"Here it is," she said with a smile, "the breakfast of champions."
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No, it wasn't a bowl of Wheaties with a banana sliced on top. It was, check it out: A bowl of coconut/vanilla Greek yogurt, two sliced bananas, a big bunch of halved, red globe grapes with seeds, a mound of whole ground flaxseed meal, a healthy serving of blended trail mix (almonds, cranberries, cherries, raisins and pistachios), and a generous topping of chocolate granola (ingredients to come later).
Breakfast was sweet, rich, juicy, crunchy, delicious and filling. My breakfast partner does not skimp on the portions. And, by the way, it was incredibly good for my health.
When I decided for health reasons to move away from a diet centered on meat and fried foods to one focused more on plants, my major concerns were that I would be able to eat enough to feel full and energetic and that I would find enough food that I actually liked.
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No problem, thanks again in large measure to my breakfast partner. And it hasn't been a problem since I made the decision. What it has been is a gradual process of becoming accustomed to, not necessarily foods that are new to me, but a new way of looking at some familiar foods and a new way of making them part of my regular diet.
I now eat lots of rice and beans and greens and baked potatoes and sweet potatoes and fruits and vegetables. Also some pasta. Pizza is still on the menu. I also eat vegetarian versions of meatballs, bacon, sausage, turkey with all the vegetables, etc. No portion control. Again, the tastes are a bit different, but delicious. It's all in the way the food is prepared. That, to me, is mind over matter. I think we are conditioned from earliest days to think about certain foods in a certain way and, after a while it becomes automatic -- so, lots of red meat is good, vegetables are wussy.
I've said it before, but I will repeat myself: I'm not crusading here. I don't begrudge anybody eating whatever they choose (not entirely true -- horses are not for eating). However, since my dietary changes, I've become increasingly aware of the strong contradiction in what many people say about their desire to be healthier (to lose weight, to have more energy, to feel stronger) and the food they actually eat. So I write about what I'm going through to maintain my own awareness and, maybe, let someone who's contemplating a similar change know that it's possible and not necessarily painful.
There's a slowly growing awareness among Americans for the need to eat more healthful foods, foods free of chemicals and so-called "natural" added ingredients. You can see this in expanded organic food sections at supermarkets and half-hearted attempts by some fast-food chains to offer what they regard as healthier choices. When the monied interests -- the corporations that control our food supply -- start offering more choices, even though they may exaggerate their health benefits, I think it's a good first step. They're starting to pay attention.
It's also a signal for consumers to start insisting on more such choices and at more reasonable prices. It seems to me that companies should not get rich by offering lots of cheap food that isn't good for our health (and may actually be bad for our health) while pricing nutritious, tasty food out of the reach of far too many people. History tells us that, greed being what it is, this corporate mindset won't change unless enough customers insist on it by spending their food money differently. By putting our money where our mouths are and by insisting that elected officials do more to protect the food supply rather than the food suppliers, we might actually be able to help ourselves become healthier.
Back to the breakfast of champions. It satisfies the various food pyramids' daily recommendations on fruits, nuts, seeds and dairy in one sitting. It is full of super foods:
-- Greek yogurt: Loaded with protein, Vitamin B12 and calcium. Also has potassium, B-6 and magnesium.
-- Bananas: Good for Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C and potassium. Also magnesium and dietary fiber.
-- Red grapes, with seeds: Source of resveratrol, which helps dilate blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. Also may fight macular degeneration and help weight loss by reducing cells' ability to store fat. Source of anti-oxidants and Vitamin E. May help improve cholesterol numbers.
-- Flaxseed meal: Soluble and insoluble fiber. Studies suggest flaxseed as regular part of a diet lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol. Has lignans, natural anti-oxidants that protect against unchecked cell growth. Source of alpha-linolenic acid, or omega-3, which can help provide healthy cholesterol levels, reduce cell inflammation (by supporting the integrity of cell membranes of vital organs, thereby protecting the body against disease). Also may lower blood pressure. Studies suggest flaxseed may help protect against some forms of cancer, decrease menopausal symptoms and reduce blood sugar.
-- Trail mix: Good source of Vitamin E, manganese, copper and magnesium (important minerals often neglected in many diets). Also a source of potassium and dietary fiber.
-- Chocolate granola: Among other things, it contains whole grain oats, ground flax seeds, rice and soy lecithin, an emulsifier that keeps the blood slippery.
Full disclosure, the chocolate granola, being a commercial product, contains sugar and cane juice. But people are free to mix their own granola. Like I said, I'm no purist, just a guy trying to live a longer, healthier life. One spectacular breakfast at a time.
Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)