Moving Forward in Bites and Bounds

It’s only Wednesday and already I feel as if I’ve done enough this week to warrant a weekend of rest (which is not happening anytime soon, thanks to my recurring insomnia and realization that I’ve tried to cram an entire February of fun into about four days). Between school and my internship, running and yoga, finding time with friends and working on my Junior League volunteer commitment, and recently adding November Project to the mix, life’s been a whirlwind. But like Ferris Bueller (my film hero) tells us, life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. Not happening for this girl!

So I’m taking the time this week to tackle a few new challenges. I’m working to raise awareness during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I can’t fully describe how healing it was to be able to write about my own experience on this blog, and to have that post hit an all-time high of readership. Even if just one person read it and was encouraged to seek help or to come forward with their own story, I would feel like I was able to make a difference, taking past pain and turning it into something positive and far greater than myself. It’s already been so much more. And as I said in that post, part of moving forward with my life is staying healthy and happy so that I have the energy to enjoy new experiences that I never would have thought possible. To that end, I’m running through the winter (race you to spring!) and hosting my first dinner party, but keeping what’s most important at the forefront of my mind all the while.

 

Salt lasers across the metatarsals

Salt lasers across the metatarsals

Staying motivated this winter has been easier than expected. I don’t mind the cold as much when I’m out on the run. I guess it’s because I’m constantly in motion and keeping my heart rate up in a way that even a brisk walk won’t do (and I walk A LOT). But even I’m getting tired of all the white and grey stuff falling out of the sky and turning to slush on city streets. This morning, I was confused because I thought my sneakers suddenly didn’t match – turns out, the white lines I had begun to think were part of the design are actually salt stains. So I’m happy we finally had a few days above freezing, looking forward to spring, and getting ready to start my runs under a rising sun (though the sunrise is magical!)

 

 

Bakery on Main Carrot Cake Oatmeal goes well with apple spice tea! I also had a Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin on the side...so many oodles of delicious oats.

Bakery on Main Carrot Cake Oatmeal goes well with apple spice tea! I also had a Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin on the side…so many oodles of delicious oats.

But my experiences didn’t just lead me to healing via exercise and eating right. They also taught me the importance of rest and relaxation. There’s a difference between being a bit of a sleepyhead, rolling out of bed anyway, and going out for a pre-school jog or meeting the November Project tribe to start my day off right, and truly pushing myself past the brink of exhaustion. Yesterday I woke up to the latter kind of feeling. So instead of going for 5 miles as planned, I stayed under the covers a little while longer, had a bowl of oatmeal with berries and some tea, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading off to my internship. It was the best choice I could have made, and this morning I woke up refreshed and ready to get outside and greet the sun.

 

 

That leisure time also gave me a few moments to go over the menu for my dinner party on Saturday. I’ll be serving three courses, making most of the food myself (a few friends are bringing side dishes, but most will provide the wine and laughter!) As I sat there going over recipes and making a shopping list to pick up any ingredients missing from my cupboard, I realized just how far I’ve come. I could never have cooked for other people when I was suffering, the thought of being around so much food was actually frightening, and baking as often as I do now? With all the taste testing? It was out of the question. A few years ago, I read Brave Girl Eating. The author’s daughter struggled with anorexia, and while I don’t have a family that understood my experience in the way that hers did, the idea that food is just too fraught with complications in our culture struck me. We literally have policy debates going on about food, which is necessary but sadly so. While I don’t think that food necessarily equals love, I do think that food is food, and it should be whatever we want it to be – a source of quelling our hunger or experiencing new tastes or something that brings us together with other people. No one should have to feel like their decisions about food are anyone else’s to make, or like they have to justify eating or not eating anything. Hungry for an apple? Eat one! (Even when others think it’s too “healthy” – that’s why I try to share as much of my way of life as possible, because I definitely eat fruits and veggies alongside baked goods and ice cream.) Want some steak frites? Have that instead! Not hungry at noon? Eat lunch at two! Do what works for you, and listen to your own body and mind. This is what I make up my mind to do every day, and so far, so good.

 

The reservoir may be frozen, but I'm secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia...)

The reservoir may be frozen, but I’m secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia…)

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Oodles of Oats

One of my favorite post-run breakfasts in winter is a warming bowl of oatmeal. All it takes is some good gluten-free oats, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and some cinnamon to make a delicious dish. Sometimes I’ll toss in a little flaxseed, a few berries or bits of chopped apple, but slow-cooked stovetop oatmeal needs no fancy garnish!

 

But sometimes, despite my best efforts, I simply don’t have the extra few minutes necessary to stand over the stove. Life moves pretty fast, and while of course I try to stop and look around so I don’t miss it, there have been mornings where I can’t curb the pace for anything – I need to get in from a run, shower, and get back out the door! In times like these, I turn to pre-packaged oatmeal. Yes, it’s expensive, and there are added ingredients you’d prefer not to include when fueling your body, but I tend to use the 90/10 rule – if I’m cooking and focusing on fresh ingredients 90 percent of the time, there’s a little wiggle room the other 10 percent. And if instant oatmeal is my convenient indulgence…well, there are far worse indulgences in this world!

