breakfast

What 8 Health Enthusiasts Eat For Breakfast

Your mom told you hundreds of times, and we’ll tell you yet again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But not just any breakfast will do. Choosing a solid, high-protein morning meal (like eggs, Greek yogurt, or a protein shake) over that stale, office coffee kiosk muffin may help you beat sugar cravings and keep energy crashes at bay all day long.

Since the same ol’ morning meal can get boring day after day, we asked some of the healthiest people we know (our own employees—we call ‘em Health Enthusiasts because they’re just that good) for their all-time favorite breakfasts, photos and all. Following their lead, you’ll never have to settle for those no-good, empty calories again.

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“My go-to breakfast is a Flapjacked protein waffle! It gives me all the nutrients I need to get through my workout and the rest of the morning! My favorite flavor is the banana hazelnut. Sometimes I top it off with some marshmallow fluff and fruity cereal for a special treat.”

—Samantha Phillips, Assistant Store Manager, Store 679, Clark, NJ

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“My usual breakfast meal is my Swiss Chocolate Next Step shake with two tablespoons of peanut butter and a banana blended in. I love this shake because it tastes delicious and mixes extremely well. Plus, it contains almost 12 grams of fiber and really keeps me full until lunchtime.”

—Shannon Winter, Store 818, Glen Mills, PA

jenn-pena-breakfast

“Scrambled eggs and spinach is such an easy, delicious breakfast. I even make it for dinner sometimes when I’m feeling lazy or need something super quick. I’m following the Whole30 diet right now, so it’s become my go-to!”

—Jennifer Pena, Video Producer and Editor

elizabeth-horner-smoothie

“My morning protein smoothie contains enough carbs, protein, and fat to keep me going until lunchtime! I use plant protein, unsweetened almond milk, blueberries, half a banana, powdered greens, coconut oil powder, and True Athlete Kre-Alkalyn creatine.”

—Elizabeth Horner, Store 439, Shreveport, LA

rob-trench-breakfast

“I usually start the day with lean ground sirloin, eggs, and Ezekial toast, topped with hot Buffalo sauce. It tastes great, contains zero sugar, and is packed with almost 60 grams of protein. I’m eating a calorie surplus right now in order to build muscle mass, so this hefty morning meal is perfect for me as a bodybuilder.”

—Rob Trench, Manager, Store 144, St. Petersburg, FL

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Well-Being

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“My typical breakfast is a power bowl of sautéed kale, egg whites, and red quinoa. I love incorporating quinoa, a superfood with all nine essential amino acids.”

—Fabian Villanueva, Store 395, Menifee, CA

christine-murray-breakfast

“My go-to breakfast is a mug of quick oats. They’re a little plain in flavor, so I put cinnamon sugar on the top to add some fun—and so I don’t get bored of it. It’s simple, easy, and keeps me full and satisfied for a few hours.”

—Christine Murray, Brand Communications Manager

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“My breakfast almost always involves some sort of egg-veggie combo. The more green the better! Here I’ve got two fried eggs over spinach with some avocado on the side. And, of course, tons of red pepper flakes and black pepper for a nice kick.”

—Lauren Del Turco, Associate Editor

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What You Should Change About Your Beauty Routine If You’re Pregnant

Most women know that certain foods become off limits once you’re pregnant. Soft cheeses, lunch meats, and sprouts are all on the “do not eat” list, largely due to the risk of food poisoning.

But many women don’t realize that their beauty routines may be rocked, too. Not only do pregnant women have to look out for a number of ingredients in popular cosmetic products, but they also have to deal with a host of brand-new skin issues.

I spazzed during my first pregnancy when I discovered three months in that salicylic acid face wash is on the “no go” list—and promptly tossed the wash I’d been using since I was a teen in favor of an all-natural scrub.

To keep other expectant moms from having the same freak-outs, we’re breaking down the products you may want to stop using when you’re with child, as well as ones you may want to consider adding in order to deal with the many body changes that hit.

