Take Your Oatmeal to Go on Busy Mornings

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cups

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so they say. Although evidence is conflicting (as it is in proving pretty much anything), most research shows that eating a healthy breakfast helps you maintain an ideal weight, gives you energy even if you’re not a morning person, and even helps you think better (source).  Additionally, without breakfast you’re less likely to be able to consume the required amounts of key nutrients for your day.

For athletes, breakfast is crucial. Obviously, it provides you with the energy to complete your training for the day, but it also supports your body tissues. After fasting all night while you’re sleeping, your body needs protein (and carbs to help absorb it) to stop the catabolic breakdown of muscle and stimulate protein synthesis.

Okay, hopefully I’ve convinced you to eat breakfast if you don’t already. But I realize we lead busy lives, and sometimes it’s hard to find enough time in the morning for a square meal. My solution has been to bake up a batch of oatmeal muffins for the week that I can grab and go as I need to.

Now, these aren’t ordinary muffins. If you’re looking for a light, fluffy snack muffin, look elsewhere. This is basically a portablebowl of oatmeal: dense and filling enough that when paired with some fruit, should be able to keep you going until your morning snack. Plus, not only do they provide you with carbs from the oats, but I’ve sneaked in a portion of veggies (you’ll never know!) and some protein for even more satiety. Everything you need in one portable package!

Although I’m using pumpkin because of the season, I’ve also had success with using an equal amount of grated or pureed zucchini, or if all else fails, you could use applesauce or bananas (but note that the fruit purees will make these much sweeter). The added liquid sweetener is optional and I don’t use it myself, because I find that the dried fruit makes this sweet enough for me.

Finally, note that there is no fat in this recipe. When I tried adding melted coconut oil, the muffins were too crumbly. I may have been able to solve this problem by using eggs as a binder, but I wanted to keep these vegan. So my solution, which I encourage you to do too because fat is also an important element of a healthy breakfast, is to cut the muffins in half and spread a good amount of coconut oil on each half before eating. If you eat dairy, you could also use butter instead.

Pumpkin Breakfast Muffins (Gluten Free, Portable!)

Makes 6 muffins

2 cups rolled oats (use gluten free if needed)
3 scoops protein powder (I use unflavored, unsweetened rice protein)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons ground flaxseed or 3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 – 1/3 cup dried fruit (I’ve used raisins, cranberries, and diced dates, apricots, and prunes)
1 can pureed pumpkin
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey (optional, and definitely omit if your protein powder is sweetened)
1/3 – 1/2 cup milk (almond, cashew, soy, dairy, etc.), plus more if needed
Coconut oil or butter for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare 6 muffin cups. Either grease a muffin tin, line it with paper cups, or use silicone baking cups.

Mix together the oats, protein, spices, flaxseed or chia, and dried fruit. Add the pumpkin, sweetener if using, and 1/3 cup of milk; mix well. If mix seems really dry, add more milk bit by bit until you achieve a dough-like consistency. It should definitely be more dough-like than batter-like.

Scoop dough into the prepared muffin cups. Really pack the dough in; these don’t rise at all so whatever shape they go into the oven is how they will come out. I shape a nice, round muffin top (lol) with my hands for each one.

Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until lightly browned on top. If you press down on a muffin, it should feel nice and solid. If it’s squishy, bake another 5 or so minutes or until solid. Like I’ve said, these are dense, so they do require a longer baking time.

Cool and transfer to an airtight container; these store well in the refrigerator for about a week for me. Serve by cutting in half and spreading with coconut oil or butter.

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