Just because food is fuel doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious.

Julia Antonio knows this firsthand, as the dancer and gymnast began experimenting with different foods and flavors during the pandemic. The freshman at North Pocono High School looked to create lean, nutrient-dense foods to keep her moving and came up with a few recipes, including one for a Cinnamon Oatmeal Bowl. The recipe earned Julia a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore.

A few months ago, Julia was looking on YouTube for healthy, breakfast-based recipes when she came across oatmeal bowls with all different mix-ins. Packed with egg whites for protein and essential grains in the oats, it’s a great way to keep her body strong and healthy. Julia has danced since she was 3 and takes pointe, jazz, lyrical and acro at Occhipinti Dance Company, Elmhurst Twp., and has done gymnastics since age 9, honing her skills at United Sports Academy.

The oatmeal bowl bursts with flavor thanks to bananas, cinnamon and nutmeg. Julia also tops it with fresh berries such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries plus shaved coconut and a drizzle of honey. The taste combinations may seem surprising, but something about mixture just works, the 15-year-old said.

“I was surprised by it, honestly,” she said on a recent day at the home she shares with her mom, Pam; dad, Rich; and their dog, Max (brother Richie is in Arizona). “I was kind of just adding random (ingredients) based on things I like and (things) that are healthy. It was kind of trial-and-error. … I got the right combination down, and it turned out pretty good.”

Julia uses oat milk in the recipe, but she pointed out that cooks can swap in their favorite kind of milk. If she wants to amp up the nutrients, she’ll add in chia seeds, flaxseed and protein powder.

Cooks also can dial up the health factor by mixing in fruit, nuts or any other ingredient that will boost its essential vitamins and healthy fats.

“With gymnastics and being an athlete, I’m always trying to keep things the most organic and nutrient-dense as I possibly can,” she said.

Julia continues to experiment with recipes made with whole foods – including salads, wraps and smoothies – all with different ingredients and flavor combinations to create the perfect balance of healthy and delicious.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, especially kids and teens, her mom said. Even though dance and gymnastics were shut down, every time Julia had the chance, she did stretches, worked on her flexibility or did strength training in the backyard. She also was in the kitchen, making different kinds of healthy recipes. Her mom is grateful she kept active and even found new hobbies, like cooking, along the way.

“I’m so proud of her,” Pam Antonio said. “It’s so important for all of us, especially kids, to stay active and keep a routine going during this time. She created these healthy habits for herself and has just gotten more into it. I’m so happy that she’s happy.”


Julia Antonio’s Cinnamon Oatmeal Bowl
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup milk of choice (Julia uses oat milk)
1/2 ripe banana
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 egg whites, whipped
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)
1/2 scoop protein
powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon flaxseed (optional)
Blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries, for topping
Shaved coconut, for topping
Honey, to drizzle
Cook on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Top with berries and drizzle with honey.