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A Dietitian’s Breakfast

“What do YOU eat?”  is a question dietitians often hear from their clients.  Although most dietitians would much rather focus on the specific goals and needs of their clients when counseling on nutrition, I do understand the question.  What clients actually want to know when they ask this is, what should THEY eat?   I make sure my clients understand that their individual dietary needs are different from any other person’s, but will usually gladly answer this question as it can only help to give more ideas on healthy foods to include in one’s own diet.

For today, we will focus on what we all know is the most important meal of the day, yet the meal that is most widely skipped.  What type of breakfast eater are you?  Research shows that people who skip breakfast take in more total calories in the day then people who eat 3 meals per day.    Why would that be?  Because when you skip breakfast, or any meal for that matter, you become much hungrier later in the day than you would if you had eaten breakfast.  Consequently you end up eating more than you otherwise would if you had a more moderate state of hunger.  Another thing that happens when you skip breakfast is that you have a much slower metabolic rate throughout  the course of the morning and possibly the rest of the day.  On the other hand, to eat breakfast gives your metabolism its very first jump start of the day and allows your rate of calorie burning to soar through the morning.  This is why many people report that when they eat breakfast, they feel hungry mid-morning, whereas if they skip breakfast they do not.  When our metabolism is burning energy at a rapid rate, we use up energy more quickly and become hungry more frequently.  Getting hungry every few hours can actually be an indication you are doing something right!


Those who are not used to eating breakfast often find it difficult to start.  So, what’s the point anyway?  Well, people who eat a morning meal also have more energy throughout the day and improved concentration and productivity.  They generally have a better attitude,  feel less stressed,  and perform better on tasks that require memory.  Breakfast also benefits your physical health, improving your cholesterol level, and helps you lose weight by boosting your metabolism and helping to prevent you from making bad food choices during the day.  It is also one of the best opportunities in the whole day to get calcium, a nutrient that is especially important for women, as yogurt and milk are common breakfast foods.

So, what do people generally eat for breakfast?  The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that:
• 22 percent of adults eat bread, bagels, English muffins, or similar items for breakfast
• 17 percent eat cold cereal
• 15 percent eat eggs
• 15 percent eat pastries and/or coffee or a soft drink
• 6 percent eat just fruit or juice
• 4 percent eat hot cereal
• 17 percent eat nothing


Although studies have shown it’s more important THAT you eat breakfast than WHAT you eat, it will be to your greatest benefit to emphasize certain nutrients and avoid others.

  • Must have:  Carbohydrate – provides energy, found in grains, fruit, milk, and yogurt
  • Don’t Forget:  Protein – makes your energy last, found in milk and meat products
  • Also Include:  Fiber – fills you up so you don’t eat as many total calories, found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • And Finally:  Multivitamin – because if you take it in the morning you don’t have to worry about forgetting to take it the rest of the day!
  • Forget about:  Too much fat or grease, found in full-fat meat and dairy products such as regular sausage, bacon, and cheese
  • Steer Clear of:  Too much sugar, found in doughnuts, many muffins, and many breakfast cereals

So, how do you include carbohydrate, protein, and fiber into your breakfast without too much fat or sugar?  Try one of the 5 favorite breakfasts that THIS dietitian eats:



1.  Oatmeal with flaxseed and berries + egg

  • Use old-fashioned or steel cut oats, try ½ cup dry for women and ¾ dry for men. –Stir in 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed before cooking according to package directions
  • While oats & flaxseed are cooking, cook 1 egg (add 1-2 additional egg whites, if desired) in a non-stick pan coated in cooking spray.
  • Top oatmeal with fruit, such as ½ sliced banana, ¾ cup berries, apple slices, 2 Tbsp dried  cranberries or raisins (dried fruit or apples can be added before cooking)

2.  Veggie Omelet/Fruit

  • Use frozen sliced tricolor peppers, slice fresh mushrooms, fresh or thawed frozen
  • spinach or shredded zucchini.  Sautee in 1 tsp olive oil and add 1 egg +1-2
  • additional egg whites.
  • Have a piece of fruit, fresh fruit salad, or thawed frozen chopped fruit, about 1
  • cup

3.  Protein shake with fruit and flaxseeds

Use 1 scoop whey or soy protein powder mixed with 1 cup 1% milk and ½ cup frozen fruit.  Or, use fresh fruit and add ice cubes.  If the protein taste is too much, try with ½ scoop.

4.  Kashi GoLean or GoLean Crunch Cereal with 1% milk

5.  Low Fat Bran muffin (or 2 small ones) with natural peanut or almond butter

6.   2 slices of Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, or turkey sausage aside a whole grain waffle (or 2) with sugar-free syrup

Which of these will you try?  Tell me how you like them!

Donut Advertising…Gone Too Far?

“Life’s too short for Oatmeal” reads the banner above the pump at the popular service station QT.  The caption is accompanied by a picture of ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls.  In another QT advertisement, the banner reads “Donuts-the 6th Food Group” and pictures a variety of delectable donuts.

“What do YOU eat?” is a question dietitians often hear from their clients. Although most dietitians would much rather focus on the specific goals and needs of their clients when counseling on nutrition, I do understand the question. What clients actually want to know when they ask this is, what should THEY eat? I make sure my clients understand that their individual dietary needs are different from any other person’s, but will usually gladly answer this question as it can only help to give more ideas on healthy foods to include in one’s own diet.


Although the marketing of unhealthy foods is nothing new, these particular ads seem to have an almost menacing inflection.  It’s not like there’s anyone on the planet who thinks cinnamon rolls and donuts are a healthy choice, but to trivialize the negative health effects of these fat and sugar bombs threatens to validate the acceptability of their regular consumption, which is unnerving in the least.