 

The options for certified gluten-free instant oatmeal have expanded over the past few years. I’ve tested a few, and have a few thoughts to share in case you find yourself in a breakfast bind and in need of guidance. I tend to go for the flavored versions when it’s instant, because often I am literally making my oatmeal in a to-go mug when I get to that point and can’t bring all my add-ins along with me. So without further ado, the three contenders:

 

Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!

Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!

 

 

Glutenfreeda:

Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal packets come in six flavors – natural, apple cinnamon, banana maple, maple raisin, cranberry cinnamon, and strawberry brown sugar. I’ve tried them all, and my favorite is definitely the banana maple (perhaps because it reminds me of the taste of my marvelous muffins!) The apple cinnamon is also good. The strawberry brown sugar comes in third place, and the maple raisin and cranberry cinnamon finish off the podium simply because I couldn’t really taste the flavors – which is fine, I like plain oatmeal, but when you’re expecting something else it can come off as bland. I am also not a fan of raisins, so I’m a little biased. The natural flavor is definitely the best plain instant oatmeal, but I’m not including it in the flavor rankings for obvious reasons!

 

Glutenfreeda Banana Maple Oatmeal with Flax (I had eaten half the bowl already!)

Glutenfreeda Banana Maple Oatmeal with Flax (I had eaten half the bowl already!)

 

Banana Maple with Flax: stirred properly, there is a taste of real maple syrup, and there is a healthy helping of small chunks of dried banana as well. For best results, mix the oatmeal with hot water and leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes; it soaks up the liquid to create a heartier portion just like slow-cooking oats. It’s a pretty thick consistency, which I like – I hate runny oatmeal!

 

 

 

 

Bakery on Main:

Bakery on Main instant oatmeal packets also come in six flavors – traditional, apple pie, blueberry scone, carrot cake, maple multigrain, and strawberry shortcake. I’ve tried the traditional, apple pie, and maple multigrain. I favored the apple pie over the maple multigrain, but for a good comparison have shown the maple here. The oatmeal is not quite as thick when adding the same amount of liquid and letting the oats absorb it for the same amount of time, but it is still very creamy and filling for instant oats.

Bakery on Main: Maple Multigrain

Bakery on Main: Maple Multigrain

 

 

Maple Multigrain: Not quite as much of a taste of maple syrup, but definitely still a good flavor and much better than being overly sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

Chex Gluten Free:

Chex cereal is great for gluten-free folks who still like some crunch to add to their morning bowl of milk or yogurt. I love classic Corn Chex, and some of the newer flavors are great (I hate that they don’t have plain Honey Chex, though – Honey Nut is not for the nut-free!) So I was excited to see the new Chex gluten-free instant oatmeal on shelves. (Psst…Chex also makes quick-cooking rolled oats, which are running a close second to my Country Choice rolled oats for use in some of my recipes). The instant oatmeal packets come in Original, Apple Cinnamon, and Maple Brown Sugar. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, Chex Apple Cinnamon and Maple Brown Sugar are the way to go.

Chex Maple Brown Sugar GF Oatmeal

Chex Maple Brown Sugar GF Oatmeal

Compared to Glutenfreeda and Bakery on Main, Chex Maple Brown Sugar definitely had the strongest maple taste. If you don’t like overly sweet oats, stick with the original flavor or try a subtler oatmeal from one of the other brands. The oats were thicker than average for instant oatmeal, but did not approach the same consistency as the other brands using the same amount of liquid (in fact, I had to spoon some out to prevent eating oatmeal soup). The packet contains 45g (relative to 48g for Glutenfreeda flavored oatmeal and 50g for Bakery on Main) so it isn’t a substantial difference, but I’d advise reducing the amount of water or milk added by a tablespoon or two.

 

 

To sum it up: all three brands offer some great options, and which one you prefer is going to depend on your personal tastes – do you like your oatmeal thick or do you prefer it to be a little more spoonable? Sweeter or subtler hints of flavor? Portion size? All good to consider! Personally, the win for me has to be Glutenfreeda – I just love thicker oatmeal, and it definitely hits the target in that regard. But I really like the others as well, and honestly I will probably buy whichever brand is on sale when I’m in need of some grab-and-go oats. So, for now…”oats-ver” and out!

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Oodles of Oats: A Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal Taste Test

One of my favorite post-run breakfasts in winter is a warming bowl of oatmeal. All it takes is some good gluten-free oats, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and some cinnamon to make a delicious dish. Sometimes I’ll toss in a little flaxseed, a few berries or bits of chopped apple, but slow-cooked stovetop oatmeal needs no fancy garnish!

