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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Gentile

Your morning routine can set the mood for the rest of your day and can impact your productivity, so if you're looking to lose weight, establishing some essential morning routines can be just what you need.

You already know how beneficial it's been to establish a bedtime routine for your kids, but do you know how crucial healthy behaviors and routines are to your weight loss efforts? Research has shown that those successful at maintaining weight loss often eat the same foods, engage in consistent exercise, and don't skip meals. They've practiced behaviors over and over again until the task became automatic.

There have been several studies observing the weight gain seen in children over the summer months due to, in part, a lack of consistent structure and routine. It stands that a similar observation may be made in adults.

With a few tweaks to your day, you can be on your way to making that morning yoga class or meal planning a consistent part of your lifestyle. The best place to start -- your morning routine!

Try tackling these areas if sustainable weight loss is your goal:

1. You sleep in

I get it - the kids finally slept past 7 am on a Saturday. Or, even's summer! And everyone is enjoying the hot, lazy days. But your fat cells love feeling lazy, too. Your circadian rhythm not only helps you arise in the daylight and sleep blissfully during the night, but it plays a part in regulating how efficient you are in calorie-burning. We burn a bit more of our calories during the day than we do at nighttime.

Rising early also helps lets you seize that quiet, solo time of the day. The most productive people utilize this time of day to get ahead. Not just because there are fewer interruptions, but because our brains are most alert and awake at this time.

So, practice healthy sleep behaviors and set a consistent time to go to bed at night and rise in the morning.

Start with one healthy behavior to add to your morning; try some stretching, a morning walk, or plan out your meals for the day.

I like to do my weekly meal planning in the morning when it's quiet; preferable with multiple recipe books spread out on my deck table with a hot cup of coffee watching the birds go crazy in the morning.

(See my article about the importance of sleep and weight loss and see the healthy sleep tips here.)

2. You're not active in the morning

It's not necessary to be active in the morning versus another time of the day, but people who get a head start on physical activity tend to be more successful at weight loss. It could be that by tackling this early in the day they are guaranteed that it gets done no matter how the day turns out.

Being active early in the day may also be associated with sustained weight loss because it gives you that 'health halo' for the rest of your day.

3. You skip breakfast

So, our circadian rhythm - that amazing, master clock in the brain's hypothalamus - is synchronized to a 24-hour day by the light/dark cycle. But, in certain tissues, it's synchronized to our feeding/fasting cycles. This essentially means that eating in sync with daylight optimizes metabolism.

We are evolutionarily built to eat during daylight and we burn more calories in daylight, as well. Even our digestion is better in the morning. (We actually produce more bile acids and nutrient transporters in the morning to help break down our food.)

Not only does eating breakfast help with weight loss by encouraging our metabolisms to work better, but it can also help ward off hunger later on in the day.

When you eat a satiating breakfast of lean proteins and fiber-rich carbohydrates, you're preventing those blood sugar swings that cause you to be hangry and overeat at your next meal.

4. You're not frontloading protein

Maybe you are having breakfast, but it's all carbs. Quick and easy bagels, morning muffins, toast, croissants...

These carb-heavy, low-fiber foods are great for quick energy, but they won't hold you very long. You need that satiating heart-healthy protein and fat to keep you satisfied.

These carbohydrate breakfast foods raise your blood sugar quickly - and what goes up, must come down. That's when you feel that dip in energy - that slump during the day. And the cycle of quick surges in blood sugar and insulin release has a negative impact on weight loss.

What you need paired with those carbs is a protein food. The protein helps blunt the glucose response in the blood.

A recent small study observed that participants with diabetes who took a whey protein supplement before each of their 3 meals for the day had better blood sugar control during the day than those who did not.

5. You're getting in your own way

Now, there are a lot of ways this can happen but, very often, I see people who overate the day before and now feel that there's no use in starting fresh again today. It's easy to tell yourself excuses like, "What's one more day of eating unhealthy?", "I'll just start again on Monday", or, "This one meal won't matter in the big picture."

And it won't. But if you continue doing that every, say, Thursday through Sunday, that's 12 days out of the month that you may be overeating. (Or, 40% of the month)

See how it can add up?