Take A Closer Look At Your Face Wash

“Most women that are pregnant may think that they need to avoid certain foods, and don’t realize that topical products can be absorbed and cause harm to their growing baby,” says Susan G. Murrmann, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., co-founder of the McDonald Murrmann Women’s Clinic.

Common acne-fighting ingredients like tetracycline, salicylic acid, and any retinoid product should be avoided because they may be associated with birth defects, she says. Instead, opt for washes that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), glycolic acid, and lactic acid, which are considered safe alternatives.

Related: This Reviva Glycolic Acid Facial Cleanser is soap and oil-free.  

Rethink Your Mani/Pedi

Manicures and pedicures can feel amazing—especially when you’re pregnant and have crazy-sore feet—but Murrmann urges caution. Many nail polish formulas include a chemical known as TPHP, which is commonly used as a flame retardant, that can be absorbed into the body through the nail, according to a study published in Environmental International

That doesn’t mean you need to avoid nail polish altogether—just look for polishes labeled “all natural” or “TPHP-free.”

“I felt lousy during the first two trimesters of my pregnancy, and getting a monthly pedicure really helped me feel pampered,” says Amy L. “The salon near me didn’t have nail polishes I felt good about, so I just brought my own.”

Related: Mineral Fusion’s nail polishes are 100 percent vegan.

Combat Skin Changes

Skin discoloration, or melasma, a common condition in which people get dark patches on their skin, can occur during pregnancy and is triggered both by hormonal changes and sun exposure. That’s why Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California, says it’s especially important to wear sunscreen when you’re pregnant.

If you do develop melasma patches and they bother you, talk to your dermatologist. Kojic acid and soy are two ingredients that can lighten the patches and are considered safe to use during pregnancy, Shainhouse says, but there are other treatments that can be used after your pregnancy and when you’re done breastfeeding.

Related: Try Reviva’s Brown Spot Night Gel

Have A Razor Handy

When Laura P. was pregnant, she noticed something unusual with her body hair: “I suddenly had to shave my legs every day. I used to shave every two days.”

That’s not uncommon, Shainhouse says. “Pregnancy hormones can make hair darker and boost both its thickness and speed of growth,” she says. “This can occur not only in the pubic area, but on your legs, underarms, face, abdomen, and legs.” Laser hair removal isn’t FDA-approved during pregnancy, she says, so you’ll have to stick to shaving or waxing.

Up Your Moisturizer Game

Pregnant women often suffer from dry, itchy skin, which is why Murrmann recommends increasing your water intake during pregnancy. This can be due to either hormones or dehydration—pregnant women are drinking for two, after all. (According to the Mayo Clinic, women who are pregnant should aim to drink 10 cups of water a day.)

Since expectant moms are also at a risk for stretch marks, Murrmann recommends hopping on the cocoa butter train as early as possible. That, and gaining weight at a slow, steady pace, can help keep stretch marks at bay. Some marks may be unavoidable, but regularly spreading cocoa butter across your belly, hips, and thighs can help to minimize the stretches.

Related: 15 Parents Name The Products That Saved Them When Their Children Were Newborns

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Should You Strength Train Before or After Cardio?

Everybody has their own routine when they go to the gym. Some like to warm up by hitting their heart rate hard, breaking a sweat before making a move for the free weights. Others prefer to tackle strength first, leaving an intense cardio burner for last.

And while we’re all about you finding the gym rhythm that works best for you, it’s worth knowing that whatever activity you choose to do first can potentially impact your performance in that second activity.

According to an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, which reviewed more than 20 relevant studies, you should structure your workouts according to your priorities. If you want to improve your heart health, conditioning, or endurance, start your workout with cardio. If you want to make strength gains, start with the weights.

Related: The Best Rep Range If You’re Strength-Training For Weight Loss

Whatever you do first will make you more tired than you would’ve been for what you do second—especially your legs, which are often used heavily in both cardio and strength exercise, according Nicholas Ratamess, Ph.D., C.S.C.S.*D, one of the authors and associate professor or Health and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey.

