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Breaking Bad (Breakfast Habits)

It’s entirely possible that fruits and vegetables need better marketing.

Between fast food outlets, sit-down chain restaurants, processed food manufacturers and the industrial farming marketing machines we are inundated with persuasive messaging around food. Their efforts are not in vain. Sadly, the Standard American Diet runs on the foods put out by these institutions.

No meal of the day suffers more than breakfast by its alignment with the Standard American Diet.

Typical breakfast foods – cereal, toast, muffins, bagels and pancakes – are mostly devoid of nutritional value, though cereals have scads of vitamins and other nutrients added back in after they are stripped out during processing. The “oat bran” bandwagon of the 1980s gave way to the presence of anti-oxidants and omega-3s. No surprise, despite their claims, this is a poor way to get important nutrients in your diet.

These highly processed foods bear little resemblance to the grains from which they came. Maybe worse, they are extremely fast-burning carbohydrates. I don’t know about you, but they leave me feeling hungry again way too soon.

Fruit juice is another common breakfast food that is completely undeserving of a place at our breakfast table. If you’ve ever juiced oranges you know how many oranges it takes to fill and 8 oz. glass. Depending on the size of the oranges, maybe 3-4. When was the last time you sat down to eat 3-4 oranges? It seems silly of course, and you’d probably be full after doing so. But an 8 oz. glass of juice goes down very quickly, as do the calories it contains. So while fruit juices are indeed highly nutritious, they are a very concentrated source of calories in the form of fructose (aka sugar). You will burn through the energy that orange juice provides faster than you can smack yourself on the forehead and say, “I coulda had a high protein breakfast!”

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In Tuesday’s blog, “Breakfasts For Weight Loss Champions” I gave examples of some healthy grab-n-go breakfasts, including the go-to breakfast smoothie I drink every day. Your choice needn’t be complicated or involve much preparation at all – think greek yogurt and a banana on the way out the door – but it does need to be thoughtful.

Shoot for 20 grams of protein in your breakfast and carbohydrates in the form of fruits (not juice) or vegetables.

This blueprint for your breakfast plate will rev up for metabolism for the day and give you a long-lasting sense of fullness.

In a pinch the new McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffin isn’t horrible. It’s very high in sodium, but with 18 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat you could do worse for 250 calories.

And one final note on cereal: I have been known to eat cereal as a late night snack. I suppose this may be a leftover habit from college. I still like cereal even though I don’t eat it for breakfast. I’ve been seeing a bunch of “chocolate” cereals lately, which supports my belief that this stuff is more dessert than it is morning fuel. As a dessert, a small bowl with a splash of milk on it can be a decent option.

The diet experts are right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The food marketers are wrong: breakfast shouldn’t be a salt-sugar-fat fest that is low in nutrients.

Losing weight is hard enough; why make it even harder by eating a breakfast that doesn’t offer the nourishment and staying power your body needs? Healthy living is easier when fuel your body properly. And you’re so damn worth it!

Let’s go get it!

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