The Good Breakfast

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Reader Comments (6)

after reading about the hidden sugars in cereal i completely ditched cold cereal—one of my biggest vices! (i didn't realize it was a vice because of the sugar, more because it was a cop out dinner ;) looking forward to hearing what packaged cereals make the cut. i used to do oats with almonds and honey, now i try different breakfast smoothies—my favorites are kale-based with frozen fruit (fresh in summer) and an oat-strawberry-banana smoothie.

January 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhannah

My new favorite breakfast is homemade granola with almond milk and fruit- yum!

January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStaci

I like this breakfast a lot, but sometimes I don't feel like eating anything sweet, so I have bread and cheese instead.... Any other healthier ideas?

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel

Ever hear of the Green Smoothie Girl? I went to one of her seminars and ever since I am in love with Green Smoothies for breakfast. They are super yummy, super easy, and super healthy! Even my two year old will drink up a whole pint. Since implementing this into my diet I have so much more energy. It's great! You should try it. Here are some recipes:

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I am wondering if my usual breakfast is good for me. I have a carnation instant breakfast shake and two pieces of wheat toast - peanut butter on one and jam on the other, then usually a glass of water. I'm sure this is not the ideal breakfast. To make a long story short, due to stomach problems that showed up about 5 years ago that is really all I am able to eat that keeps me full till lunch. It's better than Swiss Miss hot chocolate and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! That was really all I could eat for a few months that wouldn't make me sick. I tried an egg again for Bfast a couple days ago, and was sick until the afternoon when I gave into some gingerale and Ritz crackers. Anyways, This post brought up a few other things not related to the topic - Skip, if you don't mind giving me your 2 cents I'd really appreciate it.
You mentioned fasting on Sundays. A relative told me not to fast while I was pregnant, and I figured it would be the same for breastfeeding. Any thoughts?
Also, I am allergic to most raw fruits and vegetables so it is hard to really eat healthy. The allergies went away when I lived in Italy for 18 months and then again during the first half of my pregnancy last year, but came back. Any idea what might be the cause? Or what I can do to maybe combat it? thanks.

February 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHollie

just curious, as I believe you are LDS, why do you fast every Sunday? I am LDS and fast on Fast Sunday, but you indicate you fast every week.

February 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGaynell

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