They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
I know this is meant to be a metaphor, but it's also true that what goes into your stomach has a direct impact on your heart.
Believe me, I know this firsthand. You see, when I went to see the doctor a year ago for a routine checkup, I discovered I had high blood pressure. And not just a little high. I'm talking about the this-girl-should-be-on-meds kind of high.
I couldn't even blame crappy genetics, because that kind of thing doesn't run in my family... it was just several years of bad eating habits and a couch potato lifestyle finally catching up with me. I wasn't exactly chowing down on Big Macs every day, but I'd still been eating way too many donut breakfasts, pizza lunches and steak dinners when I should have been hitting the salad bar instead.
That was my come-to-Jesus moment. I almost literally changed my habits overnight. Nothing drastic, mind you - I just started exercising more regularly, replaced my sugary treats with fresh fruits and carrot sticks, made a point of eating salad with every meal (and occasionally had a salad *as* my meal), and cut back on my sodium intake.
I don't like to use the word "diet" for what I did, because that's not really what it was. It doesn't have a catchy name (unless you count "eating better"), and it's not likely to get me a niche blog with a zillion followers and a best-selling book contract. I just ate less bad stuff, ate more good stuff, and moved a whole lot more.
Whatever you want to call it, though, it works - at least for me. Within 3 months of that fateful appointment, I'd dropped 10 lbs and had gotten my blood pressure back within normal limits. More importantly, more than a year later, we're still holding steady.
One of the first things I did after that first appointment was read a ton of articles and studies about eating a heart-healthy diet. There's a lot of advice out there, good and bad and occasionally totally off-the-wall, so I won't bore you with it all.
However, one of the most interesting tidbits I did find was that eating a healthy, high-fiber breakfast has been shown to drastically reduce your risk of heart disease, especially when you combine it with a healthier overall diet which includes lots of fruits and vegetables, and regular cardio-vascular exercise. (In other words, that whole "eating better" thing I just mentioned.)
In other words, when your mother nagged you to eat breakfast because it's good for you, she was totally onto something.
That's why I now make a point of bringing a healthy breakfast to work every day. In particular, I've become a big fan of oatmeal, because it's easy to make a big batch on the weekend and then grab individual servings as I dash out the door in the morning. Because I'm lazy like that. Plus it's as tasty as it is healthy, especially when you prepare it with chocolate almond milk and a few spoonfuls of cocoa.
And while I couldn't find a single study to support this theory, I still believe that starting your day with something chocolatey is totally good for you - if not for your heart, then at the very least for your stomach.
Which, as I've discovered, is still pretty darn close.
(PS: If you have a family history of heart disease, please get a check-up. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)
Make-Ahead Chocolate Oatmeal
- Total Time: 35 mins
- Yield: 5 1x
This make-ahead chocolate oatmeal recipe provides you with five servings of oatmeal. Pack it into mason jars for an easy grab-and-go breakfast in the morning - just reheat it for 1-2 minutes in the microwave for a hot, heart-healthy breakfast.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups chocolate almond milk
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp sugar or honey
- 1 tbsp flax meal
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- In a medium-sized pot, bring the water and almond milk to a boil. Stir in the steel-cut oats, cocoa powder, flax meal, sugar and salt, and reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 mins or so, until the liquid is thickened and the oats are tender and ever-so-slightly chewy. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (The oatmeal might still look a little runny at this point, but don't worry - it'll continue thickening up as it cools.)
- Spoon the hot oatmeal into five 250ml mason jars, and set aside to cool, uncovered. Once the jars are completely cooled, seal them up with lids and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
- To serve, simply microwave the uncovered jars for 1-2 minutes on high or until warmed through, then dig in!
This recipe is quite delicious on its own, but plain chocolate can get a little boring after a day or two - to shake up your routine, try topping off the reheated oatmeal with a sliced banana and some sliced almonds, a spoonful of peanut butter, roughly chopped dried apricots, or a handful of fresh berries.
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Category: Breakfast
Today we are joining together to help raise awareness for Heart Disease.
Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic lost her Mom to heart disease when her mother was 47, and Kim was 15. Each year on the day her Mom passed, she shares stories and photos of her Mom.
