Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Granola: breakfast or dessert?

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I love granola. It’s part of most of my breakfasts. This despite the recent article in which dietitians decreed granola to be a dessert. Whatever. I love breakfast for supper and, apparently, dessert for breakfast. That being said, I do think that granola can be a part of a healthy breakfast just as it can be an rather unhealthy start to the day.

There are a couple of factors that come to play in making granola a part of a healthy breakfast. One is the sad fact that most commercially available granolas are just oats and sugar held together by fat. Homemade granola can be the same. It can also be loaded with healthy nuts and seeds. It all depends on what you put in it. The key is that you get to decide what goes into it. Of course, it’s still going to be calorically dense and probably will have a fair amount of sugar and/or fat in it, depending on the recipe.

This is where the second factor comes into play. It’s all about serving size. Rather than having a bowlful of granola you should be treating granola as a topping. Adding a bit of granola to a bowl of shredded wheat with some blueberries or sliced banana makes it taste a whole lot better and adds the protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals from the nuts and seeds. Granola also adds a bit of crunch to a smoothie bowl or some fruit and yoghurt. I’ve even had roasted sweet potato topped with peanut butter, yogurt, and granola.

Granola can be a healthy choice. It’s all about how you treat it.

One of my current favourite granola recipes is a modified version of Angela Liddon’s recipe in her Oh She Glows cookbook.

Feel free to share your favourite granola recipes below or your favourite ways to include granola as a part of a nutritious breakfast.


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Let them eat chocolate cake for breakfast!

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I saw the headline: Chocolate cake for breakfast? Research says it’s good for both your brain and your waistline and thought “this should be interesting”.

The author suggests that we should eat chocolate cake for breakfast because one study found that higher chocolate consumption was associated with improved cognitive function. While another study suggested that those who ate larger breakfasts (including a dessert) lost more weight and ate less later in the day than those who started their day with a less substantial meal. A bit of a leap, if you ask me to then conclude that we should be eating chocolate cake as part of a weight management cognitive enhancement regimen.

Looking at the study that ostensibly concluded that chocolate improved cognition, it immediately jumps out at me that the study drew from data from food frequency questionnaires. As you know, these are notoriously inaccurate. I also think that it’s important to note that the questionnaire in question didn’t differentiate between dark, milk, and white chocolate. White chocolate being up for debate as to whether or not it’s truly chocolate, and the form of the chocolate not being recorded (chocolate bar, ice cream, cake, cookie…) it would be difficult to conclude that there was any one attribute of these forms of chocolate that could improve cognition. As the authors point out, there is no way to infer a causal relationship. Just because people who ate chocolate at least once a week fared better on cognitive tests than those who ate it less than once a week doesn’t mean that there’s not some other reason that they fared better on these tests. While the results were statistically significant, I wonder how meaningful they are in actuality.

While I can attest to the benefits of “front loading” your day for many trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss, I wondered about the study the article referenced. Fortunately, someone else had already thrown shade on it (back in 2010!) so I don’t feel the need to duplicate their comments. For anyone who can’t be bothered to click the link, suffice to say the study author has come out with a diet book and the study upon which she based this plan is flawed.

Okay, what’s the takeaway? I’ve got nothing against chocolate. I’ve got nothing against chocolate cake. In fact, writing this post prompted me to fetch a slice of leftover chocolate cake to munch on while I typed. That being said, I wouldn’t include it as part of a nutritious breakfast. If you were eating chocolate cake for breakfast on the regular you’d be hard-pressed to get all of the nutrients you need without getting more calories than you need. If you want to add chocolate to your breakfast in a healthier way you could add some cocoa powder to your smoothie or some raw cacao nibs to your oatmeal. Save the cake for special occasions (and blogging).

 

 


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Does eating breakfast make you racist?

Image by alsis35 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Image by alsis35 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Man, Mother Jones sure does love the ire-inducing click-bait headlines. The latest: Why you should stop eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Dogmatic adherence to mealtimes is anti-science, racist, and might actually be making you sick. Melodramatic much?

Why anti-science you might ask? Well, fasted mice apparently have more “robust” brain cells, live longer, and are skinnier than non-fasted mice. Reminder: mice are not humans and what applies to rodents may not (and often doesn’t) apply to humans. The other science was a tiny study (16 participants, 8 in each treatment group) that found no significant differences between those who ate three meals a day and those who ate three meals and snacks (both groups consumed the same number of calories). And a study of 24 women who ate either two or five meals a day (again, the same number of calories). The researchers found that both groups burned the same number of calories. Does this mean that we should all start intermittent fasting? I’m going with no.

While some people can be content following an intermittent fasting diet, not everyone will be happy going for long periods without food. Firstly, these studies didn’t show that there was a benefit to eating more meals every day, but they also didn’t show a benefit to eating fewer meals. Secondly, these studies didn’t address the qualitative aspects associated with meal frequency. To me, this suggests that if you’re happy and healthy eating three square a day, or more, or less, then that’s what you should do.

