I didn’t have time to make lunch today, so it’s better than nothing.)
1 banana: (~5 oz.) 57 cents per pound: 18 cents
3 ounces Hannaford baby carrots: $1.70 per pound = 32 cents
1/2 red bell pepper: 2 lbs for $5 (~3 peppers) = 83 cents

Cost of snack: 23 cents
2 ounces of Hannaford mozzarella cheese: 16 ounce block for $3.68 = 23 cents

Cost of dinner: 99 cents
Leftover homemade vegan chili that I pulled out of the freezer: 99 cents, give or take.

Total for the day: $3.87. And you say eating healthy is expensive? Maybe if you buy out-of-season organic produce. That can definitely get pricey. I don’t eat a perfect diet, but I would say that 90% of the time, I eat pretty damn healthy, and, AS YOU CAN SEE, it doesn’t cost a lot. Be smart about what you buy – buy what’s in season, what’s on sale, make what you can from scratch, buy in bulk (sometimes it isn’t always cheaper, at least at the grocery stores around here). I promise you, you’ll spend a lot less money when you’re not buying junk food or drive-thru meals!

A HEALTHY DIET IS NOT EXPENSIVE. PERIOD.

It irritates the living hell out of me when someone says, “I can’t afford to eat healthy.” My head explodes when they add on, “…and that’s why I still hit the drive-thru.” WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? To ANYONE who thinks this, PAY ATTENTION. If you REALLY think that you save money on lunch or dinner by going to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, WHATEVER it is, think of it this way: you are loading your body with simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, trans fats (I just scanned through the nutrition information of McDonald’s menu and found that more than half of their food contains trans fats, known to increase “bad” cholesterol and decrease “good” cholesterol and a contribute to heart disease. Take a look: http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf and read more about trans fats here.), and MINIMAL fiber. Hardly anything you eat from a fast food restaurant is likely to keep you satisfied for long. (If you’ve seen “Supersize Me,” remember how Morgan was hungry again soon after his meal at McDonald’s?) Anyway, you’re loading your body with not-so-good stuff that can contribute to a number of health problems: heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, just to name a few. Think of how much money you’d have to spend on visits to the doctor and medications, and it would be even worse if you don’t have insurance. So what would you rather do: eat healthy, take care of your body and reduce the risk of health problems or eat to death?

I would say I’m moderately frugal when it comes to grocery shopping. I shop for what’s on sale and in season, I buy almost everything generic, I make what I can from scratch (not only cheaper in most cases, but also healthier), I don’t eat out often and my family gardens so that we have lots of fresh veggies in the summer and fall. I’ve kept my receipts from the last week or so to calculate how much each meal is costing me. I’ll do the same thing tomorrow (hopefully with pictures). Here is today’s breakdown:

Cost of Breakfast: $0.90
16 ounces of coffee (~2 tablespoons Maxwell House grounds): 30.6 ounces for $6.99 = 6 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford half and half: 32 ounces for $1.59 = 6 cents
1 Eggland’s Best large egg: one dozen for $2.49 = 21 cents
3 Great Value (liquid) egg whites: $3.88 for 32 ounces = 58 cents

Cost of Lunch: $0.59
2 bananas (~10 oz. total): 57 cents per pound = 36 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford Natural PB: 16 ounces for $2.99 = 21 cents
1 teaspoon of Price Chopper cocoa powder: 8 ounces for $2.99 = 2 cents

Cost of Snack #1: $0.72
1.5 ounces of Hannaford mozzarella cheese: 16 ounce block for $3.68 = 35 cents
1 Thomas’ Bagel Thin: 8 for $2.99 = 37 cents

Cost of Snack #2: $1.60
6 oz. container of plain Chobani = 99 cents
1 cup of Great Value frozen fruit: 64 ounces for $7.98 = 61 cents

Cost of Dinner: $3.62
4 ounces Price Chopper whole wheat pasta: 15 ounces for $1 = 27 cents
2 tablespoons Filippo Berio olive oil: 25 ounces for $6.99 = 28 cents
5 ounces of shrimp: $7.99 per pound = $2.50
1 tablespoon of Price Chopper parmesan cheese: 8 ounces for $2.99 = 7 cents
4 ounces of asparagus: $1.99 per pound = 50 cents

Total for the day: $7.43. On a normal day, I wouldn’t have shrimp, but Mama was cooking and I wanted some. I’ll do this again tomorrow, and I’ll have pictures!

