The quick answer: Eat a healthy breakfast. Shun the packaged products in favor of real food. Whatever you eat, be sure you get more fiber than added sugar.
Temporary Diet or Permanent Change?
There were two excellent articles on weight loss last week. One article summarized the research on dieting to lose weight. Here are the startling findings:
- Dieting to lose weight is a reliable predictor of future weight gain. You’ll lose weight in the short-term, but because you starved yourself rather than reform your life style, you’ll gain more weight later.
- Dieting to lose weight is a risk factor for future eating disorders. It doesn’t happen to everyone but an eating disorder, such as anorexia, is a difficult condition that’s best avoided.
- Dieting becomes progressively less effective. The first time you diet the pounds seem to melt away but with each subsequent diet there is less and less effect.
The second article was about diet reformation—featuring a once-obese English girl suffering progressive heart disease. She set a goal to lose 98 pounds and keep it off. It’s one thing to lose weight, and quite another to keep it off. But this girl has kept it off for 2 years and shares her experience in a blog, Hungry, Healthy, Happy.
The key to her success: meal plans that incorporate stepwise healthy diet improvements plus regular exercise. Sounds like our Healthy Changes. Even if you don’t need to lose weight, this is a better way to live.
Here’s her quote: "I needed to lose 100 pounds, but since the thought of that was daunting, I started off by taking small steps. I cut out junk and processed foods, and stopped eating takeout. I replaced it with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. I gave up alcohol for six months, which really helped kick-start the weight loss, and I started cooking everything from scratch.
Previously, I only knew how to put something in the microwave or in the oven, so cooking was completely new to me. One of the things I always said from the beginning was that I never wanted to stop enjoying food. I didn't see why losing weight had to mean that -- and it didn't! I still enjoy all the foods I once ate too much of, I just make healthier versions of them so I know exactly what is in them.
I started off the way I intended to spend the rest of my life, by creating a healthy and sustainable relationship with food and finding workouts that I loved. I truly think that is the “secret” to me keeping the weight off."
Breakfast is the easiest meal to make healthy. As the first meal of the day, it’s a good place to start one’s diet reformation. The simplest rule is to eat food close to its original form—real food, minimally processed. Our basic rule is to eat food with more (natural) fiber than sugar. As the year progresses, we’ll apply this simple rule to nearly all packaged foods.
There’s a rationale behind the fiber>sugar rule: The latest AHA recommendation for heart health asks women to eat no more than 24 grams of sugar (6 tsp; based on weight men get 9 tsp). The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 calls for us to eat at least 14 grams of fiber for each 1000 calories. So a typical 2000 calorie/day diet for a woman would be 28 grams of fiber (found in plant foods) and not more than 24 grams of sugar. Thus the fiber>sugar rule.
We eat breakfast six days a week, fasting on Sunday. Most days we eat a mixture of healthy grains, nuts and fruit, but sometimes, we eat eggs in some form, sometimes with bacon. I usually finish with buttered whole-wheat toast.
Breakfast Compote Recipe
The first recipe we shared was for our Breakfast Compote (pictured above). The ingredients vary with the seasons. We love the fresh peaches of late summer, but there’s always apples or blue berries (kept in the freezer). Flaxseed, ground daily, is a good source of healthy omega-3 fats as well as fiber. When Valencia oranges are available the beautiful wife prefers her cereal with fresh-squeezed OJ. One of those Swiss things.
Swiss Muesli Recipe
On account of the BW being half-Swiss we have traveled to the homes of her ancestors in Switzerland. The Swiss are remarkably health conscious. Despite their world-famous chocolates, they’re careful eaters and enjoy the highest longevity of any nation.
A century ago the Swiss nutritionist, Dr. Bircher-Benner, invented a breakfast cereal called muesli using local products like oats, apples, hazelnuts, and cream. A recipe can be found in this post.
Healthy Change #4
Please comment: In the next post we'll revisit the cereal aisle. It's not all bad, there are a few healthy packaged cereals, especially if you enjoy them with fruit. Please share your favorite breakfast recipes.