Sunday, February 22, 2009

Breakfast, Ideally.

   M: “What have we always said is the most important thing?”

GM: “Breakfast”

   M: “Family”

GM: “Family.  Right.  I thought you meant out of the things you eat”   

500 points if you got that reference.  

Anyway, we all grew up being told that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  But how many of us grew up on sugary cereal, Pop-Tarts, and doughy bagels?  How many of us skip breakfast now, or run out the door with a sugary granola bar masquerading as something "wholesome"?  Have you ever had the “Continental Breakfast” at a hotel?  Its all pastries, donuts, and maybe an English muffin.  You may get some peanut butter for that muffin if you’re lucky.   

The quick and easy American breakfast is heavy in one major food group:  carbohydrates.  No no, carbs are not evil.  Well, not all of them at least.  But when carbs come in the form of sugar, or of highly processed white flour, they can be bad news.  When these “highly processed carbs” hit your digestive system, they get to work immediately.  Perfect for an early morning pick me up, right?  Well you won’t be thinking the same thing an hour later, when you’ve quickly worked through all those simple carbs, and are now running on empty.  

We need carbs, they’re brain food.  We need them to keep our glycogen levels up, which is especially important for athletes, or any fitness enthusiast.  But we want complex carbohydrates.  This means whole grains;  whole oats, whole wheat, whole barley, brown rice, buckwheat, spelt berries, bulgar wheat, etc.  This stuff still has its fiber content.  While it will still give you the energy you need, it comes along with fiber, that will keep digestion at a slow burn to keep you feeling strong, longer.  Fruits and veggies are a carbs too, but they’re not as complicated.  I feel perfectly fine eating anything that comes from nature.  Fruit does have a lot of sugar, but it also has vitamins and fiber.  Most veggies are super good for you, but the poor potato has gotten a bad rap, since it is a simple carb.  In general, I get as many veggies as possible, and just stay aware that while fruits mean great nutrients and fiber, it does come with calories.     

Okay, so we know what kind of carbs we need, but what about ALL the other food items out there.  Surely if just carbs were enough, they wouldn’t add “part of a complete breakfast” at the end of cereal commercials, would they?  The other two macronutrient groups, protein and fat, are an integral part of breakfast.  

First, fat.  Oh poor fat and its misconceptions.  Fat is just another type of food.  It isn’t, nutritionally, going to make you fat.  The reason why fat is synonymous with “being fat” or weight gain, is because one gram of fat has more calories then protein and carbs.  

1g fat = 9 calories

1g protein = 4 calories

1 g protein = 4 calories

So, its easy to see how, if you eat too much fat, you do, in fact, gain weight.  Guess what though?  You gain weight if you eat too much of anything.  Because fat has more calories, it fills you up more.  Just like carbs though, fat can be good or bad.  I think everyone knows by now that trans fats are bad.  I’ll actually be talking about trans fats with my students this week.  No, I’m not a health teacher, but trans fats are principle of organic chemistry, which we’re starting this week.  If anyone wants to know about the chemical basis behind trans fats, let me know!  Anyway, good vs. bad fats is pretty easy once you think about it.  Fats that are from nature are good:  Avocados, olive oil, peanut butter, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, etc.  For me, fats are one of the most important parts of breakfast.  I’ve mentioned before, and have posted recipes for, my breakfast cookies, my personal weekday portable breakfast of choice.  They’re full of good fats, with ground flax seeds, coconut oil, and sometimes other nuts and seeds, depending on the recipe.  Stay tuned for a Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookie recipe later this week.  

I think the macronutrient that most vegans and vegetarians are most aware of, is protein.  If you are any sort of vegetarian and have never been asked where you get your protein, congratulations.  But its still good to know the answer, right?  Protein is everywhere, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, whole grains, seitan, beans, etc.  As far as I am concerned, when it comes to vegetarian sources, there is no unhealthy, or “bad”, protein.  Supposedly protein fills you up too, but I’ve never felt that way; I attribute the full feeling more to fat and fiber, than to protein.  Regardless, it is important to have protein at all your meals, and as long as you are conscientious of the vegetarian sources, you should be getting more than enough.  Some of us want more protein.  Muscles are made of protein, and if you are consistently breaking them down, you’re going to need protein to build them back up.  I am always pushing my muscles pretty hard, through weight training, yoga, and running, and to facilitate that repair, I turn to protein.  The amount of protein we need is debatable, but as a general rule, your body can only absorb so much at once.  This is why its a good idea to have some at every meal, so your body can make use of it all.  

