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Starting the day right

December 23, 2010

Mornings are hectic in my house. Two children, two dogs, a wife, and myself. Everyone has needs and places to go. Every one is in a hurry, except perhaps my children who are most likely fully unaware of the time and content playing the messiest morning game they can think of. But what ever the case ends up being, the thing that is most likely to get missed is breakfast.

I imagine we’ve all been there. We say to ourselves that I can eat on the way to work, or I will just grab something quick, or I’m not really hungry anyway. And if this happens, you are not alone. The problem with missing breakfast, though, is that it is the most important meal of the day.

I know what you’re thinking. Right now you’re probably thinking if I wanted advice from my mother I would just call her. But here’s the thing — she was right. In a study done at the Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, in October 2010, the researchers found that “those who consumed breakfast cereal were perceived as having better well-being (fewer mental health problems, a more positive mood, higher alertness and fewer bowel problems) than those who did not consume breakfast.”

Okay, that’s great, you say, but I’ll just eat something on the run. So, here’s the other thing about breakfast. The foods that we choose to eat matter as much as actually eating them. Many foods that are convenient (that is prepackaged, highly processed), will make you feel good for the short time they stay in your body, but in fact they will actually lead to you feeling more tired, more depressed, and less focused. In fact, research shows that foods high in simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (you know, white processed flour and sugar) actually lead to negative outcomes.

In a study published in American Journal of Psychiatry, in March 2010, the researchers concluded that “a “traditional” dietary pattern characterized by vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains was associated with lower odds for major depression or dysthymia and for anxiety disorders. A “western” diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer was associated with a higher GHQ-12 score.” A GHQ-12 score is a measure, amongst other things, of depression.

So, what can I eat and still get all my chores done, love my family, get to work, and have the energy to clean up after the kids? The goal is to focus on foods that supply whole grains, low levels of sugar, and are void of additives. Foods like eggs, whole-grain cereals, smoothies, or low-sugar granola (recipe below).

Cranberry Granola with walnuts

This granola has become our family favorite. It is low in sugar, high in complete proteins, and a kid favorite. It was originally published in the NY Times, but we adapted it to cut some of the sugar out. We also change the nuts, dried fruit, and seeds that we use to keep it more interesting. Experiment for yourself. It is sure to be a hit.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled

1 cup coconut chips

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

3. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

4. Serve with plain yogurt (with live active cultures) and fruit, if desired.

Yield: About 9 cups.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Oakman permalink
    December 24, 2010 3:47 am

    “It’s the right thing to do.”

  2. Jay M. permalink
    December 24, 2010 4:47 am

    I look forward to following this blog. As a father of three grown children, I have always preached the importance of nutrition especially when it comes to breakfast. I have fond memories of our kids shoving forkfuls of whole grain pancakes topped with fruit and yogurt into there beaks. There are few things that I have found more satisfying than watching our kids wolf down nutritionally dense “Go Power” in the morning. As a child, I remember how difficult it was to make it until lunch, having eaten processed cereal from a box with a couple of teaspoons of granulated sugar sprinkled on top. At about halfway through the morning I was hungry, tired, and I know I had trouble focusing. Fast forward to forty nine year old me, and I have a bowl of my wife’s home made granola with home cultured yogurt, blueberries and raw almonds nearly every morning. I look at my bowl of golden treasure, and I feel a deep sense of gratitude and wealth. This breakfast not only sustains me nicely through until lunch, but also helps me to avoid the temptation of donuts, cookies and the other ubiquitous offerings of empty calories found in my work place. Your recipe sounds delicious (especially the cinnamon and cardamon). This is going to be a fun blog to follow.

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