The Nation's Health + [Nutrition]

What's for breakfast?

Breakfast, for some reason, seems to be the toughest meal of the day for many people.

I think it's because the quest for sweet has dominated the American breakfast for so long, with its half-century legacy of cartoon character-festooned breakfast cereals; baked flour products like pancakes, waffles, and English muffins; more recently, "healthy" alternatives like bran muffins and oat waffles.

This breakfast lifestyle has also contributed to the obesity and diabetes ("diabesity") epidemic. Breakfasts of wheat- or corn-based cereals, even those labeled "heart healthy," fruit, and whole grain breads are guaranteed paths to low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, flagrant small LDL, increased inflammatory responses, high blood pressure, and higher blood sugar. Such foods also make you tired, make your abdominal fat grow (wheat belly), and increase appetite so that you want more.

So what can you eat for breakfast that doesn't provoke these patterns?

I will never pretend to be terribly clever in creating meal menus, but I can tell you what has worked for me and many of my patients. Be warned: It may require you to suspend your previous notions of what "should" be included in a list of breakfast foods.

Here are some examples that you may find helpful:

--Raw nuts--one or several handfuls of raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios
--Cheeses--the real, traditional sorts like gouda, goat, Swiss, edam, etc. (not Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, etc.)
--Eggs, Egg Beaters--and "spice" them up with sun-dried tomatoes, salsa, olives, tapenades, olive oil, onions, green peppers, etc.
--Yogurt (real, of course), cottage cheese
--Ground flaxseed, oat bran--as hot cereals or added to yogurt, cottage, or other foods. Esp. helpful for reducing both total LDL and the proportion of small LDL.
--Oatmeal--slow-cooked, not the instant nonsense.
--Soups--great for winter.
--Dinner foods--chicken, beef, fish, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes, etc., most easily added by saving left-overs from dinner. You'll be surprised how filling dinner foods eaten at breakfast can be.

It's really not that tough. It just means selecting from an entirely different list of foods than you might be accustomed to.

Copyright 2008 House, MD