Weekday Breakfast: Cereal and Fruit

by | Nov 10, 2008
Healthy Breakfast

Healthy Breakfast

Monday mornings are rough, but skipping breakfast is not an option. Current wisdom recommends you drink a glass of water and eat breakfast within an hour of waking. The quickest, healthiest thing you can have in the morning is a bowl of cold whole grain cereal with fruit.

But buyer beware. Almost all breakfasts cereals these days claim to be “whole grain.” Yet as you can probably deduce on your own, Cocoa Puffs is not a nutritious breakfast. All that sugar negates any benefit of their “whole grain” health claims.

The Truth About Whole Grain Products

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined the requirements that must be met for a manufacturer to use the term “whole grain” on its label (along with the respective health claims):

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis - should be considered a whole grain food.” (emphasis added by me)

Understand? To be considered “whole,” grains do not actually have to be intact. Armed with this, manufacturers set to work demolishing grains as normal, then adding back the required ratios of grain parts (germ and bran) to meet the standard. Presto! Magic health in Lucky Charms.

Would you then be surprised if I told you that intact grains are much, much better for you than demolished and reassembled grains?

If you really want the benefits associated with eating whole grains you should be able to see an intact grain in what you are eating; something like an oat, for example. If not, there has definitely been some processing involved, which reduces the whole grain benefits. That being said, processed whole grains are better than purely refined grains (without germ and bran). White sandwich bread is indistinguishable from sugar in my view.

So this is the problem with breakfast, and it is difficult to avoid in cold cereals. Real whole grains are tough and bland, so some demolition and sweetening are almost always necessary for most people to eat them regularly.

Oatmeal is a fantastic choice. Steel cut oats are even better, but they take 45 minutes to cook. When you just want to pour, eat and run you will need a quicker alternative.

My Solution

I first turned to granola. Those grains sure do look intact, right? But take a closer look and you will find granola often contains ungodly amounts of sugar. Though I enjoy granola and occasionally eat it during outdoor activities, I cannot bring myself to eat it every day for breakfast. It is just too sweet and dessert-like for me. You can make your own granola and add less sugar if you have the time. But still.

The good news is there are some products that are whole grain, palatable and not packed with sugar. But making a good breakfast out of them requires a touch of creativity. I have found one company that makes a kind of granola without sugar. Muesli is actually the appropriate term for this kind of cereal. It is regrettably difficult to find, but is available at Whole Foods in a variety of flavors. The company that makes it is called Dorset Cereals out of the UK. It is not cheap, but I only use about 1/4 cup per serving, so a box lasts me several weeks.

Another cereal product I like is the Ezekiel 4:9 brand made by Food for Life. Though these cereals are not exactly intact grains, they are made from many different kinds of sprouted whole grains and are free of flour and other bad stuff. To give you an idea of what they are like, think of Grape Nuts with more flavor.

I wish I could say that these products solved all my problems, but there is also the issue of taste and texture. Both these cereals are very dense, and eating them without any additional sweetness is a little brutal. For this reason I do not eat them alone, but instead mix them with my favorite flake cereal, Nature’s Path Flax Plus.

I also always add fruit. These days I am using pomegranate seeds (see pic), but almost anything will do. I even keep a bag of frozen organic wild blueberries for emergencies. Fruit is sweet, but also very good for you. Hooray, problem solved!!

What is your healthy breakfast?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up today and get a free chapter from my book FOODIST!

35 Responses to “Weekday Breakfast: Cereal and Fruit”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dorset is my favorite!!!! Has anyone been able to find it anywhere besides whole foods?

  2. Zeus says:

    Seriously though. Dorset serial is sooooo good, and the Ezekial sooooo tastes like cardboard!

  3. Katie says:

    I prefer banana bread but I’ll try your Dorset.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We eat the Ezekial cereal often. I’m glad to see it get some recognition as one of the few healthy box cereals. The Cinnamon Raisin is tasty with some vanilla hemp milk. The kids eat it too.

  5. Chinasaur says:

    My breakfast usually involves yogurt, preferably a nice 2% or whole milk version without pectin. I tend to assume that as long as it’s not too sugary, generous calories for breakfast is fine.

    If the oats get old, hot quinoa is good with a little sweetener, fruit, or nuts. I don’t know how it compares to the whole grains, but seems like everyone always says it’s good for you…

  6. Anonymous says:

    The cardboard comment is right on for the blue Ezekial, but I agree that it is one of the highly underrated cereals. My favorite cereal memory growing up is from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip–’Chocolate Frosted Crunchy Sugar Bombs.’ I always wanted to try them….. Actually my favorite breakfast right now is a cup of Fiber-One yogurt (5 grams of fiber!) and a slice of Health-Nut toast. I heard a dietitian on the radio yesterday poo-poohing aspartame. Is it really that bad?

