Fit Life Essentials for Real Life

On the Top of the … Pancake

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I recently wrote about my love of protein pancakes – my personal energy bombs that get me going on many mornings.  The pancakes, of course, are only part of the story.  The topping makes or breaks the experience, both taste-wise and nutritionally.  Luckily, no matter what your goals or preferences, there’s a topping with your name on it.

When I first started eating protein pancakes, I found myself in somewhat of a dilemma.  I have a serious sweet tooth, but I was experimenting with a very low sugar diet at the time.  Maple syrup and honey were out, as was any kind of fruit or yogurt.  Sugar free syrups taste terrible.  What to do?

Since pancakes are, well, cake-like, my mind drifted to frosting.  I had been reading a lot about coconut, and I thought about combining coconut butter with a little stevia and flavoring.  I assumed it would take on a frosted toaster pastry kind of vibe, which seemed very naughty, and therefore fun.  Eager to experiment, I combined the following:

  • One tablespoon of coconut butter
  • Four drops of liquid stevia
  • A drop or two (about 1/8th of a tsp) of almond extract, which makes everything taste like a cookie to me … and I like cookies

Success!  I loved it.  It gave me a hint of sweetness and decadence, but without the shakiness I can sometimes get when I eat anything with concentrated carbs.  It also fit into my overall meal plan very well, and works for all but my most serious fat loss efforts.

Now, full disclosure.  My family was not as into this as I was, so maybe it’s not for everyone.  Also, coconut is a bit controversial right now.  Mainstream health professionals reject it due to saturated fat, while gurus of all kinds claim there’s nothing coconut can’t do.  The truth is almost certainly somewhere in between.  Eating buckets of coconut anything probably isn’t a smart idea, and I’m skeptical that any single food could have the diversity of benefits that coconut is claimed to have, but it’s a great option if you like simple, low sugar, natural ingredients.  And while I’m not convinced saturated fat is the villain it’s often made out to be, even if you’re watching saturated fat, you can still put together a very reasonable diet even with a little coconut butter.  Let’s embrace our inner Libertarians, shall we?  Personally, I listen to and respect the experts, but make my own decisions, based on what’s best for me.

So what if coconut frosting is not your thing?  There’s lots of other options:

  • If you do dairy, yogurt is a great option, with or without fruit.
  • A fruit topping/compote can be made easily on the stove, with add-ins like a splash of fruit juice, a little sugar, and/or cinnamon.  Do mixed berries if you are watching carbs.
  • A dollop of applesauce can be nice, especially with a little cinnamon.
  • Nut butters can be very satisfying — I especially like the ones with a bit of chocolate mixed in.
  • If concentrated sugar isn’t an issue, a small amount of jam/jelly, honey, or maple syrup—meaning only a level teaspoon (two teaspoons at the most!) can be all you need.
  • Combinations of any of the above could be interesting!
Just a few of the many topping options

It’s very important to be mindful of amounts here, and use just what you need to add interest and flavor.  I go for just about a tablespoon of very dense toppings, like nut butters or coconut, and a couple of tablespoons of fruit-based topping.  As a bonus, I bought these tiny little bowls that hold about a tablespoon each, which is somehow way more fun than a measuring spoon.  Here’s to happy pancake experimentation!

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