This year she's joined forces with Jen of Juanita's Cocina, whose life was also touched by heart disease when her Stepfather had a heart attack. Jen's Stepfather is alive and well more than a decade later, and for that, Jen is thankful every day.
The ladies got in touch with other bloggers to ask them to share their own stories about how heart disease has touched their lives. So today we share stories and recipes from our hearts to yours, in memory and honour of Momzie, Kim's Mom. We hope you will share your stories with us today as well.
Check out all of the #cookingfromtheheart recipes:
Spicy Oven Fries by Cravings of a Lunatic
Healthy Snacking with Radish Dip by Juanita's Cocina
Arugula, Walnut Pesto by Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
Farro, Apple & Pecan Salad by It's Yummilicious
Chicken-Quinoa Burgers with an Avocado Yogurt Sauce by The Spiffy Cookie
Pasta House Wilted Salad by Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
Gooey Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Bars by The Cooking Actress
Dark Chocolate Covered Walnuts by All Day I Dream About Food
Mini Pear Walnut Crisps with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce by Chocolate Moosey
Kung Pao Chicken Tacos by The Dutch Baker's Daughter
Honey Soy Glazed Salmon by Curry and Comfort
Apple Walnut Spinach Salad by Magnolia Days
Broiled Salmon Gyros with Cucumber Feta Yogurt Dip by Damn Delicious
Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Hoisin Flounder by Taking on Magazines
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus by The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
Veggie Nachos by Dine & Dish
Cheesy Quinoa and Asparagus Bake by Hungry Couple
Ahi Tuna Salad by Noshing with the Nolands
Canapes of Apricot, Goat Cheese, Almonds and Rosemary by Cook the Story
Thai Chicken Soup by From Cupcakes to Caviar
Italian Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf by Rachel Cooks
Black Bean Quesadillas by Pastry Chef Online
Sautéed Rataouille with Quinoa by Whipped
Polenta Rounds with Apples and Cheddar by Diethood
Thank you so much for this recipe! I don't like almond milk so I just used another tablespoon of cocoa powder. I also added a full tablespoon of vanilla (I love the stuff!) and brown sugar instead of honey. Can't wait to try it with bananas and peanut butter. It's for breakfast tomorrow but I want to eat it tonight, it's absolutely delicious.
I look forward to making this; it looks delicious. Where did you get the mason jars? They are the perfect size for taking to work.
Isabelle Boucher says
I hope you enjoy it, Andrea! The jars in the photos are a wide-mouth 250ml jar by Bernardin, which I picked up at my local hardware store (and yes, they're absolutely the perfect size for bringing to work... I also use them for soups and stews in the wintertime!)
I'm not sure if you're in Canada or the US, but if it's the latter, I think Ball or Kerr makes a similar size jar. You should be able to pick them up at most hardware stores, or you can order them online.
dixya @ food, pleasure, and health says
I am so proud of your healthy lifestyle and positive impact on health :) and this recipe is one of the best one when it comes to oatmeal!!!!! I cant get enough of it - i used little bit more cocoa powder because i didnt have chocolate almond milk. DELICIOUS is the only word.
kelly @ kellybakes says
After our whole discussion about refrigerator oatmeal vs. cook-ahead oatmeal, I can't believe I missed this! Anyway, I can totally get behind chocolate make-ahead oatmeal. I may sub the flax for chia seeds, just because I like them a wee bit better. Heart issues run in my family; I need to make better choices, especially when it comes to exercise. I've been walking to/from work all month so far and it's kind of zen. I think I need to add another piece to the equation. Thanks for the reminder!
Food that is delicious, chocolate AND healthy? Yes, please.
[email protected] says
Chocolate for breakfast...heck yes!! And it's good for ya!!! Bonus! :)
Healthy eating is incredibly important, especially when you are faced with these health issues such as high blood pressure. BUT, my husband, who is very fit, plays soccer every day, is 6'3, 200 pounds - is now dealing with high blood pressure. We just found out yesterday. Isn't that crazy? And he's 34.
I'm glad you got your health under control, Isabelle. I know what thats like!