Why racist? Well, apparently the Europeans scorned Native Americans for not eating three square meals a day. Obviously not cool. However, it’s a little absurd to suggest that eating breakfast makes you a racist.

Why making you sick? So far as I can tell, the only reference to this in the article is regarding people eating too many calories for their sedentary lifestyles, particularly “large country breakfasts” which anecdotally lead to increased reports of indigestion.

After all of this incendiary information, the article concludes with some reasonable advice:

Instead of obsessing about meal size and frequency, Ochner recommends something simpler: Don’t eat when it’s time for a meal; eat when you feel hungry. That, he says, is a lost art.

While I agree that we shouldn’t obsess too much about meal size and frequency I don’t think that the majority of us are ready for eating only when we’re hungry. For most of us that leads to overeating. Preventative eating, and front-loading the day can be key for people struggling with weight management issues and mindless eating in the evening. For many of us, eating on a schedule works great. The key is to figuring out what works best for you rather than adhering to patterns of eating recommended in a magazine article. There are no hard and fast rules.


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Would you “do the dew” for breakfast?

Well, I honestly didn’t see this one coming: Pepsi has launched a new Mountain Dew breakfast beverage called Kickstart. In the official press release the company states: “Kickstart presents a fresh alternative to the age-old morning question of “coffee or juice,” by offering the best of all worlds. It combines the great taste of Mountain Dew with five percent real fruit juice and just the right amount of caffeine.” Ummm… what? This sounds like neither coffee nor juice to me. Coffee is so much more than caffeine and 5% juice does not sound much like orange juice to me.

Clearly I’m out of touch with the average Pepsi consumers who told the company “they are looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages”. Even if this is what they were asking for, I’m not sure that 5% juice and 92 mg of caffeine in a soda were exactly what they had in mind.

Kickstart will be available in stores (at least in the US, I’m not sure about Canada) toward the end of the month in both orange citrus and fruit punch flavours. Personally, I plan to stick with my coffee.


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Grocery store lessons: Special K

Kellogg’s recently introduced two new products to their breakfast line. One is a Morning Shake, the other is a Flatbread Morning Sandwich. Neither of which I’m particularly enthusiastic about, as both a dietitian and as a person who eats breakfast on a daily basis.

The shake lists sugar as its second ingredient (water is the first). Apparently the large amount of sugar doesn’t make the shake sweet enough though as there are also three non-nutritive sweeteners added as well. The only other ingredients appear to be proteins, oils, and stabilizers. Mmm… Sugar water with protein… Not exactly what I would recommend for a balanced breakfast.

The flatbreads brag that they have less than 250 calories each. They’re basically a frozen, low-fat, egg muffin-type thing. I know many of us are hard pressed for time in the morning but really, a precooked frozen breakfast sandwich? Yuck. Also, I don’t think that 250 calories is anything to brag about. There are very few people who would need that few calories in the morning. Most of us need more than that to provide us with a solid start to the day and to avoid overeating later. And lest you think that this is the same as what you’d get making your own egg sandwich for breakfast, here’s the ingredient list:

Scrambled egg patty (whole egg, modified milk ingredients, egg white, vegetable oil, modified corn starch, dicalcium phosphate, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum, guar gum, citric acid, spice), multigrain flatbread (water, whole grain whole wheat flour, wheat flour, yeast, sugar, wheat gluten, oat hull, wheat bran, modified wheat starch, vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, cultured wheat flour, rolled wheat, cultured wheat starch, rye nuggets, corn grits, rolled oats, monoglycerides, rye flakes, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, triticale flakes, brown rice flour, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, guar gum, barley flakes, hulled millet, whole flaxseed, calcium propionate), fully cooked ham (ham, water, sugar, salt, sodium lactate, sodium phosphate, natural flavour, sodium diacetate, sodium nitrite), processed pepper jack cheese (modified milk ingredients, water, sodium phosphate, green and red jalapeno peppers, salt, colour, enzymes).

The egg alone has 12 ingredients!

Don’t be sucked in by the allure of low-calorie quick breakfast options. Not only will your home made breakfast be healthier it will also be a whole lot cheaper in the long-run. If you’re in a rush in the morning try preparing items in advance like a big batch of steel-cut oats, boiled eggs, or whole grain waffles. Other quick and nutritious breakfasts include: Greek yoghurt with fruit (fresh or frozen) and muesli or home made granola, yoghurt and fruit smoothie (toss in some greens like spinach for added nutrients), whole grain toast with nut butter and a piece of fruit, or a cereal (look for sugar to be in the single digits and go for whole grains with the least number of ingredients, my choice: shredded wheat and bran).