 

But sometimes, despite my best efforts, I simply don’t have the extra few minutes necessary to stand over the stove. Life moves pretty fast, and while of course I try to stop and look around so I don’t miss it, there have been mornings where I can’t curb the pace for anything – I need to get in from a run, shower, and get back out the door! In times like these, I turn to pre-packaged oatmeal. Yes, it’s expensive, and there are added ingredients you’d prefer not to include when fueling your body, but I tend to use the 90/10 rule – if I’m cooking and focusing on fresh ingredients 90 percent of the time, there’s a little wiggle room the other 10 percent. And if instant oatmeal is my convenient indulgence…well, there are far worse indulgences in this world!

 

The options for certified gluten-free instant oatmeal have expanded over the past few years. I performed a gluten free instant oatmeal taste test and have a few thoughts to share in case you find yourself in a breakfast bind and in need of guidance. I tend to go for the flavored versions when it’s instant, because often I am literally making my oatmeal in a to-go mug when I get to that point and can’t bring all my add-ins along with me. So without further ado, the three contenders:

 

Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!

Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!

 

 

Glutenfreeda:

Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal packets come in six flavors – natural, apple cinnamon, banana maple, maple raisin, cranberry cinnamon, and strawberry brown sugar. I’ve tried them all, and my favorite is definitely the banana maple (perhaps because it reminds me of the taste of my marvelous muffins!) The apple cinnamon is also good. The strawberry brown sugar comes in third place, and the maple raisin and cranberry cinnamon finish off the podium simply because I couldn’t really taste the flavors – which is fine, I like plain oatmeal, but when you’re expecting something else it can come off as bland. I am also not a fan of raisins, so I’m a little biased. The natural flavor is definitely the best plain instant oatmeal, but I’m not including it in the flavor rankings for obvious reasons!

 

Glutenfreeda Banana Maple Oatmeal with Flax (I had eaten half the bowl already!)

Glutenfreeda Banana Maple Oatmeal with Flax (I had eaten half the bowl already!)

 

Banana Maple with Flax: stirred properly, there is a taste of real maple syrup, and there is a healthy helping of small chunks of dried banana as well. For best results, mix the oatmeal with hot water and leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes; it soaks up the liquid to create a heartier portion just like slow-cooking oats. It’s a pretty thick consistency, which I like – I hate runny oatmeal!

 

 

 

 

Bakery on Main:

Bakery on Main instant oatmeal packets also come in six flavors – traditional, apple pie, blueberry scone, carrot cake, maple multigrain, and strawberry shortcake. I’ve tried the traditional, apple pie, and maple multigrain. I favored the apple pie over the maple multigrain, but for a good comparison have shown the maple here. The oatmeal is not quite as thick when adding the same amount of liquid and letting the oats absorb it for the same amount of time, but it is still very creamy and filling for instant oats.

Bakery on Main: Maple Multigrain

Bakery on Main: Maple Multigrain

 

 

Maple Multigrain: Not quite as much of a taste of maple syrup, but definitely still a good flavor and much better than being overly sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

Chex Gluten Free:

Chex cereal is great for gluten-free folks who still like some crunch to add to their morning bowl of milk or yogurt. I love classic Corn Chex, and some of the newer flavors are great (I hate that they don’t have plain Honey Chex, though – Honey Nut is not for the nut-free!) So I was excited to see the new Chex gluten-free instant oatmeal on shelves. (Psst…Chex also makes quick-cooking rolled oats, which are running a close second to my Country Choice rolled oats for use in some of my recipes). The instant oatmeal packets come in Original, Apple Cinnamon, and Maple Brown Sugar. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, Chex Apple Cinnamon and Maple Brown Sugar are the way to go.

Chex Maple Brown Sugar GF Oatmeal

Chex Maple Brown Sugar GF Oatmeal

Compared to Glutenfreeda and Bakery on Main, Chex Maple Brown Sugar definitely had the strongest maple taste. If you don’t like overly sweet oats, stick with the original flavor or try a subtler oatmeal from one of the other brands. The oats were thicker than average for instant oatmeal, but did not approach the same consistency as the other brands using the same amount of liquid (in fact, I had to spoon some out to prevent eating oatmeal soup). The packet contains 45g (relative to 48g for Glutenfreeda flavored oatmeal and 50g for Bakery on Main) so it isn’t a substantial difference, but I’d advise reducing the amount of water or milk added by a tablespoon or two.

 

 

To sum it up: all three brands offer some great options, and which one you prefer is going to depend on your personal tastes – do you like your oatmeal thick or do you prefer it to be a little more spoonable? Sweeter or subtler hints of flavor? Portion size? All good to consider! Personally, the win for me has to be Glutenfreeda – I just love thicker oatmeal, and it definitely hits the target in that regard. But I really like the others as well, and honestly I will probably buy whichever brand is on sale when I’m in need of some grab-and-go oats. So, for now…”oats-ver” and out!

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.