An Ode to Oatmeal

Try waking up to this everyday. That’s what I’ve been doing. I told ya’ll I love me some Alicia Keys. (Plus anyone who makes socially conscious records. Good ‘ish.)

(Though I have some fundamental issues with 50 Cent, kudos to AK and Dr. Dre for turning it into another conscious track.)

So, what does this all have to do with oatmeal? Only that I start almost everyday with oatmeal, and as I said before, I am an oatmeal-ninja-master. Truth.

Probably the vast majority of American kids eat cereal for breakfast and have been since the dawn of time (late 19th century, actually), and of course it’s what I grew up eating for breakfast except on weekends when my dad would make breakfast (usually pancakes!) for my mom, my brother, and me.

When I became a conscious omnivore, and then a conscious vegetarian, AND finally a conscious vegan, cereal was always a source of discomfort because I realized that in order to be healthier on a day-to-day basis, the most processed foods had to go.

What do I mean by “conscious?” I mean to say, that you can be a perfectly unhealthy vegan or vegetarian and still avoid animal products; there’s plenty of food marketed toward vegans and vegetarians that have labels which are entirely unreadable and devoid of nutritional content (read: the vast majority of faux meat products). This stuff messes with your hormones as much as anything else made from animal flesh and there are plenty of overweight, tired, not-so-vibrant people who side with Peta out there. That said, there are plenty of others who are very conscious, and I’d say it is one of the best aspects of the movement that is becoming popularized; this is simply the idea that whole foods and plants-based meals are the basis for good health.

So, back to breakfast and eventually oatmeal. Since cereal was problematic, I often ate eggs and toast and fruit for breakfast through much of my omnivore and vegetarian days. And, let me tell you—being a conscious omnivore or vegetarian is EASY. Being a vegan proved to be significantly harder in the beginning—not so much because of cravings for animal products (though they do happen, and like most things in life, you learn to deal and get over them… yes, it’s that simple), but because it’s very hard to think outside of the box when it comes to meal preparation. Most people (at least in the U.S.; I can’t speak for any other country here), cannot conceive of a meal without meat being the centerpiece—or cheese, in some cases. Since my beloved eggs were out of the question for easy/quick breakfasts (I’d become pretty adept at preparing them in several variations), and cereal was out of the question (for the processing factor), I had to find something different that would hold me over for a gazillion classes or a long day of work, etc.

My other issue, was in the form of protein (what else is new?), and I needed a breakfast that contained all of the macromolecules… and then some. I’ve never been one to ask for or expect less. In browsing many online sources (mainly blogs ’cause peeps is brilliant out in cyberspace!), as well as learning what foods contain what, the ultimate bowl of oatmeal was born:

There’s no one way to do it, but the general elements are these:

  • oatmeal (you coulda guessed, huh? AND it’s a protein source… ha!)
  • fruit (for sweetener and because it’s fruit!)
  • nut butter
  • cinnamon (optional)
  • vanilla extract (if you have vanilla beans just chillin’ in your kitchen, then that’s awesome, use those) (also optional)
  • hot water (just in case you didn’t know how to make oatmeal)

Now… that is a huge departure from those little packets of oatmeal you get in a variety pack that contain basically a shit-ton of sugar (an actual and accurate measurement), and freeze-dried fruit. It’s still easy to put together, and eventually you’ll do it so quickly that it will be your no-big-deal-fantastically-filling-breakfast that people will want you to make for them (truth!).

I like to kick it old school and warm the water on the stove using a kettle (I also drink a ton of tea, so it’s a two-for: I make my oatmeal and my tea all at once). After the water boils I add it little by little to my oatmeal so I don’t make it terribly mushy (you may like it that way though, so do what you do). I then add everything you see up there and then some. In the beginning of this love affair, I used bananas and then some other type of fruit—usually whatever was cheap and in season—because bananas create the perfect sweetener. If you feel you can’t live without another sweetener, add some stevia, agave, date paste, or a touch of maple syrup. Do try to ween yourself off of the extra sugar—this way you start to appreciate the flavors of everything else in the bowl and eventually the sweet of the fruit you choose is all the sweet you need.

It can get messy

In terms of nut butters, I go for organic peanut butter, raw and organic almond butter, or my new favorite: sunflower seed butter (tastes like sunflower seeds… but creamy. And for some reason, this is amazing!). This, I think, is the piéce de rèsistance: I would have never thought up putting nut butter on anything other than bread in my former life and if it weren’t for some amazing bloggers, I would not have brought myself to try it. This serves as my main source of protein and fat, and I love the texture. Nuts would work just fine also, but I encourage trying in the form of nut butter first and seeing how you like the difference (make sure nothing’s been added to these nut butters, because it’s just offensive, and putting a shit-ton of sugar in something kills its good-health-factor).

Other additions:

  • chia seeds (just put ’em in there with the oatmeal and pour hot water over both; I put tons of them in bowl in the first bowl up top)
  • hemp seeds
  • goji berries
  • cacao nibs
  • Lärabars (note: some are not vegan, like the new über bars)
  • protein powder (I use Sunwarrior)
  • whole foods optimizer (like a protein powder, but with more good ‘ish: I use Vega)
  • frozen fruit (just pop in the fridge overnight so it’s thawed by morning)
  • dash of nut milk or soy milk

So, try it out, see how it makes you feel when you start out your day this way, and prepare it with AK’s New Day in the background and dance a little.

Tomorrow I’m excited to share with you why Tuesday is my FAVORITE day of the week 🙂

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