21615 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95014

Jen Oh

The most important meal of the day: Breakfast

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the daily. Sadly, this is the one that most people skip. But, breakfast is very important. It sets the tone for the day. Its like making sure you have gas in your car before you start the engine. By starting the day right, you give yourself an edge on having a great day. For kids, breakfast is essential. The differences in their comprehension, mood, and concentration are astounding. Even The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion created policies to ensure that school age children were able to obtain breakfast at public schools. Don’t let time in the morning or effort convince you to just send them to school to fend for themselves. If you are able to provide a good breakfast for your children, it is crucial to do so. Schools are on tight budgets and the foods they are able to provide are often a compromise between quality and cost.

Cereal
Most people start the day with cereal. There are a variety of cereals. By far, the most popular ones are the ready to eat cereals. They are categorized by the EPA as: flaked cereals, extruded flaked cereals, gun-puffed whole grains, extruded gun-puffed cereals, oven-puffed cereals, shredded whole grains, extruded shredded cereals, and granola cereals. Here’s a quick link to the EPA’s guidelines on cereal production. Due to cost, time and technology – most cereals are actually gun puffed or extruded. Even ones that look like flakes or shredded are often really extruded cereals in the shape of flakes or shredded wheat. It’s important to research and find out what you are truly eating.

I am not a fan of cereal. Since most cereals are extruded or puffed; they are in cute shapes, circles, pellets, little puffed up balls which are enticing to children. But, none of which even closely resemble any of the ingredients that are in them. Extruded and puffed cereals are made by mixing all their ingredients together and then forcing them through a machine. Here is a simple but detailed look at how extrusion works.

Most cereals lose most, if not all, of their nutritional value and their taste during this process. If a food requires it to be “enriched with vitamins” when these nutrients were pre-existing in it’s original form, but lost during the processing – it makes me question the product. To further understand my dislike of extruded and puffed cereal, check out this interesting article from EHow.com on why cereal absorbs milk. Not only are puffed and extruded cereals reducing the nutritional value, they are full of air so they can absorb more milk. Not a good combo for starting the morning right.

There are numerous articles that suggest that extruded cereals are toxic. The extrusion process of grinding all the ingredients to such a fine powder, mixing them, then extruding them at such a high pressure and heat causes their molecular structure to change. This change creates food that is actually harmful, if eaten every day. I decided to try to find some information regarding this theory; the best I could find on this subject were studies referenced by Paul Stitt, described in one of his book “Fighting the Food Giants” and an article written by Sally Fallon. Here is a quick synopsis of both.

I did find an interesting study done regarding Alkylresorcinols in Extruded Cereal Brans. Alkylresorcinols is used as a biomarker of wholegrain wheat and rye intake. The study shows that extrusion reduced the alkylresorcinol content in bran by 53.7-76.9%, depending on the type of cereal bran and extrusion conditions (moisture, barrel temperature, and screw speed) used. This means that 53.7-76.9% of the actual wholegrain nutrients are lost during the extrusion process. Even though studies are inconclusive on if extruded cereals are in fact toxic, the fact that they are such highly processed foods and our bodies are not able to receive and/or absorb all the nutrients makes it something I am very hesitant to feed my kids.

This is not to say that we don’t sometimes eat or buy cereal. But if we do, we buy organic so we don’t have genetically modified foods and I stay away from extruded/puffed cereals whenever possible. I read the sugar content, and I try to find the best alternative at the store.

The Low Down on Eggs and Meats
Eggs and Bacon are often a staple of breakfast. But not all eggs and bacon are created equally. We are what we eat and if you eat eggs, chicken or meat – you are what they eat. We buy only organic pastured eggs, chickens, and meats. Here’s a great article by David Kirby on the nutritional benefits of pastured animals. This means that our eggs come from organic chickens that are 100% pastured. They eat off the land, not commercial feed (even organic). I do NOT buy any chickens or eggs that are raised on a soy diet. The Sustainable Table offers an easy to read explanation on what animals are often given to eat. The Environmental Health Perspectives (part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) offers a much more comprehensive article on what is part of the average animals diet. Warning: It is not appetizing.

Better Breakfast Options
What we eat for breakfast are more old fashioned. My sons favorite breakfasts are: eggs and toast, pancakes, and/or yogurt with fruit. We also have oatmeal and granola. All may seem time consuming, but they are not.

Eggs are often hard boiled or scrambled. We tend to keep a few hard boiled eggs in the fridge at all times. Hard boiled eggs can keep for up to a week in the fridge and they are great for breakfast and snacks. Of all egg dishes, scrambled eggs is one of the easiest. Combine with toast (homemade bread) with homemade sugar free jam and peanut butter (or sunflower butter, if you have a nut allergy) and it makes for an easy to make meal.