Instead, brush off the last overeaten meal and start again the very next meal. Not on Monday, or next week. But now.

And practice that until it becomes routine.

Don't let the lazy days of summer push your weight loss goals aside! Join my 8-week accountability group starting July 1, 2022 for group goal setting, accountability, meal plans, exercise regimes, and challenges. Check it out HERE!


Wyatt HR, Grunwald GK, Mosca CL, Klem ML, Wing RR, Hill JO. Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. Obes Res. 2002;10:78-82. doi:10.1038/oby.2002.13

Gorin AA, Phelan S, Wing RR, Hill JO. Promoting long-term weight control: does dieting consistency matter?Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004;28:278-281. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802550

Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018;13(2):142-144. Published 2018 Dec 29. doi:10.1177/1559827618818044

Franckle R, Adler R, Davison K. Accelerated Weight Gain Among Children During Summer Versus School Year and Related Racial/Ethnic Disparities: A Systematic Review. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130355. DOI:

Smith K, Taylor GS, Brunsgaard LH, et al. Thrice daily consumption of a novel, premeal shot containing a low dose of whey protein increases time in euglycemia during 7 days of free-living in individuals with type 2 diabetes. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care 2022;10:e002820. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2022-002820

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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Gentile

Pumpkin pancakes that lower your cholesterol? Say no more! If you're eating right for your heart and are craving pancakes, this may be the perfect, easy, weekend meal.

Pumpkin - you either love it or hate it. I love it and all the fiber-packed nutrition that pumpkin offers. I love coming up with ways to make healthy food easy and tasty so my whole family will enjoy healthy foods.

These particular pancakes pack an extra heart-healthy punch - they're made with oat flour. The heart-healthy fiber in oats is beta-glucan, a kind of soluble fiber. Foods with oat fiber have been shown to lower bad levels of cholesterol, or LDL-cholesterol. Soluble fiber in oats may also lower non-HDL cholesterol as well (apo B), which carries bad cholesterol through the bloodstream. Oat fiber, combined with other sources of soluble fiber in the diet can help decrease the risk of heart disease.

What other foods contain heart-healthy fiber?

This heart-healthy, beta-glucan fiber can also be found in barley, yeasts, seaweed, algae, and some types of mushrooms (like reishi, shiitake, and maitake).

If you love pumpkin and oats, make sure to try my so-healthy-you-can-eat-for-breakfast Healthy Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.

And if you're in the mood for more fiber-rich oats and chickpeas in a portable, yummy energy ball, try my No-Bake Protein Energy Balls.

How much beta-glucan fiber do you need each day to help lower cholesterol?

3 grams of beta-glucans per day can help lower blood cholesterol levels by 5-8%, according to an approved health claim by the FDA. You can get 3 grams of beta-glucans from 1.5 cups cooked oatmeal, 3 packets of instant oatmeal, or about 1 cup of cooked pearl barley.

What are other health benefits of beta-glucan fiber?

This soluble fiber, along with insoluble fibers can help modulate blood sugar and promote insulin sensitivity. Oat and barley-containing foods slow the absorption of glucose after a meal. This means less insulin needs to be released to bring down your blood sugar. And, remember, insulin is our prime fat-storage hormone. The less we need to release, the better.

So, I’ve given you plenty of reasons to try these pumpkin oat pancakes. Tell me what you think!

Easy Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

Dry ingredients

1 ½ cups old fashioned or quick-cooking oats, blended to a powder

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Wet ingredients

1 ½ cups buttermilk

¾ cup pumpkin puree

3 Tablespoons melted butter

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Blend oats in a blender or food processor. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, whisk and thoroughly combine the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk together until just combined.

Prepare a griddle over medium heat until hot.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle and cook until you see the tiny bubbles on the top of each pancake and some have popped open. Then flip the pancake and cook until lightly browned and fluffy.

Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F. oven.

Serve with pure maple syrup, butter, or plain Greek yogurt for extra protein.

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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Gentile

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

These “cookies” are healthy enough to have for breakfast. Have them on the way to school, throw them in the kids’ lunchboxes or enjoy them with a cup of coffee on a lazy weekend morning.

