Friday, December 7, 2012

Beyond Breakfast Cereal: Healthy Options to Start your Day!

Many of of grew up on cold breakfast cereal with cow's milk. I did a little research and learned how this tradition began, because you see, humans have only recently begun to rely on these processed foods. Our ancestors always consumed real whole foods. Cold breakfast cereals started to become popular in the late 1800's, when Keith Kellogg discovered a pot of wheat that had been overcooked and then dried into separate flakes. He soon thereafter created Cornflakes and later Rice Krispies. Breakfast cereals are made by a process of extrusion in which ingredients, often starchy foods, are processed at high temperatures and forced through an extruder to create a specific shape. Starchy foods processed at high temperatures create a lot of browning and something called Advanced Glycated End Products, or AGES. Eating these types of foods every morning can wreak havoc on your body.

Breakfast cereals have more things against them as well. They often add a high amount of refined sugars, colorings, flavorings, contaminated low quality vitamins and minerals, and GMO ingredients. Laboratory testing of low quality nutritional supplements shows they may contain contaminants such as chemical solvents, heavy metals, and preservatives such as sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, etc. Many people are irate that the cereal companies they trusted and fed to their families contain GMO ingredients. You can go read the Facebook pages for Kelloggs, Cheerios, and Nature Valley. They are all lit up right now with comments from concerned people calling them out on their use of toxic GMO ingredients.

The reality is that we shouldn't be consuming cold breakfast cereal at all, even the natural organic brands. There are far healthier options that will give you long lasting energy, help keep moods and behaviors balanced, and provide the right nutrients for brain function and growth. Try out a few of the options below and see what makes you feel best. This might change daily, weekly, or even seasonally. There isn't one right way as long as you are sticking with whole organic foods.

Look for organic eggs, or even better, pastured eggs, which come from chickens that have the freedom to roam and eat moss, bugs, and vegetable scraps. Organic often means the chickens were just fed organic grains. The term "free range" is nothing more that a marketing ploy. It doesn't mean you are getting healthy eggs. It just means that the chickens were not kept in tiny metal cages. They are still often crammed into large hen houses and can be fed non-organic GMO grains.

Try poaching, scrambling, frying, or hard boiling pasture-raised eggs. Serve them with fruit, lacto-fermented vegetables, cooked potatoes or yams, sautéed greens, or fresh salad greens. There are so many great options!

We usually make a green smoothie five days of the week. We load it up with kale, collards, ginger, and fresh lemon juice. This is a fantastic way to eat a lot of raw greens at once! Try adding healthy fats such as soaked nuts, avocados, or chia seeds to slow the digestion. Remember, adding healthy fats to your diet won't necessarily make you fat. We also like to make berry smoothies with soaked nuts, frozen berries, chia seeds, and sometimes maca powder.

Whole Grains
A bowl of warm whole grain cereal can be just the thing on a chilly morning! Try organic gluten-free rolled oats, amaranth, quinoa, teff, or ground brown rice. I always like to add some fat with these to keep blood sugar levels balanced. A dollop of pastured butter, coconut milk, raw almond milk, or ground nuts (or all of the above) works well.

My cookbooks have plenty of recipes for making warm whole grain cereals. You can make your own cream of rice cereal, teff porridge, quinoa cereal, and more! It's really quite simple.

Meat or Fish
Organic or homemade sausages, leftover cooked salmon, or even last night's chicken vegetable stir-fry are great options. Sometimes I like to have one or two sausages with my green smoothie if I know I am going to be out all morning. My oldest daughter will often eat leftover salmon along with some cut up fruit for breakfast.

You don't need much! Just a little bit of animal protein combined with a lot of vegetables (in a smoothie or salad) is a great balance that will keep you energized!

Pancakes or other Griddle Cakes
Our early settlers relied heavily on corn for breakfast, probably passed down to them from the Native Americans. They made Johnnycakes, hoecakes (cooked on the flat side of a garden hoe in a fire), and corn bread quite often. Now many folks rely on boxed mixes to make pancakes, but you don't need to. Pancakes can be very simple to throw together, in fact, I usually never use a recipe and don't measure. Use whole grain flours, some type of milk, eggs or chia/flax seeds, a little baking soda and powder, and a dash of maple syrup. I have recipes for gluten-free whole grain pancakes in both cookbooks. My new book has recipes for using soaked whole grains to make pancakes, crepes, and dosas (Quinoa Mung Bean Dosas). I think any type of griddle cake, whether whole grain or grain-free, needs to be an occasional treat though. When these types of foods are cooked on a skillet (especially recipes that rely on almond flour and honey) they can produce a lot of AGES so use them as a treat, a few times a month, not everyday.

Do you have any other ideas for a healthy breakfast? Please share in the comments below. Thanks! :)

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. Very timely, as I've been thinking about breakfast alternatives, since my family starting eating Paleo. Roasted veggies are also a nice hot breakfast -- I like to throw sweet potatoes in the oven with a couple of sausages before we go for a run. Great for breakfast, with a side of asparagus spears! Leftover roasted cauliflower, green beans, or beets are all great with sausages and/or eggs, too! Thanks for all your wonderful and inspiring recipes!