So much to take in before breakfast!  You want the first meal to count though, right?  So you need protein, good fat, complex carbohydrates, and nutrients you get from fruits and veggies.  It can all sound complicated, but its not so daunting a task.  

I have breakfast every morning, but I especially love my weekend breakfast, when I have time before yoga to cook up something different, and relax while I eat.  Today I had my ideal breakfast.  

It started last night with setting aside some oat groats for a raw “oatmeal”, inspired again by Ani's Raw Food Kitchen.


1/4 cup raw oat groats, soaked overnight, and rinsed

1/2 nectarine

1/2 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tbsp water

1.  Blend the oats, water, and nectarine in a food processor until it is "oatmealy".  

2.  Drizzle with maple syrup

This was my first time having the raw oats, and I was so pleasantly surprised.  First off, I couldn't believe how much it smelled like oatmeal just after being rinsed.  And it was so chewy and fruity, it was really a really tasty alternative to a bowl of cooked oats.

Now, my weekend scrambles may be old news, but they are seriously my most favorite breakfast.  The key ingredient, for me, is the vegan cream cheese.  It makes it so nice and creamy.  If you can't find the trans fat free version of Tofutti near you, there are a few other vegan cream cheese options, like Vegan Gourmet, and Soya Kass.  They're both good, but the Tofutti tastes the best if you are using it as a condiment.    

3.5 oz Extra-firm Tofu

1/2 red pepper

1/4 cup scallions

1/2 tsp Bragg's/soy sauce/tamari

1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast

1 tbsp vegan cream cheese


cayenne pepper

1/2 ripe avocado

I've posted my method before.  This isn't too different from my regular scramble, except I added the scallions at the end instead of cooking them with the pepper, like I do when I use yellow onion.

Stats for the ideal breakfast?  

Serves 1:  

Nutrition Information:  516.7 Calories;  22.0g Total Fat;  3.8g Saturated Fat;  0.0mg Cholesterol;  60.9g Carbohydrates;  15.0g Fiber;  24.8g Protein

Vitamin Information:  83.1% Vitamin A;  66.5% Vitamin B-12;  259.5% Vitamin B-6;  213.1% Vitamin C;  9.9% Vitamin E;  4.9% Calcium;  15.2% Copper;  53.6% Folate;  9.8% Iron;  12.3% Magnesium;  31.9% Manganese;  152.8% Niacin;  16.2% Phosphorous;  850.3mg Potassium;  291.9% Riboflavin;  17.0% Selenium;  328.7% Thiamin;  18.4% Zinc 

Breakfast of champions, indeed.  I absolutely believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  If I screw up breakfast, the rest of my day is just off.  What do you consider to be your ideal breakfast?  I'm always up for new breakfast ideas!

I'm off to finish my lessons for my two weeks of Organic Chem (it ends with something fun)!  I know it has a terrible rap, but at the High School level, I really like it (not so much at the college level, I almost failed my second semester...stupid mechanisms).  

Oh, and let me know if you won my 500 point Googling!!  I'll think up something good to send ya :)

You get an extra 250 points if you can tell me the chemical process that creates trans fats.  

If you really want to be a show-off I'll give you 100 points for the chemical formula for sucrose (table sugar).  My teacher made us memorize it in 5th grade, the things that stick with you are funny!    


  1. i really love this post.
    your right - so many breakfasts are filled with sugar and most teens (atleast my friends) find it weird that I eat breakfast everyday because they "dont have time"

  2. Whenever someone tells me they don't eat breakfast I give them a weird look...I just don't understand that!!!

    Mmm, now I want that amazing oatmeal!

  3. the thing i hate about hotel breakfasts is they're always what i call "fake food" - defrosted frozen bagels and prepackaged muffins and cream cheese and so on all loaded with HFCS and preservatives and other scary ingrdients

  4. I win ZERO points. :( Other than that, I loved this post as I love anything about fats/proteins/carbs...and BREAKFAST!

    Your scramble sounds like the perfect brekkie to me...well, almonst perfetc. Could ya maybe sneak in a little nut butter...somewhere? :)

    Raw oat groats - rolled oats are steamed right? Are raw oat groats like Irish oats?

