Don’t you love pancakes? I love pancakes! But most pancake meals are a splurgy, syrupy treat. That’s fine once in a while, but I like to make them almost every weekend. If you do too, try these three tips for sweet spot pancakes:
1. Use whole grains.
Last week I gave my gluten and grains talk for a corporate client. I had participants write down everything they’d eaten the day before, so they could see if at least half of the grains were whole grains, as recommended. After learning to identify whole grains (with an activity like this), I asked them to count up their servings, and raise their hand if more than half were whole grains.
Only one hand went up, out of 30. Yikes. Hoping to support something positive, I asked, “Who had any whole grains yesterday?” Just two more hands went up. Double yikes.
A couple of people volunteered that they were avoiding grains altogether, but the rest admitted it just had been a white bread/pasta/rice kind of day. Also, people learn during this activity that some bread they thought was a whole grain (such as Canadian rye, 7-grain, or “harvest” grain) may not be, because the first ingredient is “enriched wheat flour” or just “wheat flour.” (See examples here.)
It’s worth trying to eat more whole (and less refined) grains. Doing so can lower your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
So, in that spirit, I’ll share my favourite pancake recipe, which comes from a well-used copy of the 1986 vegetarian cookbook, The New Laurel’s Kitchen. It uses oatmeal and whole wheat flour and actually tastes great. The oats add character that I miss now when I have restaurant pancakes.
2. Top with berries.
Hmm… fruit or syrup? Well, despite the fact that it’s natural, even 100% pure maple syrup is still basically sugar. The Heart and Stroke Foundation included it in the list of sugars to limit in it’s 2013 position statement on sugar, heart disease and stroke.
But I’m not an all-or-nothing girl. There is always a bottle of maple syrup in our fridge. I’m just suggesting you have a little with your favourite fruit rather than a lot with butter or margarine. You’ll get a more subtle sweetness, much less sugar, as well as fibre, antioxidants, and minerals in the bargain.
If time is tight, just microwave a bowl of frozen berries and toss them on your pancakes with a 1-2 teaspoons of syrup (or none, if you prefer). If you want something fancier, make a super-simple compote as in this recipe. For even more fibre, try a chia seed jam, also very easy and quick (thanks to culinary dietitian Kristyn Hall for teaching me about that in one of her fantastic cooking classes).
3. Balance your pancake plate.
Normally, pancakes are the opposite of a balanced plate. Add fruit and a protein source like milk, yogurt, slivered almonds and/or a spoonful of peanut butter, and stick with 2-3 pancakes. Each of these pancakes has 4g of protein to start, so if you eat three of them with a glass of milk, you’re already up to 20g of protein – pretty respectable for breakfast.