Spinach pancakes and the importance of feel-good food

I love these spinach pancakes. They are easy to make in just a few minutes and work as a tasty base for both savoury or sweet toppings. Inside every one is a nutritious burst of spinach, oats, and banana for long burning energy which helps to stabilise moods, and they taste virtually identical in the vegan (chia-egg) and non-vegan (egg) versions below.

Spinach has a surprisingly neutral taste when it’s blended up. You really wouldn’t notice it, except for the gorgeous green superhero hue that’s sure to get people talking and kids wanting more of them!

Great taste and free from sugar, flour, and dairy

All the pancake recipes on The Confidence Kitchen are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. Why is that important? Because regular use of flour and sugar are two of the key drivers of heart disease, cancer, and most other long-term chronic conditions that plague millions around the world. The science is in: Recently, a team of scientists from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), found 8,000 scientific papers that link refined white sugar to chronic disease.

It’s so important to reduce our sugar consumption dramatically, and yet it’s important to find alternative ways to feel good when we eat.

Food choices and the feel-good factor

Research suggests that not only can the food you eat affect your mood, but that your mood may influence the foods you choose to consume. We reach for sugary or high-carb foods when we need a pick me up and this often occurs when we are feeling depressed or in a bad mood. After the brief high is over, the drop in blood sugar levels can cause you to experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue. These symptoms can create a vicious cycle of intense cravings which wreaks havoc on our bodies.

How can we feel-good yet break out of the sugar cycle?

Much of what we do food-wise is habit based. We make our food choices, often unconsciously, to deliver a feeling we are chasing. When we want to change but need a feel-good hit, we’re more likely to procrastinate or never make the change.  If we can generate similar good feelings after eating healthy food, then we can break the cycle. Breaking the sugar cycle helps us to lose weight, improve blood test results, and look better while feeling great (hello, positive mood!)

Fruits and vegetables have a time delayed mood boost

Beyond sugar and flour, research shows us that fresh fruit and vegetables can produce a positive mood, which is more noticeable the next day. The time delay of one day is unfortunate because we might not link the fruit and veg with the source of our happy mood. It can also lead us to attribute our mood incorrectly to other things, rather than the greens we ate yesterday. As you have probably noticed, human beings are relatively short term thinkers when it comes to food. We also tend to undervalue the massive impact food can have on keeping us: happy, in a high-energy state, and depression free.

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Bust out of negative moods

Once we understand it’s possible to short-circuit our “negative-mood equals bad judgement problem” by eating more nutrient-dense foods, then we have one thing left to change. If we are in a negative mood which causes us to make poor choices, yet need to make a healthy choice to break the bad mood,  how do we get unstuck?

Spinach pancakes.

Just kidding… sort of. Spinach pancakes are a part of the solution for sure, but the question itself is what’s critical:

“If I can significantly improve my mood by making healthy choices, and once I have an improved mood, I have a huge likelihood of continuing to make healthy food choices, how to do I get myself through the first few days of making this change?”

Moving from sugar to slow-burn foods

It’s just a few days; however, people in a negative mood are more likely to make poor food choices (sugary or salty comfort foods), rather than nutritious ones. Often we don’t even know that our mood is bad. We just assume it’s the way we’re built, and we don’t know how much we have to gain.

Eating foods that contain fats, proteins, slow-burning carbs, fruits and vegetables will help to stabilise your mood by maintaining a steady blood sugar level within the appropriate range. These spinach pancakes fit the bill.

Healthy pancakes also are fun, a psychological comfort food, a colourful visual treat, and have extra mood boosters built into the batter in the form of spinach. If you top them with fruit and nuts, they can boost your mood even further.

These are pancakes but so so much more! Give them a try and let me know in the comments how you find them!

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Spinach pancakes
 
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These easy green spinach pancakes are a tasty way to sneak extra nutrients into a healthy breakfast. They taste amazing either with or without an egg. If you prefer the vegan version, the only difference is they are less fluffy. These pancakes are great with both sweet or savoury toppings. The strawberry sauce featured below is a delicious way to take advantage of strawberry season. Other great toppings include coconut yoghurt, pomegranates, nuts and assorted fruits.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Nutrient Rich, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar-Free
Serves: 12 small pancakes
Ingredients
  • 1 egg or chia egg (1 tbsp chia seeds mixed with 3 Tbsp water)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon pink salt
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach
  • 1.5 cup almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 lemon (zest and fruit)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp baobab powder, for extra nutrients
Method
  1. Make chia-egg by mixing chia seeds and water, then set aside for about 10 mins
  2. Add oats, baking soda, and salt to the blender. Blend for 10 seconds or until the oats are like flour
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients into the blender and blend for 20 seconds, stopping once to run a spatula around the blender bottom to make sure all the flour mixes well into the batter
  4. Heat 1-2 crepe or frying pans on medium heat (Using more than one pan allows you to serve everyone hot pancakes at the same time) and add some coconut oil to each pan
  5. Pour batter into 3 or 4 small pancake sized circles in each pan(s). Cook until you see a few bubbles at the pancake edges (usually about three mins). Flip and do the other side. (Note: if using chia-egg, you will not see as many bubbles as with the egg.)
  6. These are great served with strawberries and strawberry sauce (to make strawberry sauce, blend a handful of strawberries with 1 Tbsp maple syrup or raw honey, and 1-2 Tbsp liquid (water/almond milk) to make it a syrupy consistency.

Spinach pancakes and the “new normal”

It’s one thing to know it’s important to drop sugar and flour, and another to change our habits so that we actively choose foods that don’t contain them. The good news is that you can still eat most of the “normal foods” you enjoy when you cut back on the regular flour and sugar. There are easy tips and swaps you can make. The ingredients might be slightly different, but when you evaluate how you feel after eating the alternate food options, the feelings of satisfaction, enjoyment and fulfilment you get when eating them is virtually the same or, in many cases, higher.

Pancakes are easy to make using healthy ingredients, and this recipe is something you can turn to for a tasty breakfast in minutes that is delicious, comforting, and super for you.

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