I love to make pancakes, and we have a bunch of recipes on rotation. My kids love that I love to make pancakes too, so when they sweetly asked for them on a busy weeknight, I really wanted to say yes, even though I didn’t have all the ingredients. Those darn cute faces will get you every time. I pulled a box of flapjack & baking mix from the pantry, threw some strawberries in the blender, and dinner was ready in ten minutes.
“Processed” and packaged foods get a bad rap. Some items deservingly so, but others can be healthy lifesavers. So how do we decide what is worth tossing in the grocery cart and what should stay on the store shelf? It really comes down to reading the label – both the ingredients and the nutrition facts panel.
In the case of this pancake mix, the ingredient list is very short, with whole grain oat flour listed first. I should see this reflected as a good dose of fiber in the nutrition facts panel. 5 grams per serving: check. Sugar is listed as an ingredient, so I’m looking at the nutrition facts again to see how much: 4 grams. That is 1 teaspoon of sugar per serving, and I’m a-okay with that. Finally, I also want to see that this meal is going to provide some protein. The mix provides 7 grams per serving, and once the milk is added, we are at 11 grams in total.
While we are on the topic of packaged-food misconceptions, I noticed that this brand came in regular and gluten-free versions. Many packaged gluten-free foods are made from white rice flour and just don’t measure up to their whole-grain counterparts. But in the case of this pancake mix, it was worth the extra few seconds to read the labels: the ingredients of both versions were very similar, with whole grain oat flour listed first. The non-gluten-free version had slightly more sugar, so it went back on the shelf.
If I’m relying on packaged food for a quick meal, I try to brighten things up with something a little more “fresh” on the side. This quick strawberry sauce is another lifesaver, and we always have strawberries in the freezer for breakfast smoothies. Blend 2 cups of fresh or thawed frozen strawberries in the blender until smooth, then gently heat on the stove until warm. Turn off the heat and stir in some pure maple syrup (start with 2 tablespoons and adjust if needed) and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice (optional). Not only does everyone love dunking pancakes in this gorgeous sauce, but the added sugar is significantly less than what you get with straight-up maple syrup.
A few other life-saving packaged foods that I could make myself but don’t always find time for: individual cups of hummus and guacamole, yogurt, precooked grains, lentils, and beans, nut butters, and no-sugar-added dried fruit. I would love to hear what is on your list!