  7. Jed Wolpaw says:

    Nature’s Path Optimum Power cereal is seriously all you need to live a long, possibly even eternal, life.

  8. Nicholas says:

    Personally, this is my favorite breakfast scene!

  9. Zachary says:

    I personally prefer Oreo O’s. Those things are delicious.

    Actually, I’ve found that those ridiculous “muesli” (sounds horrifically German) stuff actually doesn’t taste that bad. Even better, it fills you up like no other. I can pound out several bowls of normal cereal no problem but muesli shuts me down after one. And, despite what you claim, it doesn’t taste that bad.

    Of course my taste buds can’t really be trusted in the morning. I’m usually so out of it that I can hardly taste/feel/see anything.

    Interesting post!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great post! What are your favorite breakfast-on-the-go choices? What about any non-cereal breakfasts?

  11. Darya Pino says:

    anon1:

    If you are desperate you can order it from the Dorset website. Don’t know what shipping is like from England though.

    —–
    zeus:

    Maybe you should try the cinnamon raisin.

    —–
    chinasaur:

    Absolutely! Yogurt is a fantastic breakfast too. Finding a good plain yogurt took some similar sleuthing on my part. I like the Trader Joe’s kind and Wallaby. Wallaby is the only fruit yogurt I will eat.

    I also have not tried quinoa for breakfast. New York Times has been posting awesome quinoa recipes this past week that I cannot wait to try. I had just been thinking about putting up a quinoa post when they started it, but now it feels less exciting for me. Maybe next week.

    —–
    anon2:

    Glad to hear it. I haven’t tried the cinnamon raisin because I generally do not like the kind of raisins that come in cereals (they are too hard). That is one thing I forgot to mention about Dorset, their dried fruit is soft, delicious and completely inoffensive.

    Next up: cinnamon raisin Ezekeil.

    —–
    anon3:

    If I were you I would be a little skeptical of Fiber One yogurt. Yogurt was never meant to have fiber in it. That is just weird.

    I have dug and dug for real dirt on aspartame and have not found any of it convincing. Probably it does little harm, if any. I personally do not eat it because I do not like the taste and do not want to support industrial food systems. And part of me still wonders if it is slowly giving me liver cancer or Alzheimer’s disease…

    —–
    jed:

    Optimum Power is definitely a good one. I like Optimum Slim too. Generally I support Nature’s Path products if that is easiest for you. I still do not believe it is real whole grains though.

    —–
    nicholas:

    Thanks for the awesome clip! I love Zoolander!

    —–
    zachary:

    I am really glad that you like the muesli, I hope everyone is so open to it.

    The full sensation you feel is one of the big differences between real whole grains and the fake “whole grains” in your Oreo Os.

    —–
    Great discussion today guys! Thanks!!

  12. Darya Pino says:

    anon4:

    On the go I usually stick with fruit, granola and/or trailmix (Ziplock to the rescue!). But breakfast is so fast I do not usually skip it.

  13. smithsan says:

    Fruit & Grain Bars offer a low fat, low sodium, great tasting option to the snack list. They are also an excellent source of calcium and five vitamins and minerals. Hand held convenience and great taste. Remember your satisfaction is always guaranteed with brand products.
    ———
    smithsan
    smo

  14. tbone says:

    I prefer my Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs on saturday mornings. They are kinda bland till you scoop sugar on 'em.

    Seriously though, this hippie breakfast movement is getting out of hand. I'm only able to choke down that Flax Plus because I'm only half conscious. Junk is nasty. I don't lie, i saw a box of "Twigs, Flakes & Clusters" at TJ's last week. GTFO! Maybe if it were served with a pound of bacon . . . .

  15. Darya Pino says:

    tbone:

    Embrace the fruit. You should add pomegranate seeds.

  16. mb says:

    I can’t find ezekial at Stater, Vons, or TJ’s. Any ideas? I’d like to try it.

  17. Darya Pino says:

    mb:

    Try Albertson’s. But just in case, here is a store locator from the Food for Life website.

  18. Anonymous says:

    The Stater Bros in my neighborhood definately has Ezekial; its in a special healthfood section on the cereal aisle though.

  19. Katie says:

    Breakfast, right now, this very moment, as i write:

    Dorset muesli, Wallaby peach yogurt, and fresh raspberries.

    Delicious! Thanks for the guidance, dbone.

  20. Jeff clark says:

    Interesting study. I was eating Kashi cereal and blueberries almost every weekday then I started to think about diet diversity. In my post Eat Breakfast like a king, I discuss why I switched to multiple type of breakfasts. In a follow up post, I display what I eat each day for breakfast.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Great move!! I used to do the same thing. Usually I don’t have time for more than cereal, but at least I change up the fruit I use with the seasons. Weekends are much more fun ;)

      Thanks for the links!

