The typical, American comfort foods we love to eat for breakfast — pancakes, French toast and the Southern staple of biscuits and gravy — may taste good on a special occasion, but for fueling up on an everyday basis, they don’t provide the best boost for our brains and our bodies.
But if you bring together some protein, vegetables and whole grains — in a frittata, a smoothie or an oatmeal bowl — you’ll have more energy, be in a better mood and help your body detox at the same time.
“If you’re feeding the body with nutrient-dense foods, it can really help with seasonal mood disorder,” said Thais Harris, nutrition education manager for the Ceres Community Project, which teaches young adults how to cook and supplies critically ill patients around the county with healthy meals. “The fall can be very introspective after all the activities of summer. “
Nutrient-dense foods are what you’ll find on the menu at the Ceres Cafe, a breakfast and lunch restaurant run by Ceres at the Social Advocates for Youth’s new Dream Center in Santa Rosa.
Harris said it’s OK to enjoy a slice of avocado toast for breakfast, but it’s key to make sure the bread is organic and high-quality. You also may want to wash it down with a small smoothie that adds in greens, berries and protein in the form of chia or flax seeds, yogurt or kefir.
“At the cafe, we’re making some delicious smoothies,” Harris said. “I’m not big into fruit smoothies with bananas and peaches and apple juice — that’s a sugar bomb. The ideals is to make sure you’re doing equal parts fruit to greens, and berries are my favorite fruits, because they tend to be less sweet and have a lot of anti-oxidants.”
One of Harris’ favorite smoothies is the Brain Booster served at the cafe, which combines a cup of blackberries with a cup of chard, some mint for added nutrition, a tablespoon of chia or flax seeds and a cup of plain kefir or yogurt.
“You have a nice serving of protein in there,” she said. “And people could even add 1 to 3 teaspoons of honey, and a cup of water.”
Other sources of protein in a smoothie can include bone broth (high in collagen and healing for the gut) or whey. For vegetarians, it can be pea protein or organic sprouted rice protein. You can also use a nut milk, or if you have a Vitamix, throw in a handful of cashews with water and chia seeds, to create your own nut milk.
Another helpful smoothie in the fall and winter, when people tend to get blue, is the Mood Enhancer Smoothie, a delicious and nutritious combination of strawberries, basil and dates.
“Basil is one of those herbs that has B12 for energy production and it even has vitamin E, which helps protect cells,” Harris said. “And the strawberries are great for cognitive function and are anti-inflammatory.”
The dates not only tonify the blood and provide rich minerals, she said, but also help clean the intestines with fiber. They also offer B vitamins to boost energy and mood.
For a deeper body scrubbing, you can also order the Liver Cleanser, a veggie-centric smoothie made with beets, kale, parsley and lemon — “all things that are very cleansing to the liver,” she said.