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.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
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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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
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