Pancakes may seem hard, but try blender pancakes/waffles. You put the ingredients in your blender at night, allow it to soak, re-blend in the morning and cook. Super easy and the grains are soaked! Pancakes and waffles are also great freezer food. I usually make a big batch of them on the weekend and freeze the extra. All you need to do is allow them to cool before you freeze. I use a freezer ziplock baggie to store them in. I use the same one and keep adding to it, just make sure to put the newer ones on the bottom – so you always eat the older ones first. If you have the time, I suggest to put a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between each pancake/waffle. This will help them to not stick together when frozen. In the morning, we take a few out and toast them in our toaster oven.

Another staple in our house is yogurt and fruit. I make our yogurt from raw milk. I promise to post a tutorial on this very soon. It is super easy and takes very little effort. If you buy yogurt – buy plain organic whole milk yogurt. Non fat or low fat yogurt and dairy products may be lower in calories, but are often lacking in nutrients – so you must eat more to make up the nutritional deficit. We cut up fruit and/or mix in a spoonful of homemade sugar free jam in with the yogurt. Another benefit of yogurt is that it is a pro-biotic. I try to feed at least 1 pro-biotic food to our kids a day. Pro-biotics are awesome immune builders and help keep us healthy.

Oatmeal is also another great breakfast food. My son was not into oatmeal until he realized that Goldilocks and the 3 Bears all ate it. Soaking oatmeal not only has nutritional benefits, but it helps with prep time in the morning. We add a dash of maple syrup or jam, raisins, nuts, and sometimes fruit. We always seem to have leftover oatmeal, too. You can turn those into oatcakes (similar to pancakes). Simply take the left over oatmeal and cook just like you would a pancake. I take a griddle pan, a ladle, and cook them. They also can be frozen and reheated in the toaster oven on busy days.

Another staple in our house is granola. Granola is super easy to make. I use a soaked oats recipe. I half the recipe and store the granola in a 1/2 gallon mason jar. We add it to our yogurt or eat it as a cereal. Even my 14 month old loves a little granola in her yogurt. It also tends to be a great late night snack for me.

If you’re in a rush, there are still quick options. Make a wrap. Wrap some cheese, eggs, and any leftover veggies/meat and make yourself a breakfast burrito. whole wheat or multi grain toast with peanut butter is high in protein. A pita pocket is also great – throw some eggs, cheese, and any leftover veggies/meats and you have a portable breakfast sandwich. Or add hummus, which is also very high in protein and vitamins. Smoothies are also awesome. Use plain whole milk yogurt, blend with some fruit/veggies and you have a yummy healthy breakfast drink full of vitamins.

On the weekends, we get fancier. We make bacon, potatoes, etc. We sit down together and enjoy our meal. Food is a great way to connect with our families. By starting the day right, the rest of the day falls into place.

5 Comments

  1. pamela carlson

    nice! i agree and enjoyed this alot. thanks for sharing it.

  2. Cindy Sharpe

    I’m always trying to get my kids to eat breakfast, but it’s like an uphill struggle sometimes. I didn’t realize that it was as important as this, though. I think I’m going to have to make a bigger effort to get them to eat their breakfast before school…

  3. Pingback: Jen Oh Says » Blog Archive » Dairy Delights

  4. Pedro Carlos Alves

    You wrote:
    «There are numerous articles that suggest that extruded cereals are toxic.»
    Can you give me just 5 examples?
    I did research in extrusion and know none.

    In another paragraph you wrote:
    «Even though studies are inconclusive on if extruded cereals are in fact toxic, the fact that they are such highly processed foods and our bodies are not able to receive and/or absorb all the nutrients makes it something I am very hesitant to feed my kids.»

    So, now the studies are INCONCLUSIVE about being toxic?!

    I’m a Food Scientist and you are?

    Thanks.

  5. admin (Post author)

    Hi! Thanks for commenting on my post. To answer your questions…

    While researching extruded cereal, I searched extruded cereal toxicity. There are a lot of links that pop up! Here are a few examples of what I mean:
    http://www.nourishingourchildren.org/Cereal.html
    http://www.highest-health.com/downloads/Why%20Cereal%20is%20Not%20Your%20Best%20Breakfast%20Bet.pdf
    http://fitnessnutritiondenverboulder.com/the-health-risks-of-boxed-cereals/
    http://simplybeingwell.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/boxed-cereal-is-not-food/
    http://wellbeyondnutrition.com/the-truth-about-your-breakfast-cereal/

    These links and many like these reference studies discussed in Fighting the Food Giants by Paul Stitt and an article written by Sally Fallon. I really wanted to find peer reviewed studies that discussed the toxicity of extruded cereal. However, the peer reviewed studies that I found were inconclusive. The Handbook of Cereal Science and Technology edited by Karel Kulp, Joseph G. Ponte, Jr and Singh, S., Gamlath, S. and Wakeling, L. (2007), Nutritional aspects of food extrusion: a review. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 42: 916–929. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.2006.01309.x both state “undetermined” and “ambiguous”.

    With all the info that I was able to find, I am still hesitant to feed my kids extruded cereal. For me, there are better ways for me to feed my kids (as I mention in my post). I am not a food scientist, but I believe in whole foods and finding the best ways (for me) to feed my kids with the most nutritional impact that’s still tasty.

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