Mother's Day is right around the corner - and what better way to celebrate than by sharing a meal that's both nutritious and delicious? With the menu below, not only do you pamper Mom with a home-cooked meal, but you also give her the priceless gift of health.
Whether or not you use all the recipes when assembling your brunch menu - for Mother's Day or any occasion - keep these nutrition tips in mind to create a meal that's as nutritious as it is memorable:
Put protein front and center. Lean protein is not only essential for a balanced diet, it helps balance the rise in blood sugar carbohydrates cause, filling you up for longer than carbs alone. And because protein helps keep muscles strong, a lack of protein at breakfast can mean your body feels more fatigued by day's end.
Choose the right grains. The bran and fiber in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose - leading to a slower, more moderate increase in blood sugar levels. Whole wheat breads and muffins, oatmeal and even polenta can all be part of a healthy breakfast that won't let you down later in the day.
Or get your carbs from fruit. Fresh fruit - not fruit juices, which are loaded with sugar - can give a boost to your morning. Citrus and other fruits high in Vitamin C are especially good choices for a morning meal that will leave you feeling strong.
It's OK to have a glass of bubbly - but then switch to water. The citrus cooler recipe below is refreshing and flavorful, without the added calories.
These recipes were compiled from the latest Biggest Loser book, 6 Weeks to a Healthier You, along with Biggest Loser: Simple Swaps and my book Positively Ageless.
Old-Fashioned Breakfast Sausage
MAKES 8 SERVINGS (2 LINKS EACH)
Toast or fruit is not enough for breakfast. Protein plays an important part of every meal, including breakfast. Pork tenderloin is sometimes overlooked as a lean protein choice, although ground turkey can be substituted in this recipe for an equally delicious result.
1 pound pork tenderloin (or very lean ground pork)
3 tablespoons finely grated onion
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon agave nectar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Remove all visible fat from the pork. Cut the pork into 1/2-inch pieces.
Place the pork, onion, sage, thyme, garlic, agave, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until the mixture is well combined and cohesive. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour (or overnight) to allow flavors to marry. There will be about 2 cups of mixture.
Using approximately 2 tablespoons of the mixture per sausage, quickly shape into 16 patties about 2-1/2 inches in diameter (or links about 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter).
Heat the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan. Add the sausages, cover and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Remove the cover, turn the sausages, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook until the sausages are crisp and cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. (You may have to do this in two batches, depending on size of the pan.) Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
Overcooked sausage will be dry.
PORK TENDERLOIN FACTOID: It's lean. A 3-ounce serving of broiled pork tenderloin actually contains less total fat than the same weight of skinless broiled chicken breast.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER SERVING
85 calories, 11 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 20 mg omega-3s, < 1 g fiber, < 1 g sugar, 245 mg sodium
Cheesy Vegetable Frittata
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
It's easy to make this recipe your own by substituting ingredients and flavorings. If you don't like mushrooms, substitute a cup of sliced artichoke hearts. If you prefer oregano to basil, plug that in - or use both. Any way you slice it, this frittata is a delicious way to sneak antioxidant-rich herbs and vegetables into your breakfast routine.
6 egg whites
2 whole omega-3 eggs
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped tomato
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish
Lightly coat an 8" x 8" square baking pan with cooking oil spray. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine whole eggs and egg whites. Set aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
Add another teaspoon of the olive oil to the same pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until the mushrooms are cooked. Transfer to the baking sheet to cool. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan. Add the tomato and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes are cooked and most of the juices have evaporated. Transfer to the baking sheet to cool.
Whisk the reserved eggs. Add the ricotta and whisk again until smooth. Stir in the basil, salt, pepper and cooled vegetables. Pour the frittata mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or just until set. Serve immediately, garnished with the cheese and basil sprigs.
BELL PEPPER FACTOID: Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and B6. Bell peppers have a recessive gene for capsaicin, the plant chemical responsible for the heat in other peppers. This is the reason they aren't hot like the others.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER SERVING
133 calories, 1 g carbohydrates, 11 g protein, 4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 160 mg omega-3s, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 151 mg sodium
Banana Berry Muffins
These moist, delicious muffins are a great replacement for the calorie bombs sold at most bakeries and cafés. Sweet and satisfying, Banana-Berry Muffins are loaded with antioxidants and fiber. Make a few batches at once and store in the freezer until needed.
MAKES 12 (1-MUFFIN) SERVINGS
1-1/2 cups unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (see note)
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or fat-free milk
1/4 cup agave nectar or dark honey
2 ripe medium bananas, mashed with a fork
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1/2 cup pitted chopped prunes (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a nonstick 12-cup muffin pan with cooking oil spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the bran, flour, flaxseed, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl or in a blender, combine the milk, agave nectar or honey, bananas, egg, oil, and vanilla until smooth.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in 1/3 of the liquid mixture. Using a spoon, stir until smooth. Add the remaining liquid mixture and stir just until combined. Add the blueberries and prunes, if desired; stir again, but do not over mix.
Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each prepared muffin cup. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed gently in the center. Do not over bake. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan. Serve warm, or cool completely on the rack.
Note: If you can't find ground flaxseed in your local health food store, you can grind whole flaxseeds in a clean spice grinder to the consistency if cornmeal.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER 1-MUFFIN SERVING
140 calories, 4 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates (10 g sugars), 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 20 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 170 mg sodium
Carla's No-Cal Citrus Cooler
Carla Triplett of "The Biggest Loser" Season 7 never enjoyed drinking plain water, but when she added slices of lemon and lime, she liked the refreshing taste, and gradually started adding even more fruit. Because this flavored water is virtually calorie free (eating the fruit will add up to a few extra calories), she can drink as much as she likes.
This refreshing beverage is great not only with brunch, but after a tough workout.
Makes 4 (1-cup) servings
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 orange, sliced
10 red grapes
10 green grapes
4 cups water
Wash the fruit thoroughly before slicing. Add the lemon, lime, orange, grapes and water to a pitcher. Stir to mix the fruit. Refrigerate until chilled, and then serve. Add mint leaves for added flavor.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER SERVING
0 calories, 0 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 0 mg sodium