Few breakfast foods are as nostalgic as pancakes. There’s nothing like the sound of a sizzling skillet and that unmistakable buttery-sweet aroma to make you feel like a kid on Saturday morning. The more drenched in syrup, slathered with butter and sprinkled with chocolate chips the better. It didn’t matter back then, your waistline was immune to white flour, and refined sugar was no match for the invincible energy of youth. How things change.
With age comes more awareness of how food affects your body. Somewhere along the line, pancakes go from being a care-free delight to a guaranteed food coma that lands you back on the couch. And what was once the star of weekend breakfast has earned a reputation for being a heavy, blood-sugar rollercoaster
High-carbohydrate meals can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar when there isn’t enough fiber, protein or fat to put the brakes on. The quick jolt of energy is short-lived as insulin is released in the bloodstream to bring sugar levels back down. After eating simple carbs, they typically fall too low and leave you feeling sluggish, cranky, and ironically, craving more sugar. It’s a vicious cycle that often leads to weight gain, and has demonized carbohydrates in the eyes of those looking for a way out. But unless you eat them in excess, carbohydrates aren’t really the problem. It’s the lack of adequate nutrients to slow down their absorption and help stabilize insulin.
That said, it’s time to give your favorite childhood breakfast food a make-over. Luckily, it’s easy to make adult-style pancakes—and I don’t mean add booze. Refined sugar and flour are the low-energy culprits, so upgrade your flapjacks with whole-food ingredients. Bananas make a great natural sweetener and are a good source of fiber, along with whole grain oats. Add a scoop of protein powder to make them an ideal work-out food, and top with fresh berries for a dose of antioxidants. You can take them up a notch further by mixing in chia or flax seeds and some coconut oil for plenty of healthy fats to defend against an energy crash.
Who knew pancakes could deliver this much nutrition, let alone be considered a fitness food? And it’s pretty tough to mess them up—something I always appreciate—so feel free to try different combinations with other healthy ingredients. One more suggestion—top them with almond butter or Greek yogurt to add even more protein and avoid the sugar from syrup.
-1 ripe banana
-1 scoop vanilla protein powder
-¼ cup whole grain oat flour (or rolled oats processed in a blender)
-1 Tb chia seeds
-2 eggs, beaten
-2 Tb coconut oil, divided
-¼ cup almond milk
-2 Tb slivered almonds
-Fresh berries for topping
-Scoop of almond butter (optional)
-Mash banana in a large bowl
-Add protein powder, oat flour, and chia seeds, stir until well combined
-Beat in eggs, add 1 Tb melted coconut oil
-Use almond milk to thin batter
-Heat 1 Tb coconut oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat
-Add batter in small circles, about ¼ cup each, sprinkle almonds into batter while cooking
-Flip once bubbles form on surface, or after about 30 seconds, until lightly browned on both sides
-Top with berries or scoop of almond butter
Image: Kurman Communications, Inc., CC-BY
Ashley Sigmund is Paste’s Recipe for Fitness columnist. She is a Denver-based RDN with ten years in the medical field helping patients and clients improve their health.