GRAIN-FREE BREAKFAST BOWL + MY GUT STORY
Ever get crampy after eating quinoa or uncomfortably bloated after a big bowl of forbidden rice? How about sleepy after a bowl of oatmeal? Compromised gut health, lack of sufficient digestive enzymes or mindless speed-eating (womp) can make whole grains difficult to digest for a lot of people (including myself). They're also life-giving to people who tolerate carbohydrates well, but life-sucking for those who don't. Case in point: more than 1/2 a serving of oats timed poorly makes me fall asleep standing up.
Though soaking can make grains like oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa a little easier to digest, I like to have grain-free alternatives on hand when working with clients that don't tolerate grains well, are on gut repair protocols, or for those with digestive disorders. Riced veggies or sweet potatoes work wonders in lunch & dinner meals like curry or Buddha bowls, but what to do at breakfast time?
Cue this warm and cozy breakfast bowl. It boasts a well-rounded nutrient profile, a super satisfying texture and all the coziness offered by the cereal grain alternatives. P.S. It's free from added sugar and loaded with fiber and healthy fats so it's also the perfect way to feel full, satisfied and energized without negatively impacting your blood sugar or hormones!
THE RECIPE: GUT-LOVIN GRAIN-FREE BREAKFAST BOWL
WHAT YOU'LL NEED for the base:
- 1 Apple, riced (pulse in food processor until rice-sized pieces)
- 1 Cup frozen riced cauliflower OR chopped zucchini, riced (see above)
- 1 medium carrot, riced (see above)
- 3/4 Cup unsweetened nut milk or milk of your choice
- 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon whole chia seeds
- 1 Tablespoon ground flax
- 1 Tablespoon shelled hemp seeds
- Optional: 2 scoops Further Food Collagen (use MISFITWELLNESS10 at checkout for a 10% discount)
- 1-2 Tablespoons tahini or nut butter of your choice
- NOTE: you may have to omit or decrease the seeds and flax if you're in early stages of gut repair or have severe digestive disorders like Crohn's or IBD. If that's the case, also consider using zucchini over cauliflower in the base.
- Combine all base ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook covered for 5 minutes.
- Add mix-ins and stir well. Leave uncovered and simmer on low for about 5 minutes, or until fruit and veggies achieve desired tenderness and liquid is absorbed.
- If you like your "cereal" softer and/or milky, add additional liquid and simmer further.
- Remove from heat and stir in nut or seed butter of your choice (I LOVE tahini or sunflower seed butter in this). Top with a small handful of fresh fruit and additional seeds if your tummy does well with seeds!
Just a few years ago my gut was in such an awful state that I could no longer tolerate my beloved daily salads (most raw veggies left me severely bloated and crampy), and most whole nuts and grains were off limits too (if I wanted to avoid stabbing pains in my abdomen). Not only was it extremely uncomfortable, I had to get VERY creative with finding fulfilling alternatives to the healthy foods I had come to love.
The most frustrating part of this was the fact that I thought I had done everything right with my diet - I had cut out most processed foods, reduced sugar, eliminated caffeine, dined out less, ate all the veggies. I was gluten and dairy free, save for the very occasional "drunk/stressed enough to eat pizza" night. But as the saying goes, you can eat all the kale in the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be healthy.
It's probably a miracle my gut held up for as long as it did. I had survived on a diet packed with refined foods through most of my childhood (moving from Ireland to America at the age of 5 took me off the farm and into the candy store, very literally). Through adolescence and my teen years, I was a chronic yo-yo dieter who struggled with heavily disordered eating. I made dramatic changes to clean up my diet and lifestyle between my early 20's and early 30's with pretty dramatic results, but dropping 30 pounds and transforming your appearance is truly a double-edged sword. I felt comfortable in my skin for the first time in my entire life, like a swan that took 20-something years to blossom, but I also became pretty obsessed with making sure I never turned back into the chubby duckling. I frequently under-ate and stressed about what went into my body, which is almost as unhealthy as a poorly balanced diet.
By the time my early 30's came around, I think I was a bit of a ticking time bomb in a lot of ways. The strain I had put on my organs and digestive system in 20+ years of battling food and my own body didn't exactly set me up for resilience (and my genetics haven't exactly done that either). I was putting too much pressure on myself to maintain what was probably an unnatural body for me, and most certainly an unnatural lifestyle for anyone (stressful career, excessive amounts of travel, being everything to everyone). With a weakened constitution and all the added stress, I was in no way mentally prepared or physically equipped to cope with back surgery, a disheartening fertility diagnosis, my parents' divorce, a mass exodus of my support system from the city, and getting married - all within about 18 months.
I could have eaten more kale, done more yoga and drank more smoothies than anyone in the world, but the old battle wounds left unhealed and the misguided lifestyle choices were destined to catch up with me sooner or later. And they unfortunately did when I needed my strength and health the most. They manifested in my gut (dysbiosis, leaky gut) and a whole host of other places when everything came to a head around the same time. Would things have played out differently if I had taken better care of myself through the years? I can't say for sure, but I can say I will never again wait until after the bomb explodes to re-wire as necessary.
It's taken me a few years to slowly but surely re-build, restore and reinoculate my gut (and maybe my sanity too). It's still a work in progress, as is my relationship with my body in general. I'm back to eating mixing bowl sized salads and can tolerate nuts and seeds again, but I still have to watch it with the grains. Thankfully, when I do consume (soaked) grains occasionally, I don't experience the horrible pains I did a few years ago. That's partially because of better bacteria balance and decreased permeability thanks to a gut healing protocol, but I also know it's due to decreased stress around food and life in general. How do I know that? Because I've finally learned that the only way we can achieve balance in our bodies is by creating more of it our lives too.