Apple and Flax Seed Porridge

The breakfast conundrum is an ongoing battle for me. Especially while working nights. What’s fast and nutritious and edible after a 12 hour shift that I can quickly make and scarf down before hitting the sack? This nutrition-packed hot porridge!

The criteria for my breakfasts looks like this:

  1. It has to be tasty.
  2. It has to be nutritious.
  3. It has to be easy enough that I can pull it together post night shift.

This apple and flax seed porridge fits the bill perfectly.

Apple and Flax Seed Porridge

I have often read about the nutritional benefits of eating flax seed. It’s super high in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids (the good kind of fat). Interestingly, it must be ground before being eaten in order to to be absorbable. The trouble is…how exactly do you add this stuff to your diet? By the spoonful? No no. I can’t even imagine.

One day, as I was once again reading an article about what a nutritional powerhouse flax seed is, it occurred to me that perhaps it could be turned into some kind of porridge. That’s when I found this banana and flax seed porridge recipe. I used that recipe as inspiration for a different porridge flavour: apples and cinnamon.

You’ll be shocked at how little you taste the flax seed in this porridge. It’s not gritty or “fibrous” tasting. It’s actually quite mild- I sometimes think of it as “Plain Jane porridge” because it is quite simple. I really like simple in the morning.

I drizzle a bit of maple syrup on top of my porridge, although it’s not really needed. If you feel like getting a bit fancy, stir in any of these toppings for crunch/texture/flavour:

  • chopped pecans
  • dried cranberries, blueberries or cherries
  • chopped dried apricots
  • fresh fruits (raspberries! mmm, yum.)

I hope you enjoy this simple and satisfying breakfast as much as I do.

Apple and Flax Seed Porridge

Apple and Flax Seed Porridge

  • Servings: 1 large bowl
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tbsp maple syrup, optional

In a small saucepan over medium-high, combine ground flax seed, applesauce, almond milk, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a light boil and immediately turn down heat to medium. Whisk frequently for 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture is thickened into a porridge-like consistency.

Transfer to bowl and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired.

NOTE: Ground flax seed becomes rancid very quickly, so if you grind some ahead make sure to store it in the freezer.

Apple and Flax Seed Porridge

How to Pack Healthy Food for Shift Work

The difference between a good shift and a great shift is food. Food, glorious food! I don’t know how your night shifts roll out, but I find that for me some nights I am barely hungry and other nights I’m a ravenous wolf. Some nights I could snack all night; other nights I can barely find time to pee, never mind sit down for a meal. The one thing that is consistent across all my night shifts is that I regularly crave junk food. The later the night gets, the more I risk turning into a vending machine junkie. (The chips! The chocolate! The sodas! Give me one of everything!)

When I was preparing to go back on night shifts after a long spell of working days, I asked a paramedic friend for advice on he handles long shifts at all hours of the day. His instant advice? Pack great food– and lots of it. Here’s some ideas on how to do that.

Pack it up

Make it easy and convenient to bring healthy snacks to work with you by having all the right equipment. Invest in a thermal lunch bag and some glass leftover containers with snap-on lids. Get some reusable snack bags and a thermos too. Mason jars with wide mouths are great for packing a salad, veggie sticks, yogurt with granola, etc.

Know your goals

more protein = increased alertness

Incorporate high-protein foods like hard-boiled eggs, cooked quinoa, and nut butter into your meals and snacks. Other great sources of protein include tuna, nuts, & trail mix. Consuming adequate protein will increase alertness and focus.

fewer carbs = more energy

Foods high in carbohydrates- like bread, potatoes, and cereal- can have a sedating effect, especially if eaten all by themselves. Avoid loading up on carbs during your shift to ward off extra sleepiness.

no sugary drinks = no crash

A strong sugar rush may give you a temporary boost, but it is usually followed by a crash. Some research even shows that the body’s ability to process sugar declines at night.

limited portions = less sluggishness

Try to eat small, frequent meals as opposed to large heavy ones. Heavy meals often have more calories than most people need in one sitting. Eating a large portion can also make you feel sluggish or tired while on the job. Don’t use your night shift as a reason to eat massive meals in the middle of the night.