  21. Madison says:

    I think I can eat oatmeal every morning for the rest of my life. :)

  22. Sandra says:

    I love oatmeal in the winter and have started making my own granola for the summer. It is really simple and SO much better than the overly sweetened stuff you buy at the store and I can add anything that sounds good at the time in addition to some good wheat germ, bran or flax. That with some fresh fruit and milk or yogurt is my go to breakfast.

  23. Canuckette says:

    Darya, you said that oatmeal is fantastic, and that steel-cut oats are even better, but they take too long to prepare. I’ve just found a way to prepare them quickly, by starting the night before. Put 4 cups of water and a dash of salt in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Then turn off the element, add 1 cup of steel-cut oats, cover, and leave on the stove-top overnight. In the morning, reheat the mixture, either in the saucepan or in the microwave. Then, add whatever you like, be it maple syrup, cinnamon, fruits, milk, etc. (I’ve read that adding powdered milk rather than regular milk makes it quite creamy, but I haven’t tried this.) This is delicious, quite substantial, and requires relatively little time or energy.

  24. Alex says:

    What kind of milk is in the picture? Thanks.

  25. James Goodman says:

    Im a retard. LMAO.

  26. Stephanie says:

    Hi Darya!
    Now I’m in Canada and instead, found Bob’s Red Mill products…have you heard of them? I bought their muesli (whole grain wheat, date crumbles, sunflower seeds, raisins, rye, barley, oats, triticale, flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts) and their steel cut oats. Does that sound like a good alternative to Dorset or Ezekial?
    Thanks! and happy Monday! :)

  27. Dee says:

    My quick everyday breakfast (these days) -

    Plain Yogurt based mixture – always
    with:
    Nuts (ground) – for sure most times
    Fruit (dry/fresh/frozen/juice) – sometimes added
    Cereal/ grain – sometimes added
    Supplementation – most times

    The combinations are endless depending on the mood I’m in…

    For example This morning I had: 1/2 c plain low fat yogurt – Mixed with 1 tbs bob’s flax meal , 2 tbs ground walnuts, 2tbs vanilla whey, 2 tbs grapefruit juice, no cereal. Very delicious and totally satisfying!

  28. Colette says:

    In our house, we love breakfast, so I have put a lot of thought into it. Most days we’re lucky enough to have time for cooking, but there are always times when we need to eat quickly. As much as I love cold cereal, it isn’t my favorite solution for feeding a family. You mention how expensive some of the muesli can be. Limiting portions doesn’t work as well when feeding a family, first because you go through the food faster no matter what, but also because children get mad if they’re still hungry and can’t have seconds of the part of breakfast they liked best.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the hard-boiled egg! Keep a bowl of those in the fridge and you have a perfect quick breakfast.

    Another commenter already mentioned that you don’t have to cook steel-cut oats for 45 minutes if you soak them overnight. I’ve also had lovely success with overnight crock-pot oatmeal. That’s instant and hot!

    Especially for summer, refrigerator oatmeal is popular. Mix everything up in a jar and refrigerate overnight. Just eat cold in the morning. I don’t add sugar our oatmeal at all. I do make it with milk, which I know contains sugars. Then don’t skip the salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Delicious.

    We love Stonyfield Farm plain full fat yogurt. Easy to find in most stores.

    Just thought I’d share these options for keeping quick breakfast prices down when you are feeding a family. Thank you for the lovely blog. :)

  29. Linc Jackson says:

    I have evolved in the last twenty years from store bought granola on top of Total in milk to where I am now…

    Pull a big bowl out of the cupboard
    Add:
    A cup of homemade granola
    Local bananas on top (lots!) (equal to two full bananas – big US size)
    Almond milk to the brim

    So the granola I make is an adapted version from a b&b in Occidental, CA.

    7 1/2 cups oats
    1 cup chopped almonds
    1 cup chopped walnuts
    1 cup chopped cashews
    1 cup sesame seeds
    1 cup sunflower seeds
    1/4 cup flax
    1 cup bran
    1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
    (I used to add wheat germ but that and some of the nuts are hard to find here in Vietnam)

    mix dry ingredients

    1 1/4 cup Safflower Oil
    1 1/4 cup honey

    heat wet ingredients and whip together as they heat (they begin separated)
    mix wet into dry

    cook at about 160 c. (maybe 310 f. ) until browned. Keep turning until uniformly brown.

    It is awesome. Lasts me until lunch every day.

    So Darya…. how do I get the full oat into the equation?

What do you think?

XHTML: You can use these basic html tags such as <a>, <b> and <i>.

Want a picture next to your comment? Click here to register your email address for a Gravatar you can use on most websites.