Perfect smoothies

Smoothies are wonderful. The options are endless. Almost any fruit combination works, and you can add anything from spinach or kale to flax seed. I make mine with greek yogurt (protein, yay!) and a combination of fresh/frozen fruit. Never ice or milk. Ice never crushes that well in my blender, plus it gets watered down. Milk always got too frothy. Yesterday I made a yummy smoothie, and I thought I’d share. What I used:

One cup of frozen blueberries

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One medium banana, sliced (my slices were slightly frozen)
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One cup fresh strawberries
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One cup plain greek yogurt and a splash (~1/4 cup) of juice to get things moving a little easier.

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Yum. Blend away!
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Perfect consistency, thickness, and it tasted damn good. 
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No added sugar (unless you count the splash of juice, which contained probably 2 grams of sugar) and full of protein, vitamins and minerals. Perfect snack!

“Is Sugar Toxic?”

Last April, 60 Minutes aired a segment about sugar consumption. Here’s the link to the segment. It’s about 14 minutes long.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n

If you don’t feel like watching it (although I recommend you should because it’s interesting), let me sum it up for you. Dr. Robert Lustig has been crusading against sugar for years. He believes sugar is a toxic substance – both table sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup – and has come to the conclusion, after numerous studies, that sugar consumption is linked to a number of health issues, from heart disease to cancer. In the 70s, it was dietary fat that had the bad rap, and doctors urged the general public to reduce fat consumption for their health. When you take the fat out a food, it isn’t going to taste good. So food manufacturers replaced fat with sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup. While sugar consumption has decreased since the 70s, HFCS consumption has made up the difference. And guess what? Heart Disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. More studies have found that sugar can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol. I’m sure 30 years down the road, scientists will come up with something else that can be blamed for obesity, heart disease, cancer; but for now, watch the segment, and just think about it.

I haven’t eliminated much from my diet with the exception of sugar and processed food. Sugar and HFCS are empty calories. They provide no nutritional value. On top of that, if I have something with sugar, like cookies or cake, I can’t stop at one serving. This past Christmas, I ate about 4 or 5 dozen cookies in 4 days. I know I’m addicted to sugar, and I avoid it when I can. I already don’t drink soda or juice so I never had to worry about that. I’ve eliminated most added and all artificial sweeteners from my diet, but if I have a plate of cookies in front of me, I know I’ll go crazy. I made peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies last week, and I averaged about 4 per day. It doesn’t sound THAT BAD but I’m all about portion control and moderation, and I have a hard time sticking to my own rules. It’s something that I’m working on.

By the way, my posts have been lacking this week, and I apologize. Between the concert on Tuesday (WHICH WAS MIND-BLOWINGLY AMAZING AND I STILL CAN’T GET OVER HOW WONDERFUL IT WAS) and getting sick and job interviews (I finally found a job, yay!), I’ve been a little distracted this week. But I’ve been writing up drafts and editing when I can, so I hope to have more posts coming soon!

Vegetarian Meatballs & Creamy Avocado Sauce

I used to LOVE a good, creamy Alfredo sauce from my favorite Italian restaurants. I miss it sometimes, and then I remember that almost any Alfredo dish from a restaurant is upwards of 1,000 calories and 60 grams of fat. I found a good alternative that is plentiful in flavor and heart-healthy fats (unlike traditional Alfredo sauce that is full of heavy cream and butter – saturated fat). Main ingredient? Avocados! Avocados ARE high in fat, but they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as well as potassium, fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 and folate. My dearest friend, Emily, and I made this sauce last week and I loved it. So I made it again today and paired it with my Vegetarian Meatballs! Florida Avocados were used both times for the sauce, but you could definitely use a California Avocado.