Healthy Pumpkin oatmeal cookies

I don’t know about you, but this time of year always seems to have the smell and feel of sharpened pencils and brand new notebooks – even more so now that I have kids. I’m a summer baby at heart, but I love the change of seasons in NY and fall is quickly approaching. (I mean, c’mon, all the coffee shops are already serving pumpkin lattes, so it must be fall.)

I dare to call these little bites of baked goodness, “cookies”, because, of course, cookies have the connotation of being “unhealthy” which implies other nutrition behaviors, which we wrongfully shun when we don’t eat intuitively……..but I digress.

Miriam Webster defines a cookie as a “sweet baked food that is usually small, flat and round and is made from flour and sugar”. So, I suppose these are “cookies”. Of course, I call them cookies to give them the extra anticipation of deliciousness for my kids. But even with slashing the sugar, a little banana gives these pumpkin cookies natural sweetness, along with a few chocolate chips sprinkled throughout.

I cut the flour in the base and substituted oatmeal for extra more fiber. Oat fiber contains beta-glucans, a soluble fiber that helps lower LDL, or "bad", cholesterol. Soluble fiber in oats may also lower non-HDL cholesterol as well (apo B), which carries bad cholesterol through the bloodstream. Oat fiber, combined with other dietary sources of soluble fiber, may help lower your risk of heart disease.

My family ate these pumpkin cookies right up when they came out of the oven. There were definitely better right out of the oven, but the 2 cookies that were left over went into the kids’ lunchboxes and were gobbled up.

Because I love food and learning about food’s origins, I find the origin and nutrition of pumpkins quite interesting.

Pumpkin Origins

Pumpkin may creep up in artificial flavor form in the fall, but there was a time when Americans consumed them more in their natural form. Pumpkins were a staple in Native Americans’ and early colonists’ diets. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Mexico. There have been seeds from related plants found in Mexico in 7000 to 5500 B.C. (And the name, pumpkin, originated from the Greek word “pepon”, which is “large melon”.)

In today’s Mexican markets, though, there aren’t Jack-o’-lantern varieties (which are used more for carving than eating). In Mexico, you’ll find Calabaza, which are bulbous or round, being or green-striped and with crooked necks.

Pumpkin Nutrition

Pumpkin, fresh or canned, is superbly nutritious, packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin K, beta carotene, and iron. I’ll focus on canned pumpkin since it’s more user-friendly.

The fact that canned pumpkin has a high water content, keeps the calories low, and fills you up more. It is also a low sodium food.

According to the USDA, ½ cup canned pumpkin contains:

Calories: 40

Total fat: 0

Sodium: 5mg

Total Carbohydrates: 10g

Dietary Fiber: 4g

Sugar: 4g

Protein: 1g

Vitamin A: 380%

Vitamin C: 8%

Calcium: 4%

Iron: 10%

This makes pumpkin a real nutrient dense food. It is high in fiber, keeping you fuller longer and helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. It has 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup, which is more than a medium sized banana.

The high beta-carotene content (which turns into Vitamin A in the body) is a powerful antioxidant. This may help boost our immunity and protect your skin from UV rays, warding off wrinkles.

Pumpkin’s low-calorie content makes it perfect for mixing in with other ingredients in a recipe to really boost the nutrition….like these pumpkin oatmeal cookies.

Healthy pumpkin oatmeal cookie

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 13 cookies


½ can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie)

½ banana, mashed

½ cup flour

1 ½ cups whole oats

4 Tbsp coconut oil (or canola/vegetable)

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flour, oats, pumpkin pie spice).

Mix wet ingredients in another small bowl (pumpkin, banana, coconut oil, vanilla maple syrup).

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.

Mix until just combined.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake for, about 25 minutes, or until slightly browned.


Per cookie:

Calories: 100

Carbohydrates: 11 g

Sugar: 6.7 g

Fat: 6 g

Protein: 1.2 g

Healthy pumpkin oatmeal cookie

Did you make them?? Tell me how they came out!

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