I think you have just created a new favorite way for me to love oatmeal
Kayle (The Cooking Actress) says
I love this oatmeal, I feel like I would feel all naughty for indulging but have the happy secret that it's healthy! :D
Kate | Food Babbles says
What a wonderful post to help raise awareness and I loved reading your personal story. I bet you're so proud of the strides you've made with your heart health and blood pressure. That's amazing! And this oatmeal sounds amazing. I eat oatmeal almost every morning for breakfast and I'm always looking for variety. This sounds amazing! Thanks for the incredible recipe and for this wonderful post.
Lucky for you that you were able to control you high blood pressure with a change of eating and exercise. I'm not so lucky. It's genetics for me.
Isabelle Boucher says
I feel for you, Renee. I was worried I'd have to resort to medication if the diet and exercise didn't do the trick, and there's a good chance I'll still end up there someday according to my doctor. I'm sorry your experience wasn't quite the same, but I'm glad that you were able to get a diagnosis in time and that you've got it under control - at the end of the day, how you get there doesn't matter, so long as you do get there. :)
Wow, love when healthy looks this good. What a great recipe and thanks so much for sharing!!!
If eating this is what it takes for a healthy heart, then I am in!
Agree with so many things in this post!
Moderation and balance are so much better than diets and cutting out one particular thing from your diet (like sugar or bread or whatever else is trendy). Plus fiber is the best thing ever! Yay for making healthy changes.
Also agree with this oatmeal.. I want it in my mouth, now! I've never tried chocolate almond milk, is it really sweet? I'm not really one for sugary stuff in the morning
Isabelle Boucher says
I like to use Silk's dark chocolate almond milk, which isn't overly sweet. I find the cocoa also tones down the sweetness quite a bit - and if you're at all worried, you can always try making it without the added sugar, and then sweetening to taste at the end.
Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts says
So glad your high blood pressure was caught, and you are on track with keeping it under control!
And really no matter what kind of diet you are, chocolate is a must!
This looks AMAZING! I'm definitely going to try this asap!
I love this post. I've been reading all the #recipesfromtheheart posts, and they are all wonderful. But this is my favorite. So there. "Eating better" pretty much sums it up. And so does chocolate oatmeal.
Good for you for doing what you have to do to get--and stay--healthy for yourself and for your family.
I believe a filling, healthy breakfast is the perfect way to start the day! And if a little, chocolate is involved, all the better! What a yummy oatmeal!!
f you offer chocolate for breakfast no one could turn it down.
Love this recipe! I have discovered I am too lazy to even pick up breakfast in the morning, but maybe with chocolate...
Jessica | Oh Cake says
What a fantastic breakfast! I have a whole container of steel cut oats in my pantry just waiting for a recipe like this to come along and save them from getting too dusty. I am loving all of the #recipesfromtheheart today!
Kim Bee says
Good lord woman, this is enough to get even me, miss non breakie girl, to eat breakfast. Healthy, beautiful and delish. It's a winning combo.
I for one think you look amazing, you rock the tights like no one I've ever seen. I love the ones you had on at the mall, not going to lie, I notice these things, lol. I commend you on your road to a better lifestyle and hope I can be as successful as you. I may need to come down and shop at your markets more. I'm still reeling from that experience.
And speaking of meeting up, why do we never take photos when we hang out? Lol. I was taking pics of my market finds and realized we did not take of us that day. And only one at Lidia's thing. So new pact is no matter what we look like, and man I'm frightening after 4 hours in the car, we HAVE to take at least one shot each time I come. Deal?!
Does this rank as your longest comment evah? Should I carry on... bah ha ha...
Isabelle Boucher says
I was just thinking the same thing. We need to actually take some pictures next time we meet up... I think we just end up being distracted by whatever mischief we've gotten into, and then never get around to busting out the cameras. :)
(Also, thanks for the kind words. I do have a thing for bright coloured tights. It's kind of an addiction, really.)
[email protected] is How I Cook says
I love oatmeal and I love chocolate. I like the sound of this!
Jen @JuanitasCocina says
Okay, I have no excuses not to eat healthy when I can eat stuff like this!
So glad that you're on track with your health...I think I needed this group to kick me in the butt!
Thank you so much for joining us!