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What you need for the Avocado sauce:

1 Avocado
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 garlic clove
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Dash of salt and pepper

Throw everything in a food processor and blend until everything is smooth and combined. Cut up and/or mash the avocado first, which makes blending it a little easier. This makes 2 servings, so you might want to share this with someone, eat the entire batch yourself or wrap it snugly with plastic wrap touching the sauce so that it doesn’t brown. Since there’s lemon juice in the sauce, it will also help it from browning. Mix with hot whole wheat pasta (the sauce can’t really be heated up – avocados don’t do well with heat.)

(Sauce only, nutrition info for pasta not factored in)
Calories: 314
Fat: 27 grams (like I said, heart-healthy fats!)
Carbs: 14 grams
Protein: 9 grams

Now for the Vegetarian Meatballs. It’s weird that I made these because I’ve never had real meatballs, not even when I ate meat. But the idea came to me and I just went with it. They turned out yummy!

1 15.5 ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a medium sized onion, cut into wedges
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3 handfuls of fresh Kale
1 teaspoon olive oil plus more for blending
Salt and pepper to taste
One egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or old-fashioned oats

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and saute kale in frying pan. Cover with a lid to allow it to wilt slightly. You might need to add a little water in the pan to keep it from getting too crunchy. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, mash the beans with a fork or potato masher. Add the beans, onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese, wilted kale, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and a little sprinkle of olive oil in a food processor; blend until smooth. Put this mixture in the bowl you used to mash the beans. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg then add to bean mixture. Finally, add the breadcrumbs or oats and stir well to combine. Form into 8 balls. You can either make them right away or freeze them. I made these yesterday afternoon and froze them, then popped them in the oven for 15-20 mins at 350 degrees, flipping halfway through. This afternoon, I fried them in some olive oil (not calculated in nutrition information), which makes them taste even more awesome, but it increases the calories and grams of fat. Keep that in mind!

(One meatball)
Calories: 135
Fat: 3 grams
Carbs: 19 grams
Protein: 8 grams

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YUM.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Most days I have a mid-morning snack, afternoon snack and something after dinner. I (try to, at least) stay away from things like crackers and pretzels because once I start, I can’t stop. Even if I get one serving on a plate, put the box away and sit at the table, I go back for more. I’m addicted. I like to have mini-meals that fill me up so that I’m not tempted to graze until the next meal. Other times, it’s just raw fruits or vegetables, which is a great option. Fruits and vegetables with a high water content have been shown to curb hunger, which means you’re likely to eat less during your mealtimes. Despite what you may have been told, drinking water does not have the same effect of satiety that eating high water content freggies does. Lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, celery, cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower are some examples of vegetables with a high water content. Some fruits with a high-water content are strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, apples and grapefruit. So basically, snack on fruits and veggies!

When I want my mini-meals, I have to be careful. A mini-meal can turn into a big meal if you don’t pay attention to your portion sizes. Just like any other meal, I try to have a fruit or veggie and combine healthy fats, protein and carbs. Some good snack options that won’t leave you hungry an hour later:

Banana or apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Plain greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit and 1/2 ounce nuts
Veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus
Cottage cheese prepared in a number of ways – with fruit, vegetables, all sorts of things
Veggie egg white omelet
Grilled cheese sandwich (I always make mine with no butter and part-skim mozzarella)

Happy snacking!

Vegetable Lasagna

Boyfriend requested Vegetable Lasagna for dinner last night, to which I replied, “Sure, why not?” I had never made lasagna, so I had NO IDEA that it would take FOR-FREAKING-EVER between boiling the noodles, prepping the veggies and assembling the entire thing, AND I was doing dishes for what felt like a lifetime. The entire time, I kept telling him, “YOU BETTER LIKE THIS LASAGNA, OR ELSE I’M NEVER MAKING DINNER FOR YOU AGAIN.” But it was worth all of the work because it was ahhhhhh-mazing. Boyfriend thought so too. I gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back.

