November 2, 2010

Porridge (Oatmeal) Toppings: Healthy Flavours for a Winter Breakfast

Winter is back! So it is time to put some thought into the most important meal of the day – breakfast. There is really no better way to get yourself ready for braving the cold outdoors than a bowl of porridge (aka oatmeal). Porridge is not considered one of the most exciting foods available to us...but with a few additions, your breakfast can be turned into a taste-filled treat. Be careful about by buying flavoured porridge, as this can often be high in sugar. Instead, why not cook porridge plain and add your own flavours? See a recipe for cooking porridge here. Some of the best porridge additions include...

Maple Syrup: Simply the best thing that you can put on porridge. I opt for the number 2 strength, which has a gorgeous caramel taste. A tablespoon of this per standard serving of porridge (approx. 45g dry) is enough to add that sweet taste. If you usually opt for honey, maple syrup makes for a nice alternative. It is lower in calories that honey, and contains more minerals. Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of zinc – both are good for heart health and your immune system. But rather than go it alone with maple syrup, why not try its classic accompaniment too – pecan nuts?

Pecan Nuts: Another super porridge addition. Toast pecan nuts, chop them into small pieces and sprinkle over your porridge. Toast by placing under a grill, or if you have a George-Foreman style grill, that will work too. Keep a close eye on them; they can turn from toasted to burnt pretty quickly...Pecan nuts are packed with health benefits – they are a source of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants as well as an excellent course of Vitamin E, a good source of several B-group vitamins, and contain good amounts of manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc. All in all, a super food!

Almonds: Sprinkle flaked almonds on top of your porridge for an alternative healthy nut. These taste great on porridge and have similarly wonderful nutritious value as pecan nuts.  

Dark Muscavado Sugar: Sugar’s dark twin sister, is actually healthier for you! Muscavado sugar (aka Barbados or moist sugar) is a form of unrefined sugar. It contains the nutrients that are stripped away to make white sugar, and it contains fewer calories, further, it is better for your teeth! So if sugar is your usual porridge addition, why not switch over? Dark Muscavado sugar has a wonderful toffee-like tasty making your breakfast sweet but healthier.

Berries: Berry compote is a common addition to porridge; unfortunately, it can be quite expensive and quite high in sugar. An alternative is to add fresh berries to your porridge to gain that sweet berry taste, as well as all the nutritional goodness. This works well with raspberries and blueberries.  If you want to cook the berries, then add them halfway through cooking your porridge and continue as normal. If you just want to soften them, then add the berries at the very end and stir into the porridge. 

Natural Yogurt: My boyfriend often adds 1-2 tablespoons of natural yogurt to his porridge when it is cooked. Full-fat or low-fat yogurt will work. This adds a nice coolness to the porridge as well as a creamy texture when you stir it in, but without the bad fats of cream :-) This is also a good way to ensure you get calcium, especially if you make the porridge with water. 

So get cooking! Porridge is a superfood, so what better way to start a winter's day? 

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