Breakfast and the Fiber>Sugar Rule

The quick answer: Start the day with a wholesome breakfast and you’ll eat better all through the day.  You’ll feel better too.


Starting the Day

Starting the day with packaged breakfast cereal is as American as . . . dental cavities.  Sadly, they go together.  Another common breakfast is a cup of coffee and a Danish.  Or just skip breakfast altogether and grab some snack food at morning break.  These choices are common to the modern American diet (MAD) and that’s a problem.

In this post we share our breakfast recipe, introduce the “fiber>sugar” rule, and remember a past visit to the cereal aisle of the local grocery.

Yes, I’m Cheap

Ask the Beautiful Wife and she’ll confirm it—Skip’s a cheap guy.  So if I find a healthy breakfast recipe that’s way cheaper than the packaged junk in the store, I’m happy.  And my recipe’s quick; I can make it in 10 minutes:

Skip’s Healthy (& Cheap) Breakfast Recipe

Ingredients (2 servings):

  • 3 T steel-cut oats (I throw them in the spice grinder to speed up cooking time)
  • 1 C hot water
  • 1/8 C flaxseed
  • 1/8 C sunflower seeds (I put the flaxseed and sunflower seeds in the spice grinder while the oatmeal is cooking)
  • 2 tsp turbinado sugar (or other less processed sugar)
  • Cinnamon
  • 2/3 C blueberries (from the freezer)
  • 2/3 C apple, diced


  1. Combine and cook oatmeal and water, cook about 9 minutes, adding sugar and Cinnamon.  (My sister, for efficiency, makes a tray of oatmeal once-a-week.)
  2. Grind flaxseed and sunflower seeds and divide between bowls.
  3. Prepare fruit and add to bowls
  4. Stir in oatmeal (I make it a little runny as the seeds absorb water) and serve.
  5. I add heavy cream (because it’s not homogenized, which I consider better) on my cereal; the BW has used orange juice (when Valencia oranges are in season) but is now adding a little whole milk.

We’ve eaten this for several years now.  For variety we follow the cycle of seasonal fruits: strawberries in the spring, peaches in the summer, apples and blueberries in the fall, or winter pears with blueberries.  (With steel-cut oats we don’t seem to get hungry as soon as with rolled oats.)  All this leads us to the "Fiber>Sugar rule":

Fiber>Sugar Rule

In all modesty, the fiber-greater-than-sugar rule is one of my greatest ideas (right after marrying the BW).  It’s a reliable guide for packaged breakfast cereals but also works with other grain products (bread, cookies, etc.).  There's science behind it—the rationale follows recommended daily fiber goals and the AHA limit on added sugar. 

Trouble in the Cereal Aisle

I used the fiber>sugar rule to select the most healthy offerings of the supermarket breakfast cereal aisle in one of our most popular posts: Trouble in The Breakfast Aisle

You can see the application of the fiber>sugar rule using the two cereal boxes below:


Healthy Change

Please comment:  Share your healthy breakfast ideas, your recipes, or your timesaving tips.

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Reader Comments (10)

My wife read this a few years back and it's been one of the best changes we've made, right up there will no fried foods and cutting out sugary drinks. We do homeade granola or oat meal /w fruit. It amazes me how unhealthy the typical store bought cereal is and how much the average American consumes. Thank you very much for this info!

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I appreciate how you teach a healthy change and continue to revisit it, for I fall off the wagon and need reminding. What do you mean by a tray for the week? Cooking a bulk batch and storing it in the refrigerator? I make organic rolled oats everyday (bought out of the bin) and have steel-cut waiting patiently in my pantry. Your fiber rule is one of my favorites! Thank you for your food wisdom.

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterej

Yes, she's all about efficiency. She cooks a big batch, puts it in a tray with a snap-on lid, and stores it in the refrigerator to use daily as a quick breakfast.

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

I make your breakfast compote quite often. I love the idea of grinding the steel cut oats first. I love them but they take so long! Especially when you are trying to feed 5 other hungry mouths. We love eggs with veggies stirred in and homeade granola and a little yogurt.

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShara

We love millet. The night before, I soak 1 cup of millet with 2 c water and a little kefir or raw apple cider vinegar. The next morning, simmer for 15 minutes, adding raisins or chopped apples and topping with butter and maple syrup. This feeds 2 adults and 2 kids.

Another method I've heard of but haven't tried yet is making steel cut oats on low in the slow cooker overnight. Can't beat that kind of convenience!

We pretty much gave up cold cereal a few years ago, but when we go to Trader Joe's we always buy some and of course, the kids love it.

January 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

What a great website! Thanks for all the super ideas to add to our own Vitality lifestyle. Loved the "walk back in time" with BW father's memories of Midway.
A new breakfast for us was introduced by our sweet Chinese nanny, Juno, who has become like a daughter to us. Saute a few chopped veggies (onion, bell peppers, carrot, spinach, celery, etc.) in olive oil & add leftover rice (any kind) & salt & it is delicious & a hearty breakfast with farm-raised eggs. The children like to make a circle for a fried egg in the center of the veggie rice.
Three cheers for promoting Vitality, Skip!

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMimi Murdock

A low cal, healthful item on my breakfast rotation is a whole wheat pancake with blueberry compote with the aim of avoiding excessive sugar (syrup) and butter in my diet.

Whole wheat pancakes: I C whole wheat flour (freshly ground preferred), 1/4-1/2 t salt, 1-2 T sugar (probably could substitute real maple syrup or decrease a bit), 1 t baking powder, 1 egg. Mix dries together. Mix buttermilk and egg together thoroughly. Add to dry ingredients and blend well. Cook on hot griddle. I use a large ice cream scoop which makes 5 pancakes. I put leftover pancakes in baggie and reheat them in toaster as needed.

Blueberry compote: 1 C frozen blueberries, 1/2 T lemon juice, 1 t corn starch or ultra gel, 1 T sugar or to taste, 1 T water, 1/8 t salt. Combine lemon juice and corn starch in small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan combine the blueberries, sugar, water, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer and stir in lemon mixture. Simmer while stirring until sauce thickens (about two minutes). The amount of sugar

The compote is also delicious on whole wheat french toast. This dish is filling and doesn't leave my sweet tooth feeling deprived.

I love your blog, Skip. It has inspired many healthy changes in my diet.

January 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Correction to above recipe for whole wheat pancakes: You can use regular milk in this recipe but when using buttermilk, add 1/4 t baking soda for fluffier pancakes.

January 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

i also love how you repost the healthy habits. it is my third year reading your blog and i still need reminding! i am constantly searching for healthier breakfast options for my little champions. fast and healthy is my mantra, but i too often fall back on cold cereal. this has motivated me to try a little bit harder.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjweed

I agree that your fiber>sugar rule is brilliant! Even my 9yo and 6yo know that rule now, and they stand in the cereal aisle for ages, searching for boxes that meet that rule. Thank you!!

March 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

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