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I didn’t really keep track of any measurements when I made this. (Oops?) But I used an entire box of Ronzoni Healthy Harvest lasagna noodles, a 16 ounce block of whole milk mozzarella (cheaper than shredded), an entire batch of my homemade marinara (recipe posted below), maybe 4-5 ounces of reduced fat Ricotta, 2-3 cups fresh chopped broccoli, 2-3 cups kale, a small thing of sliced mushrooms, half of red bell pepper and half of a green bell pepper chopped into smaller pieces. And then I just did the whole layering business. Sauce on the bottom, noodles, veggies, sauce, cheese, noodles, veggies, sauce, cheese. Or something like that. I winged it. And it was good.

I’m not a fan of store-bought marinara, so I always make my own:
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4-1/2 cup EVOO
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and Italian seasoning in olive oil in a stock pot on low for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for at least an hour. The more it simmers, the better it will taste! Stir occasionally and add salt and pepper to taste. (Tip: if your pot isn’t very deep, invest in a splatter screen OR if you’re cheap like me and don’t want to buy one, poke lots of holes in a piece of aluminum foil and place over the pot. BOOM. Makeshift splatter screen.)

Now it’s time for some football! Between the 49ers and Falcons, I really don’t care who wins. I’ll root for either one in the Superbowl. I’m just crossing my fingers that the Ravens beat the Patriots. As a Giants fan, I would not be happy seeing the Patriots in the Superbowl.

Weight Loss Myths & Truths

Myth #1: I can lose weight as long as I’m exercising.

Think about it. Which one is harder to do – eating 300 calories or burning 300 calories through exercise? Weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% fitness. You could spend hours in the gym working your butt off but ruin all of your efforts if you aren’t mindful of what you’re eating. You simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Myth #2: Weight loss supplements are an effective way to lose weight.

I laugh every time Sensa commercials come on TV. Sprinkling some mysterious substance on your burger and french fries will not do anything to help you lose weight. These products are not regulated by the FDA, which means the companies that distribute these supplements don’t have to tell you what is in their product, they are able to make false claims about their product and the product could potentially be dangerous to take. These companies are only looking to take advantage of people who are desperate to lose weight. The one thing these supplements do is drain your wallet, so use the money you would be spending on supplements and buy a gym membership or fresh, whole foods.

Myth #3: The more I cut calories, the more weight I’ll lose.

Weight loss happens when you create a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. Creating a deficit that is too large can do more harm than good and can sabotage your effort to lose weight. Habitually under-eating and/or over-exercising can cause your metabolism to slow down and can increase your risk for an array of health issues ranging from eating disorders to heart complications. It may seem counterproductive, but the more you exercise, the more you need to eat.

Myth #4: Women should lift light weights at high repetitions to avoid bulking up.

Many women seem to think that lifting heavy weights will cause them to “bulk up” and look like scary body builders. However, women don’t have enough testosterone to get them to a bulky state. Women SHOULD lift heavier weights because it has a number of benefits. Research shows it can help burn fat and calories, even after you finish your strength training session; it will make you look leaner (not bulky!), it will help fight osteoporosis, and it can help prevent injury Lifting light weights, I’m talking light enough to easily do 20+ repetitions with little to no muscle fatigue, won’t do much to build strength. When you’re not building strength, you’re not going to get that lean physique. A lot of people don’t know how heavy they should be lifting. As a general rule of thumb, your muscles should literally feel exhausted after completing your last repetition. This should be the last repetition you can complete with good form. For heavy lifting, it should be between 6 and 10 reps. Anything below 6 reps, you might want to try lifting a little lighter. Anything higher than 10, time to increase your intensity.

Myth #5: I will always be hungry when I’m dieting.

The trick to not being hungry throughout the day is to choose nutrient dense foods at your mealtimes – vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins – that won’t leave you hungry half an hour later. Fast food, refined sugar, white flour, chips, cake, cookies, crackers, etc. won’t do much to fill you up as they’re merely empty calories, and you’re likely to be hungry again very shortly. You can easily overeat on empty calories, but try to overeat on fruits and vegetables. It’s almost impossible!