  5. this is such a great post!! I totally agree with everything you just said. It's disgusting how much processed, white sugar and flour the average American ingests within the first hour of waking, let alone the entire day. Your breakfasts look wonderful, and now I can't wait for my soaked oatmeal tomorrow morning!

  6. this was a refreshing post. i have breakfast every day. i don't skip meals ever. one thing that i don't do that you do is the food math. i just can't do it or i'll get obsessed-(i'm in long-term remission from ED). i do count fiber grams, and if something isn't very high in fiber, i'm likely to pass on eating it. most mornings my breakfasts are pretty healthy, but on occasion it is a date with dr. sugar. i balance it out by making sure to have a glass of soy milk with it.

    silly question, what are groats?

  7. I was JUST talking about breakfast. I had 10 grain cereal with raiains and ginger and that felt pretty healthy and satisfying. At least it wasn't a Hot and Crusty bagel with Tofutti cream cheese. I've had a few too many of those lately.

    I'm glad you're the teacher. I had to look up ALL of your questions, but I should have known the trans fat one.

  8. Cream cheese in a tofu scramble sounds perfect!!! I'll have to try that. And I also love raw soaked oats.

    I totally agree with that breakfast talk. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND PEOPLE WHO SKIP BREAKFAST! That's just crazy talk. Seriously. This morning I had homemade whole wheat biscuits with chocolate gravy (yes, I know...sugar for breakfast...but it was so good, and I stayed full til almost lunch).

  9. I've always wished I could eat a bigger and better breakfast, but my stomach doesn't handle most foods very well in the morning.

    No 500 points for me... but I did google it! :P

  10. hahaha i would LOVE to dress ya up....i bet you looked pretty good to gather such compliments from your you're naturally beautiful...ppl compliment ya all the time...ya just don't know it;)

  11. cleanveggie, good for you. I wish I had that mentality when I was a teenager, I ate a lot of cereal and candy when I was in high school.

    Shelby, again, I am the same way NOW. I wish I had figured things out when I was a liiiitlle bit younger!

    Julia...hotel breakfasts are almost always useless. I stayed at one once (before being veg) that advertised a continental breakfast...and it was a box of donuts. No lie.

    Heather, I was thinking of you when I was making it, because a spoon of nut butter on those oats would have been perfect...but I really wanted the avocado, and that would have made the calories just a tad too high for me. You could always nix the avocado!!

    SFBU, the oatmeal is totally the best! One of my favorite things from Ani's book, its just so cool.

    Jen, I get obsessive if I count everything too. At the same time though, I've done so much counting that it is easy for me now to pick something out that I know is reasonable, because all those numbers are swimming in my head (I have a memory for numbers).

    Jenn, I love being the teacher! Although I'm a little sad no one knew any of the questions!! At least it was just extra credit right?

    Bianca, it is totally the perfect addition. Chocolate gravy, what? Sounds yummy. I have sugar for breakfast in my cookies, but at least its maple syrup.

    River, I usually feel like I'm forcing myself a little on the week days, but I don't have a minute to spare from 8-10:30, so I've just got to eat before I get to school, and I have to make it count!

    Denny, you're too sweet. I'll just have to take your word for it, haha.

    Jen and Heather, oat groats are raw oats. When you make oats, the first thing you do is clean and hull them. Then you end up with the oat groat. That is then chopped up or ground into meal, to make Irish/steel cut oats, or Scottish, respectively. To make rolled oats, they are, like you said Heather, steamed and rolled.

  12. Wow. Organic chemistry. I'm impressed with anyone who even remotely understands it, much less gets into it. You're my chemistry idol :)

  13. hydrogenization

    Nice post. I agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's also my favorite! Breakfast is THE reason I get up in the morning.

  14. Thanks, Gina :) I've actually never had it either. I had fried chicken years and years ago, so I just had to use my imagination.

    Damn, woman. That scramble is looking sexy.

  15. Hi! I just found your forum from googling "raw oat groats" I am totally into raw oatmeal latley! I used the recipe from Ani Phyo's raw food kitchen. But I love that you add a nectarine, that sounds yummy. By the way, your opening quote from Arrested Development made me laugh, I love that show. I was looking up the nutritional content of raw oat groats, cause I wanted to know their protein, iron & other values. From what I've found their pretty good stuff! Thanks for your recipies!