If you want to hit cardio before a big lift, monitor your intensity. “If your cardio is low-intensity and short in duration, it may not have as many negative effects on your strength workout, for example,” he explains.

But if you’re attacking an intense cardio workout like HIIT (high-intensity interval training) right before lifting weights, expect your performance to be diminished, according to another one of Ratamess’ studies, published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The study had young, fit men perform intense running exercises, wait 10 minutes, and then perform a strength workout. The result: The participants who ran prior to lifting performed nine to 18 percent fewer reps than those who didn’t. Not surprisingly, the most dramatic difference was seen in leg exercises. The men also had higher heart rates, reduced power output, and higher overall ratings of fatigue.

Related: The Best Cardio Workout For Weight Loss

The good news: If your goal is to lose weight, both cardio and lifting will help you get there. “Both aerobic and resistance training increase your calorie burn,” says Ratamess. Aerobic exercise helps you burn more during exercise, while strength training will help you burn more after exercise.

Here’s how it works. Your muscles need to burn fuel to function, and part of that fuel comes in the form of oxygen. When you perform aerobic exercise, your muscles use oxygen at a rate that you can replenish with a little heavy breathing—that’s why you start to huff and puff when you jog or hit a quick round of burpees. But heavy lifting exercises (known as ‘anaerobic’) deplete your oxygen stores enough that you body has to work to replenish them long after you’re done exercising—burning extra calories the whole time.

The bottom line: Unless you’re training specifically for extreme cardiovascular performance or ultra-heavy weightlifting, how you order your workouts won’t have much impact on the benefits of breaking a sweat. However, you can still give sequential preference to one or the other if you’re training for specific goals (like wanting to become more muscular) or to improve certain weaknesses (like knee or ankle joint stability), according to Ratamess.

For most people, training both strength and cardio simultaneously can be a good long-term approach to fitness. Hence why what Ratamess calls “hybrid programs,” like CrossFit, Orangetheory, and Barry’s Bootcamp, have become so popular. In these types of fitness classes, you’ll bounce back and forth between cardio efforts like running or rowing and strength exercises like pushups or squats. The workouts require both cardiovascular capacity and strength, and create more of a hybrid athlete instead of a specialist, he says.

Related: Power up your workout with a performance supplement.

what-you-need-to-know-about-whole30

What You Need To Know About The Popular Whole30 Diet

As if Whole30 weren’t popular enough already, the recent release of The Whole30 Cookbook has turned the diet into more of an internet-wide craze. Still, for as buzzy as Whole30 is, it’s pretty misunderstood.

We talked with top registered dietitians, as well as one of the Whole30 creators, to decode what’s on (and off!) the menu—and how to tell if the plan is right for you.

What’s the Whole30 Diet All About?

Whole30 originated in 2009 after co-founder Melissa Hartwig, a certified sports nutritionist, cut out all sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, and food additives from her diet for 30 days—and found herself feeling better than ever—the Whole30 is an elimination diet intended to help people establish a diet rooted in whole foods and identify food sensitivities that may contribute to health related issues.

As in Hartwig’s own experiment, Whole30 dieters are instructed to remove all added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, as well as carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites from their diets for 30 days straight. No exceptions.

Then, once they successfully make it through the 30 days sans slip-ups (one bite of a prohibited food and you start over at day one!), Whole30-ers can slowly reintroduce each food group back into their diet, one food group at a time, generally over the course of 10 days, Hartwig explains. The thought is that you would reintroduce, say grains, on day 31, and then dairy on day 35. Any sudden stomach issues on days 31 through 35 would point to a sensitivity to grains. That might be your cue that you could alleviate future stomach woes by avoiding grains long-term.