Myth #6: Since 1 pound is equal to 3,500 calories, I need to burn 3,500 calories through exercise each week to lose 1 pound.

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. You do this by reducing the amount of calories you eat and through physical exercise, everyday activities (cleaning, washing dishes, grocery shopping, etc.) and your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR, which is the amount your body burns at rest. My BMR is about 1,310. This is the amount of calories my body burns AT REST. Using the Harris Benedict Equation, I can multiply my BMR by 1.375 because of my activity level (“lightly active,” although I think I’m moderately active), which brings my daily calorie needs to 1,801. (http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/) Basically, I have to eat around 1,800 calories to maintain my weight. Realistic, healthy weight loss is about one pound per week. (Remember that creating a calorie deficit too large can sabotage your weight loss efforts.) One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, which means you need to create a weekly calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. 3,500 calories divided by 7 days a week is a 500 calorie deficit per day. With my physical activity level already accounted for, I would have to eat around 1,300 calories to lose one pound of fat each week. Keep in mind that this math may seem simple enough, and you could do ALL of the right things and still not lose weight. Our bodies can be really stubborn. Pain in the butt? I think so. But the good news is that you don’t have to burn 3,500 calories through exercise each week.

Myth #7: To reduce belly fat, I should do ab exercises, such as crunches.

You can’t spot reduce fat, especially with exercises that “target” those specific areas. Unfortunately, your body decides where the fat comes off. You can do all the crunches you want but they won’t do anything to help reduce your belly fat. If you continue to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet and within your calorie ranges, pretty soon the fat will come off. Maybe not as quickly or where you want it to come off, but it will happen.

Myth #8: Healthy food is too expensive.

“I can’t afford to eat healthy, so that’s why I still eat fast food.” WHAT? You, my friend, are kidding yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, and every time I get super irritated. Sure, if you buy out-of-season organic produce, it’s going to be expensive! You have to be smart about it. Buy what is in season and/or what’s on sale. And don’t always settle for grocery store produce! I’m lucky to be surrounded by tons of farms who were selling huge butternut squash for $1 each this past fall. At the grocery store, they were $1 per POUND. Support your local farmers by going to farmer’s markets and buying seasonal produce there. When you’re at the grocery store, use coupons when you can for products you buy. Oatmeal (the big containers of old-fashioned oats, not instant), dry black beans and rice can go a long way and can be prepared in a number of different ways. I’m going to elaborate on this at a later date and breakdown how much each food is costing me per serving, which I hope will convince all of the non-believers out there that eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive.

Myth #9: Detoxes and cleanses can help jump start my weight loss.

There is no medical evidence that suggests detoxes or cleanses removes toxins from the body. Our bodies naturally remove any toxins. The best “detox” you can do for your body is to just stop eating the junk food! There is no reason to do a cleanse or detox. Just start eating whole, clean foods, exercise and drink water. Simple as that!

High-Protein Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

I love breakfast. No really, I absolutely LOVE breakfast food, especially the ones that can be high in fat, sugar and flour: pancakes, muffins, waffles, french toast; oh yum.

Awhile back, I discovered a recipe for Blueberry Pancakes (original recipe: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=416405) that are high in protein, low in fat and have zero flour. It’s super quick and easy to make, plus you can make it the night before and cook them the next morning for breakfast. I rarely have blueberries on hand in the wintertime (you could use frozen) so when I make mine, I use a banana instead and add some peanut butter in the batter for a little more protein. And then I eat the whole batch.

For my version (no added sugar/sweetener), all you need:

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3 egg whites or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
1 banana, broken into smaller pieces
1 Tablespoon of peanut butter
Dash of cinnamon

Throw it all in a blender and process until everything is combined. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes, then cook them up like regular pancakes. You can top them with maple syrup, fresh strawberries slices, apple slices, or even more peanut butter (not included in nutritional information).

Calories: 428
Carbs: 61 grams
Fat: 12 grams
Protein: 25 grams

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I love this recipe. This is a great pre- or post-workout meal. There are so many ways you can make these, and I love experimenting with different fruit and toppings!