Don’t misunderstand; I am not completely bashing sweets.  It is my firm and substantiated belief that all foods can fit into a healthy, balanced diet in moderation.  It’s the underlying attitude of these ads that I find concerning.


It’s reminiscent of the old cigarette ads that had a similar “the hell with it!” tone towards smoking.  Like the Old Gold ad that shows a dancing pack of cigarettes and states “No song and dance about medical claims…Old Gold’s specialty is to give you a TREAT instead of a TREATMENT.”  Or the Marlboro ad showing an adorable baby saying “Before you scold me mom…maybe you’d better light up a Marlboro!”


Although less overtly sinister, food companies are just as shameless in their marketing of unhealthy foods to children.  Cartoon characters are used to sell sugary cereals and treats.  Commercials for fat and sugar-packed foods are played during children’s programming.  Companies market foods of poor nutritional quality to children in vending machines, websites and magazines.  Although some food companies are changing the types of foods they advertise to children in an effort to ward off government regulation as a response to the childhood obesity epidemic, we still have a long way to go.  Thus far, this sort of advertising is not regulated, and even within those companies attempting to market healthier foods, the specifics of what constitutes a “healthy food” have not yet been defined.


There is evidence to suggest that this type of marketing does indeed increase our intake of unhealthy foods, although evidence is not needed for anyone who has themselves experienced a hankering for a certain food because they saw a TV commercial or advertisement.  We know that the more bombarded we are with this sort of advertising; the more likely we are to give in to it, if only once and awhile.


The QT ads are especially concerning because they are advertising an attitude in addition to a product.  Many times, all we need is a little validation to push us over the edge when we are trying to select healthy foods and resist the bombarding temptation that surrounds us.  These ads serve as that enabling buddy by providing that extra little nudge using a lighthearted and humorous tone that implies…”Go ahead; it’s not so bad for you.”  This certainly is not helping us to slow the rise in our rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  With opponents like this, my oh my do we have our work cut out for us in working to create a healthier nation!  Your thoughts?

Cake for Breakfast

Confession time…most people at some point in their lives have deliberately had a guilty, “non-breakfast” food instead of a traditional breakfast, just for the heck of it.  A couple slices of pizza, leftover mac & cheese, or even a piece of cake.  But, you wouldn’t do this every day…of course not!   Not knowingly at least…


Today I am “outing” a popular culprit to breakfast…not doughuts, although these little sugar bombs are an obvious oxymoron to a “healthy breakfast.”  Today I’m calling out MUFFINS…with their seemingly innocent varieties posing as a healthy choice behind a masquerade of fruit and nuts…even those of us who consider ourselves health-conscious could be persuaded into justifying their consumption.

Muffins did start out as a nutritionally sound food….as they began to become popular in the beginning of the 19th century, they were more like an English muffin in appearance and nutritional quality…a bread of sorts, in a modest portion and not so sweet.  In the 1970′s with the addition of sugar, muffins began to morph into what we are more familiar with today, although the portion size was kept at bay.  Fast forward to the 1990′s and their size began to balloon into the supersized portions we have become accustomed to.  The TV show Seinfeld, with the intention of humor, actually provided sound nutrition advice in the episode where Elaine had the idea to sell only the tops of muffins and get rid of the stumps…although nutrition was not her intention, she actually provided a great suggestion to cut a muffin back to a reasonable portion!


Let’s break this down.  Starbucks, which sells a wide variety of muffins, offers an apple bran muffin (sounds like  a healthy breakfast, right?)  and a lowfat blueberry muffin.  Sara Lee makes, among other flavors, a banana nut muffin, and Otis Spunkmeyer has an almond poppyseed muffin.  Let’s compare:

Starbucks Apple Bran Muffin:  Calories 470, Fat 20g, Carbs 64g

Starbucks Lowfat Blueberry Muffin:  Calories 430, Fat 2.5g, Carbs 98g

Sara Lee Banana Nut Muffin:  Calories 440, Fat 13g, Carbs 73g

Otis Spunkmeyer Almond Poppyseed Muffin:  Calories 420, Fat 24g, Carbs 46g

Each muffin, even the low-fat muffin, has over 400 calories.  In fact, the lowfat blueberry muffin, although low in fat as advertised, contains 98g of carbohydrate…that’s 53% more carbs than their regular-fat version.  That is equivelant to 6 1/2 slices of toast!  Now, would you eat 6 1/2 slices of toast for breakfast?  No, but you might have a lowfat blueberry muffin!  So why the heck are muffins so high in calories and carbs?

3 reasons:  Fat, sugar, and general portion size.  The truth is, the ingredients in muffins are very similar to those of cake; let’s take a look:

Starbucks Lemon Loaf Cake:  Calories 450, Fat 21g, Carbs 63g

Starbucks Banana Pound Cake:  Calories 360, Fat 18g, Carbs 47g

Sara Lee Apple Spice Layer Cake:  Calories 330, Fat 17g, Carbs 38g

Note…many of these cakes actually have LESS calories and grams of carbohydrate per serving than the muffins!

Conclusion…you may be better off having a piece of cake for breakfast than a muffin…or, you can use this knowledge to help yourself instead by using one of the following tips:



As a general rule, adding fiber and protein to a meal is a good way to fill up when you are trying to cut down on the calories, fat, and sugar:

1.  Split a muffin with a friend or save the other half for tomorrow’s breakfast.

2.  Complete your half-a-muffin breakfast by adding a cup of fresh fruit or 1 cup of skim or 1% milk, if at Starbucks.

3.  Complete your half-a-muffin breakfast with a hard boiled egg, if at home with Sara Lee or Otis Spunkmeyer.

4.  Avoid the muffins altogether and go straight for the whole wheat toast (recommended for most days of the week)