Before You Try To Whole30 All Your Health Issues Away…

While many Whole30 dieters and proponents claim that the approach has helped them to have more energy, feel better, and surmount a myriad of health concerns, proceed with care.

“Self-diagnosing food intolerances and allergies—or anything else, really—can easily be inaccurate, if not dangerous,” explains Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you suspect that you have a medical issue in relation to food, it’s best to talk to your doctor or dietitian for evaluation. Every person is different, and diagnosis isn’t generally as simple as, ‘I feel better today.’” A diagnosis of Celiac disease (a disorder in which gluten damages the small intestines), for example, hinges on the examination of a biopsy taken from the patient’s small intestine.

The creators of Whole30 hear these concerns loud and clear. According to Hartwig, the program is not meant to be a substitute for a medically-supervised elimination diet, and those interested in trying it should always speak with their healthcare practitioner before overhauling their diets.

Axing Foods—And Nutrients?

Self-diagnosing aside, most concerns over the Whole30 revolve around the elimination of foods that are healthy, should someone not have an actual food allergy or intolerance, explains Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., assistant Professor in Nutrition and Exercise Science at Central Washington University.

“The diet eliminates a lot of foods that are packed with benefits, like beans and dairy,” she says. She notes that whenever you remove an entire food group from your diet, you risk nutritional deficiency. (For instance, if you nix dairy for a month, you need to make sure you are getting vitamin D and calcium elsewhere.)

To help pack in as much vitamin D into Whole30 as possible, Hartwig recommends incorporating fatty cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel into your meal rotation. Some of the best Whole30-approved sources of calcium include Chinese cabbage and leafy greens, like spinach.

That’s not to say that the foods you can eat on Whole30 can’t make up a healthful diet. A balanced menu on the program incorporates meats, seafood, eggs, loads of vegetables, some fruit, and unsaturated fats from oils, nuts, and seeds. These are all great foods that can be part of a healthy, well-rounded eating plan, Pritchett says. Major points.

Will You Lose Weight?

Contrary to popular opinion, the Whole30 is not a weight-loss plan, Hartwig explains. Still, that doesn’t mean that people don’t lose weight on it.

In fact, she notes that many people who follow the protocol report losing up to 15 pounds within the month. Delbridge has observed similar amounts of weight lost among Whole30 followers.

Why all of the weight loss on a non-weight-loss diet? The reason is two-fold. First, so many foods are eliminated that people may end up with a caloric deficit, meaning they consume fewer calories than they burn per day, without even trying. (It’s worth noting that the diet does not recommend calorie counting.) Second, the Whole30 diet tends to be high in protein and fat, both of which help to prevent overeating by making you feel full long after each meal, Delbridge says.

Delbridge notes, though, that many people he has seen lose weight throughout the Whole30, gain some or all of it back afterward. He suspects that straight-up eliminating sugar (or any other food) may contribute to increased cravings and potential binges once Whole30 is over.

Many proponents of Whole30, though, claim that following the program actually helped them improve their relationship with food and ultimately reduced cravings.

The Bottom Line

If you want to cut down on (or completely eliminate) your intake of added sugar, alcohol, or food additives, go for it, says Delbridge. “As long as you are getting the nutrients you need, if you feel better not eating a specific food or food group, that’s totally cool,” he says.

And if you suspect you might have an allergy or intolerance to legumes, dairy, or any specific grains (like wheat), systematically removing each food and then reintroducing it into your eating plan is a good first step in identifying any issues. Just make sure to take on the science experiment with a registered dietitian’s oversight, he says. That way, you can be sure that as you cut a food group from your plate, you don’t miss out on any vital nutrients.

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5 Foods That Are Packed With Probiotics

Nothing ruins a road trip or night on the town quite like stomach troubles. But good gut health isn’t essential just because gas and diarrhea are inconvenient: Research has identified ties between our GI health and both our immune and metabolic functions. They don’t call the stomach the “second brain” for nothing!