Plan to snack

Instead of worrying about cooking and packing full meals, focus on packing lots of healthy, nutrition-dense snacks. Then mix and match your meals according to how you’re feeling and whether you’re in an eating-on-the-run situation.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Carrot, celery and red pepper sticks with hummus
  • Flax and sesame seed crackers with olive tapenade
  • Bowl of plain yogurt with chopped nuts and berries
  • Almond and fruit muffins
  • Quinoa salad with vinaigrette
  • Tabouleh salad
  • Boiled eggs, already peeled
  • Energy bites or good granola bars
  • Fruit salad
  • Almond butter fudge
  • Beet or kale chips
  • Apple slices and peanut butter

Hydrate often

Your body can signal hunger and thirst in the same way. So if you’re feeling hungry, there’s a chance that you’re actually just quite thirsty. Staying hydrated is a simple way to keep you feeling both awake and full. Bring a water bottle to work and fill it often. You’ll save money on bottled drinks and keep more plastic out of the landfill. If you need some variety, infuse your water with fruit, cinnamon sticks or citrus slices for an added flavour boost without the calories.

Treat yo-self

You don’t want to feel deprived so pack one or two small treats to enjoy during your shift. That way, you’ll have already set limits before you dive head-first into the fresh box of doughnuts. (Hey, we’ve all done it– especially when it gets stressful) Having healthy snacks at your fingertips is key to clean eating while working nights.

How do you keep up with healthy eating on night shift? What do you pack up for your night shift lunch bag?

Night Shift Wellness How to Pack Healthy Food for Shift Work

Slow Cooker Spicy Saffron Chicken with Apricots

Warm and Spicy Saffron Chicken with Apricots

If you’re looking for a delicious recipe to throw in your slow cooker or Instant Pot to cook itself while you’re sleeping during the daytime, look no further! This fragrant Indian dish has a vibrant and complex flavour, with just enough heat to keep it interesting. Don’t be afraid of the ingredient list… most of the things listed are herbs and spices!

Add in apricots, honey, onions and garlic and things get pretty exciting. And that’s before you top it off with a sprinkling of freshly minced parsley and the crunch of toasted slivered almonds!

This recipes comes from my Freezer Bag Slow Cooker Complete Guide + Recipes e-book. The whole idea behind these meals is that you can prep a whole bunch of them on your day off, and then throw them in your slow cooker (or hello! Instant Pot!) when you get home from a long shift. Then they cook themselves while you snooze and when you wake up… presto! Dinner! You can check out the book here – it has tons of step-by-step photos, slow cooking advice, and 12 make ahead clean eating recipes.

Warm and Spicy Saffron Chicken with Apricots

If you prefer to skip the make-ahead freezer bag step and just put this dish together in the slow cooker the same day you plan to eat it- that works great too! Either way, you can count on a hearty, tasty dish that will keep you fuelled all night long.

I can hardly wait to make it again for myself. I loooove the tantalizing smell as it cooks in the slow cooker.

Warm and Spicy Saffron Chicken with Apricots

Warm and Spicy Saffron Chicken with Apricots

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 1/2 cups dried apricots, cut in half
2 tbsp honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste (156 mL or 5.5 fl oz)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp saffron threads
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1-28 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Instructions

To make the freezer bag meal, combine onions, apricots, honey, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, paprika, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper, saffron and chicken pieces in an extra-large freezer bag. Double bag if desired. Lay flat and freeze.

Thaw the night before you plan to cook.

Empty freezer bag contents into slow cooker and add diced tomatoes. Stir. Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Discard bay leaves and cinnamon stick before serving.

Garnish with parsley and sliced almonds. Bon appétit!

NOTES: If you are opting to skip the freezer bag meal and enjoy this the same day you assemble it, then just go ahead and add all the ingredients (except the garnishes of parsley and slivered almonds) to your slow cooker. Cook as directed above.