By Amy Liu
Distinguished Young Woman of New Jersey for 2014
This year, along with basically everyone else, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat better. While I don’t really eat terribly in general, I’m more conscious of my diet now that I’m away from home and surrounded by so many new options. With ice cream, cake (some of the best I’ve ever had), cookies, beiju (a crepe made with tapioca), brigadeiro, smoothies, açaí (similar to berry sorbet), and many little fried snacks available everywhere, I have to be a little careful. So, in the spirit of playing nice with my future self and healthy eating, here’s a list of some quick, simple, and better-for-you breakfast ideas— no stove or oven required.
1. Overnight oats
One of my favorites because they’re super versatile and so easy. The idea is to let the oats soften and the flavors absorb overnight. For endless recipes from apple pie oatmeal to strawberries and cream oatmeal to tiramisu oatmeal, check out theoatmealartist.com. Any stovetop recipe can be converted to overnight oats, and there are plenty of specifically overnight recipes too.
An example recipe: Fudgy Banana and Peanut Butter Overnight Oatmeal (from theoatmealartist)
— ½ cup rolled oats
— ½ cup milk of choice
— 1 very ripe banana, mashed
— ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
— 1 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder
— 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter
— pinch of salt
— small spoonful chia seeds or flax (optional)
i. Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake or stir (the peanut butter and banana might need to be stirred for this one).
ii. Leave in the refrigerator overnight or at least for several hours.
iii. Add toppings if desired. Eat cold or heat up in the microwave (about a minute and half).
Note: add some yogurt for a thicker, creamier texture. Chopped dates also work really well in overnight oatmeal as a sweetener.
2. Yogurt with toppings
I like my yogurt thick and a little tart, so I use Greek, but you’re just looking for something that isn’t loaded with sugar. Some things that work well as toppings are fruit (dried, fresh, or frozen), nuts, coconut chips (I get them from Trader Joe’s but you could make them at home with an oven), and peanut butter/chocolate chips. Granola or cereal that isn’t super sugary can also be good. If you’re not using a single serving container, doing it parfait style just makes everything taste better.
3. Chia seed pudding
Another refrigerator recipe with a lot of room for adaptation. A basic recipe:
— ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons raw chia seeds
— 2 cups milk (regular, almond, coconut, soy)*
*For a thicker pudding, replace 1 cup milk with 1 cup yogurt
— 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
— 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or comparable sweetener)
— pinch of salt
i. Place the chia seeds in a bowl. Add the other ingredients and whisk to combine.
ii. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (but preferably overnight), stirring occasionally.
iii. Stir, top, and eat!
My favorite way to make this is with coconut milk and vanilla Greek yogurt, leaving out the syrup. See some possible toppings under yogurt. I don’t really like frozen fruit in it, but blending fruit and stirring it in is an option. (Be careful with berries, though, as they usually make the pudding more tart and the seeds will change the texture.) Since the chia seeds themselves don’t have a flavor, pretty much anything goes. If you’re feeling fancy, try combinations like berries and lemon zest, bananas and cinnamon, mango with coconut and dark chocolate, or blood orange and pistachios. And again, if you’re not eating it straight from the bowl, parfait it up!
A classic for a reason. I like thick smoothies, so I usually just use Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and spinach, but the possibilities are endless. Blend in oats for a heartier smoothie, peanut butter for creaminess, or milk (of choice) for a thinner consistency. A common smoothie here in Brazil (that pretty much blew my mind) is avocado! It’s super rich and creamy with a nice light flavor on its own, but I think it would be amazing to amp up any green smoothie.
5. Upgraded oats
I’m talking about instant oats, but if you can make stovetop oats then power to you. Anyway, I choose the extra fiber kind because I honestly can’t taste the difference, and usually stick to plain, sweetening it myself, or brown sugar. After the oatmeal is done cooking in the microwave, I pour in some frozen fruit (I like using a berry blend) and stir. The heat of the oatmeal thaws the berries and the result is like a berry pie oatmeal. Yum. See other possible stir-ins/toppings under yogurt.
6. Avocado toast
Or, I guess, avocado warm bread if you don’t have a toasting device. Smashed or sliced, avocado is wonderfully rich and silky, and its mild flavor means you can take it any of about a million different ways. Try salsa or pico, cheese, spice (chile flakes, spicy oil, hot sauce, etc.), smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, olive oil, honey, or just keep it simple with salt and pepper. If you have a stove, egg or bacon is also a classic.
I hope this was helpful in some way. I just really like talking about food.
Amy Liu is a college freshman at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey majoring in Chemical Engineering. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, Amy was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of New Jersey for 2014. Learn more about Amy here!