At the core of good gut health lies the importance of a particular type of microorganism: healthy bacteria that live in our intestines called probiotics. These bacteria help us properly digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. So without them, you could be more prone to stomach struggles.

Much like our overall health, the hundreds of species of bacteria in our gut can be affected by our diet. Certain types of bacteria feed off of dietary fiber, and studies have shown that eating fiber boosts the populations of some probiotics, according to a review published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease.

Plus, the prevalence of antibiotics in our lives today—whether prescribed by a doc or in our food—has led many health professionals to encourage consuming more probiotic-rich foods, says Niket Sonpal, M.D., of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Over-consuming antibiotics can disrupt the balance within your microbiome, leading to stomach upset, so by consuming probiotics in food or supplement form, we may be able to replenish and re-balance the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

We gathered five of the most probiotic-packed foods so you can load up your shopping cart with that good-for-you bacteria. When searching for them in the grocery store aisles, look for a seal indicating “active live cultures” or check the ingredient list for bacterial strains like bifidobacteria or lactobacillus, says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Related: You can also get a probiotic boost from a supplement.

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This popular, pickled cabbage contains vitamin B6 and iron, and becomes dense with probiotics through fermentation, says Planells. Fermentation is the process by which we preserve foods in salted brine, which allows that good bacteria to flourish. According to Planells, the specific types of bacteria that are able to survive through fermentation depend on temperature, pH, the food’s nutrients, and oxygen supply.

Sauerkraut also contains vitamin C, vitamin K, and some fiber, says Tori Schmitt, M.S., R.D.N., founder of YES! Nutrition, LLC. Schmitt likes to top eggs or avocado with sauerkraut for breakfast, or add it to her favorite sandwiches, salads, and wraps.

miso-soup

Next time you go out for that spicy tuna roll, order a bowl of miso soup to sip on the side. Miso is a paste or seasoning popular in Japanese cuisine that’s made from fermented soybeans.

Or, throw some grilled or marinated tempeh (a block of packed fermented soy somewhat similar to tofu that’s popular in Indonesian cuisine) into soups, pastas, and chili for a smoky, nutty flavor, suggest Planells.

Both tempeh and miso contain probiotics and make great additions to vegetarian meals because they’re considered complete proteins (meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids), plus B vitamins and antioxidants, says Planells. A half of a cup of tempeh packs on 17 grams of proteins and two tablespoons of miso contains 4 grams of protein.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Gassy

kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy, fermented vegetable popular in Korean cuisine that contains probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B, and C. The most common probiotic in kimchi is lactobacillus, which survives by feeding off the sugar content of the cabbage and releasing carbon dioxide, says Planells.

Noticing a trend of fermented foods here? Turns out you can ferment just about any fruit or vegetable. Veggies like cauliflower, carrots, jicama, and daikon can all provide probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and minerals when fermented. They make a crunchy addition to a meal and go great with hummus for a healthy snack, says Schmitt.

Try it at home: Bastyr University, known for alternative medicine studies, recommends dissolving 1 TBSP of sea salt into 2 cups of water. Once dissolved, place vegetables with spices of choice into a glass quart jar, leaving 1 inch at the top and ensuring all vegetables are submerged. Cover the jar and keep away from direct sunlight for five days. If the vegetables aren’t to your liking, you can let them ferment another 2 to 3 days for a more sour taste. Once ready, place in fridge for up to two months.

kombucha

Not only can you eat your probiotics, but you can drink them, too. Kombucha, an effervescent fermented tea, is quickly becoming a trendy go-to for probiotics.

Schmitt recommends swapping soda or juices for the healthy, fizzy beverage. Just take a look at the label before you buy a bottle—some varieties may be packed with sugar.

yogurt

When you think of probiotics and food, you probably jump straight to yogurt. That’s because it’s prepared with those live and active cultures (a.k.a. probiotics), says Schmitt.

