We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and the research certainly backs up that claim. Regularly eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism and provides you with the energy and nutrients you need to have a happy, healthy day. So, forgo those heavily-sweetened and over-fortified cereals that put your health and your kids' health at risk.
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Here are five healthy breakfasts to help you start your day off right:
1. Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Fruit
This recipe, courtesy of the New York Times' Recipes for Health, is great if you are looking for a hot breakfast. These oats can take 25 to 30 minutes to make, so if you're pressed for time, it's recommended that you make a batch that will last a few days. You can store it in the refrigerator and heat up smaller portions on the stove each morning.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (optional)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries
- 1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup, agave syrup, honey or brown sugar (more to taste)
- Fresh fruit (such as diced apples and pears, optional)
- Combine the water, milk and salt in a large, heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil. Slowly add the oats, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Stir in the butter, dried fruit and sweetener. Cover, and continue to simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent the cereal from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the oats are soft and the mixture is creamy. Serve, with added fruit stirred in if desired, or refrigerate and reheat as desired. Or freeze as follows:
- Line ice cube trays with plastic wrap. Fill each cube with oatmeal, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen solid, remove the cubes from the ice tray and freeze in a plastic bag. For each portion, thaw three or four cubes in a microwave on the defrost setting. Add additional warm milk if desired.
- Serves four.
Advance preparation: Cooked steel-cut oats will keep for five days in the refrigerator and can be reheated atop the stove or in the microwave.
Note: Although my steel-cut oats come in a container with directions for cooking them in the microwave, I don’t find the results satisfactory. The oatmeal doesn’t have the time it needs to swell and release its starch into the liquid, so the liquid never gets creamy and the oatmeal doesn’t soften properly. A better way to save time is to soak the oats overnight. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Combine the oats and salt in a bowl, and pour on the water. Leave overnight. In the morning, bring the milk to a simmer in a large saucepan, and stir in the oats and any liquid remaining in the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer 15 minutes, until creamy, stirring often.
2. Avo-Banana Kale Smoothie
This smoothie recipe is one of many on Simple Green Smoothies' website, where you can find recipes for many green smoothies, which are all made up of leafy greens, fruit, a liquid base and sometimes superfood toppings like chia or flax seeds. According to the website, these smoothies provide a natural energy boost, help maintain a healthy weight, keep you healthy all year-long, are packed with antioxidants and taste delicious.
- 2 cups kale, fresh
- 2 cups water
- 3 bananas
- 1/4 avocado
- Blend kale and water until smooth.
- Next add the remaining fruits and blend again.
- Use at least one frozen fruit to make the green smoothie cold.
- Serves two.
3. Greek Omelet
This omelet recipe from Eating Well offers a heart-healthy breakfast with eggs and nutrient-packed spinach. If you're not a fan of Greek flavors, you can substitute whatever vegetables, herbs and cheese you would like.
- 1/4 cup cooked spinach
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, (2 ounces)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Squeeze spinach to remove any excess water. Blend eggs with a fork in a medium bowl. Add feta, scallions, dill, pepper and the spinach; mix gently with a rubber spatula.
- Set a rack about 4 inches from the heat source; preheat the broiler.
- Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and tilt to distribute evenly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom is light golden, lifting the edges to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath, 3 to 4 minutes. Place the pan under the broiler and cook until the top is set, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Slide the omelet onto a platter and cut into wedges.
- Serves two.
4. Granola with Yogurt and Fruit
Avoid the sugar-laden yogurt parfaits that you can find in the store and make your own with this recipe from Health.com. Once you have made your granola, just add a yogurt that doesn't have all of the added sugar and artificial flavors that too many yogurts have these days. Or, make your own yogurt!
- 4 cups regular oats
- 2 cups puffed rice cereal (such as Arrowhead Mills)
- 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup oat bran
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 3/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- Cooking spray
- 1/4 cup dried blueberries (or other dried fruit)
- Preheat oven to 325°.
- Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
- Combine the juices in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup.
- Remove from heat; stir in honey.
- Slowly pour juice mixture over oat mixture, tossing to coat.
- Spread oat mixture evenly onto a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray.
- Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally.
- Cool slightly; stir in blueberries.
- Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.
5. Bagel with Nut Butter and Bananas
This recipe, also from Eating Well, is a great, healthy, on-the-go food for those who are crunched for time in the morning.
- 2 tablespoons natural nut butter, such as almond, cashew or peanut
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Pinch of salt
- 1 whole-wheat bagel, split and toasted
- 1 small banana, sliced
- Stir together nut butter, honey and salt in a small bowl.
- Divide the mixture between bagel halves and top with banana slices.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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