When it comes to healthy eating, good intentions and willpower can only take us so far. That's why I believe strongly in making the healthy choice the easy choice, especially when it comes to morning decisions.
Spending a little time to set myself up for success makes a huge difference in my ability to stick to my healthy living plans. For instance, I set out my workout clothes the night before, so rolling out of bed and into them is a no-brainer. Should the extra 15-seconds that it would take for me to open the dresser drawer to grab my exercise clothes be the thing that derails an entire workout? Perhaps not. But alas it does. For me, anyway.
Same thing can happen when it comes to food. When I'm hungry and in a rush, I'm far more likely to grab just anything that will fill my belly. But I'll absolutely eat a healthy protein-filled breakfast if it's all prepped and ready to go.
In fact, my whole family eats better when I invest a little time cooking and stocking my freezer with my own version of "fast food." One of our favorites is the morning egg muffin, which is essentially scrambled eggs baked up in muffin tins.
I make a dozen or two on weekends to keep in the freezer and in less than two microwave minutes, we have a weekday breakfast that is chock-full of filling protein. My secret: I use two eggs to get some of that luscious fat, flavor, and color from the yolk and then load up on serious-protein egg whites.
Use whatever veggies you have on hand, and don't be shy about loading up — even my two pickiest kiddos love these little guys! Make several flavors when you find eggs on sale, and you'll have a veritable morning buffet of protein for weeks. No last minute drive-thrus to stave off the hunger on the way to work.
Bake-ahead morning egg cups
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 link turkey Italian sausage, about 3 ounces, crumbled
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoons flour (all purpose or rice flour both work)
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, washed
3/4 cup egg whites (about 7 egg whites)
1/4 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a saute pan, cook the sausage over medium high heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and chopped onion and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir in.
Chop the spinach and stir into the pan, and cook another minute for spinach to wilt. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites and milk until pale yellow and smooth. Stir in the sausage mixture and cheese.
Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Spoon the mixture into the tin. Bake until eggs are firm but not dry, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the muffin tins for 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool on a baking rack.
Eat right away, or freeze in a resealable freezer bag. Label well! To microwave for breakfast: Wrap in a paper towel and heat on 70 percent heat until hot, about 90 seconds, depending on microwave strength.
Nutrition information per serving: 60 calories; 28 calories from fat; 3 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 47 mg cholesterol; 109 mg sodium; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 6 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."