She recommends going for a strained Greek or Icelandic yogurt, which can pack up to 23 grams of protein per cup. Enjoy it for breakfast with fresh berries and sprinkle on nuts or seeds. Just steer clear of flavored yogurts, which are often loaded with sugar.

Save this handy infographic to that healthy eating Pinterest board:

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How I Went From Eating 5,000 Calories A Day To Putting Health And Fitness First

As told by The Vitamin Shoppe Health Enthusiast Debbie Burkhart

Healthy living was never a priority for me growing up. As a teenager, I did whatever I could to get out of gym class. I would have much rather curled up with a book than spend time exercising. When I got to college, I lived on pizza and pasta, and developed a nasty addiction to soda. Breakfast often involved cheesy breadsticks and gas station candy.

When I hit 190 pounds and started having trouble tying my shoes, I knew things were bad. But it wasn’t until chest pains regularly stopped me in my tracks that I finally decided to get my health on track.

I downloaded a food-tracker app and got smacked in the face by the reality of my daily diet: I was eating somewhere around 5,000 calories a day. I traveled a lot for work and didn’t realize my fast food meals alone clocked in at over a day’s-worth of calories. I immediately ditched my morning soda and used my food app to make better choices when drive-thrus or chain restaurants were my only meal options.

When I hit 190 pounds and started having trouble tying my shoes, I knew things were bad.

After six months or so, I’d lost 40 pounds by cracking down on my nutrition. I had always laughed at people who worked out, but I wanted to keep seeing changes in my body and feel healthier, so I knew I had to add exercise into the equation. I started doing tae-bo workout videos at home, and asked the trainers at my local gym about strength training and cardio workouts.

Once I started lifting weights, I was hooked. I tried yoga and pilates classes, too, and despite cardio always being a struggle for me, I even incorporated treadmill interval workouts into my routine.

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photo credit: Debbie Burkhart

After a few years of consistently hitting the gym and keeping my portions and calories under control, I took things a little too far. Exercise became my coping mechanism for stress, and I spent more and more time at the gym, until I was spending hours there every single day. My weight dropped down to 116 pounds (I’m 5’5”). I pumped the breaks and cut back on my workout time, and my weight bounced back up to 135, where I’ve hovered ever since.

After six months or so, I’d lost 40 pounds by cracking down on my nutrition. I had always laughed at people who worked out, but I wanted to keep seeing changes in my body and feel healthier

Now my routine feels much more balanced. I split my time among lifting weights, yoga, and a little bit of cardio. I even started teaching mat pilates at my local gym twice a week and set up an aerial yoga rig in my home. I still feel like my 190-pound self sometimes—neither strong nor graceful—and that’s okay. I cried after teaching my first pilates class because I couldn’t believe how far I’d come.

These days, I eat a bagel with light cream cheese for breakfast pretty much every day. (Cheers to flexible eating!) I make foods like chicken, rice, and broccoli or green beans for lunch, and snack on almonds or protein bars throughout the day. I haven’t touched soda, but still crave that giant ice-filled cup from the gas station, so I buy myself a cup of ice and water and mix in a couple scoops of Optimum Nutrition’s grape-flavored Amino Energy, instead.

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photo credit: Debbie Burkhart

Some days I’m exhausted or feel tempted to use food as a crutch for stress—but then I think of the 70-year-olds who make it to every single pilates class I teach, rain or shine. They remind me of the way I want to live my life: They get out there, take care of themselves, and thrive no matter what.

I cried after teaching my first pilates class because I couldn’t believe how far I’d come.

Biggest Advice

I think sometimes we are so ashamed that we’ve let ourselves go that we don’t do what we need to do to turn things around. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t be ashamed to start. Having cracks doesn’t mean you’re broken—you can do it. You just have to take that first step.

Deb’s Go-To Picks From The Vitamin Shoppe

Of course, I love my grape Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy. I sip on that stuff all day. I have a sensitive stomach, so I love D’s Naturals No Cow protein bars, especially the lemon meringue or chocolate banana bread flavors.