  2. Thanks! This looks good! I always wanted to have green smoothies, but I read somewhere that they can cause thyroid problems or something due to too much spinach and the like.... do you address that somewhere already?

  3. Love your suggestions. We do most of those, too! We've also been adding to our breakfast menu:

    - sweet potato hash (grated sweet potatoes sauteed in coconut oil), sometimes adding kale and topping with a fried egg or two

    - roasted veggies like sweet potato oven fries, asparagus, and zucchini (either made in the morning or reheated from dinner)

    - gf muffins along with a piece of fruit or green smoothie and a sausage patty

    I really love the combination of eggs, sweet potatoes, and kale.

  4. Great post! I love soups in the morning. Especially home made chicken soup. I also like the combo of green smoothie and few sausages.

  5. I love green smoothies. but lately I've been trying to reduce my fruit intake. would like some ideas for green smoothies that are lower sugar but taste great and keep me full to lunch time. I don't think its good food combining but lately I've been using one piece of fruit only, and adding rolled oats and coconut oil or cream, and lots of greens. but I don't enjoy my smoothies as much as I used to.

  6. Right on time! I tend to eat dinner leftovers quite a bit, since I have blood sugar issues and cereal just doesn't work for me. I was getting tired of that, though, and trying to figure out alternatives for my kids so they didn't get hooked on box cereal!

  7. Loved your post and yes incorporate most things you mentioned above. On occasions we also make;

    French toast (bread dipped in egg with feta & spinach)
    Waffles (with fruit, protein powder, chia seeds etc..)

    It's amazing how these commercial cereals are still in business when we have amazing sites like yours educating us on more healthier options.

    Love it!! And thank you so much for your inspiration.
    Dani xxx

  8. I'm a recovering cold cereal addict, and I love these suggestions! With the cold weather I've really been enjoying hot cereals (teff, gf oatmeal, brown rice cereal). I'm about to start sharing brown rice cereal with my 8 month old, and I recall reading somewhere that I should soak the rice first. Does anyone know if I should soak it before I grind it in the coffee grinder? Or should I soak it, cook it, then puree it?

    1. Look into baby led weaning. I can't remember if it is Mommypatomous or KitchenStewardship that talks about babies not being able to fully digest grains until a year old.

  9. I'm glad you wrote this post. Both my boys have been eating cereal way too often lately for breakfast and we need to go back to real food again. I notice my oldest does much better with a breakfast full of protein in the mornings.

  10. Ali - would you mind emailing me? I'd love to have a conversation about what you were taking about with AGES.

  11. Some of the things we eat for breakfast:
    - roasted sweet potatoes. Perfect hot out of the oven, maybe with a little cinnamon and/or some chopped walnuts, or sweet potatoes & greens

    - leftover soup, chili, or other dinner leftovers

    - fruit and nuts

    - fruit salad with avocado

    - cooked quinoa with a little butter

    - yogurt and homemade granola (8 c oats, 1/4 c honey, 1 T cinnamon) or yogurt with berries or homemade jam

  12. I love your first book! And I love this little blog of yours!

  13. Thanks for the tips on the blood sugar levels and healthy fats! My favorite is avocados and cacao in a green smoothie, makes it creamy and a little chocolatey too! The best way to start the morning :)

  14. Danielle- We skipped feeding cereal (even homemade) to our baby all together and went straight to avocado, sweet potato and squash.
    Cynthia Lair has info in her book about cooking grains for babies. This is also a good resource.

  15. Eating healthy and hearty breakfast is essential to fuel up our day. Eggs and cereals are considered as our family's favorite breakfast meals.

  16. I am currently waiting for my cookbook to come in the mail, in the meanwhile I was wondering if anyone knew if you are able to eat gluten free oats in Phase 1?


  17. I love making a hot cereal out of whole buckwheat groats, just ten minutes on the stovetop and add some butter, milk and honey...better than oatmeal

  18. I really want to make some of the green smoothies, do I need to have a Vitamix to really make them good? Can I use a regular blender or would it just be stringy and chunky?

  19. Unfortunately, my husband is the one who has trouble letting go of the cold cereal - although if I felt I could cook him breakfast every day he'd love it. He just won't eat oatmeal or yogurt, which all my kids love. Yogurt is one of my favorites I add unsweetened coconut, raw oats, chia seeds and fruit (although I know for dairy free families this isn't an option). We also make 'pancake sandwiches' on to-go days; a little nut butter between two reheated previously frozen homemade pancakes, sometimes with fruit in there too (berries are the best).

  20. i love the 'organic' hype.. sorry, no such thing.

    and there's soo much wrong with these suggestions.

    eggs for one and processed foods.

    and NO mention of arteriosclerosis?

  21. Cabbage, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, one egg and two ounces of ham


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