Opinion: There Is No Such Thing as Breakfast Food

Kat Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Every food is breakfast food. This shouldn’t be a controversial statement and yet, somehow, it is. There are some mornings when I get a hankering for red curry at 9 am. Other days, I want stir-fried veggies, a fish steamed with lemongrass, rice — cravings that a traditional American breakfast, which subsists of things like bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, and toast, could never satisfy. Whatever it is that my stomach’s desiring, I’ve never really felt that there should be a specified time where certain foods are deemed acceptable while others are not. So what if I want spicy seafood spaghetti in the a.m.? Since when it did become inappropriate to devour a plate of fried chicken to start the day?

Breakfast has undergone a lot of changes in its time. In the Middle Ages, breakfast was often skipped and viewed as a sin of gluttony — to break fast was to disrespect God. During the industrial revolution, breakfast was hearty and filling, necessary for providing fuel to undertake a day’s work (which, in the pre-internet, pre-industrial revolution world often meant actual physical labor). “The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century — and the rise of factory work and office jobs that accompanied it — further normalized breakfast,” observed Megan Garber for The Atlantic. We’ve even seen our own fair share of changes from the ‘90s to now, with diet trends promoting low-carb options and low-fat meals to current trendy high-fat keto breakfasts and paleo interpretations.

Despite all the significant evolutions, breakfast is still considered the most important meal of the day. “Breakfast gives you the energy you need to start your day and any time you eat something you are stimulating your metabolism. When people skip breakfast you may end up hungrier come lunchtime and reach for something less healthy than if you were not as hungry,” shares Kassandra Neuendorff, a registered dietitian based out of San Diego. Breakfast is a staple. And though the glorious bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich forever has a spot in my rotation of breakfast delights, we don’t need to limit ourselves to the same 10 options. Even the avocado toast needs a rest sometimes.

“The standard american diet has popularized foods that only make us feel tired, bloated and lacking in essential nutrients. Typical ‘breakfast food,’ such as bagels and coffee, provide little to no nutritious value, thus why I don’t suggest it,” says Talia Vilaplana, a nutritional therapy practitioner practicing out of New York City. “Not to say breakfast shouldn’t be yummy, it completely can and should be, just not in the typical way so many have been socialized to believe — a.k.a full of sugar.”

In place of our traditional American breakfast fare, I am advocating that we allow — and accept — that there is no real thing as “breakfast food,” and that frankly, every food is intended to be breakfast food.

The rest of world appears to agree with me. Globally, the “fuel” needed to start the day looks different than it does in the West. In my native country of Thailand, breakfast looks like rice porridge with garlicky pork meatballs, tom luad moo (which translates to boiled pork blood — and is a protein-rich soup composed of exactly what it sounds like), and lightly sweetened soy milk filled with beans, jellies, and basil seeds. In Japan, breakfast can be grilled salmon, miso soup, fermented soybeans, or simply hot rice with a raw egg cracked over and drizzled with soy sauce. A traditional breakfast in Ecuador may include empanadas stuffed with onions and cheese, plantains, and a variety of tropical fruits. In Turkey, it’s common to have an array of hard cheeses and olive spread with bread, as well as homemade jams. And even though food across the world may look and taste different, we can find commonalities within our breakfasts in terms of what food groups we’re consuming.

“I think that a good breakfast includes carbohydrates — i.e. bread, oatmeal, cereal; lean protein; and some sort of source of fat,” advises Neuendorff. Vilaplana agrees, noting that a proper meal should consist of a balance of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates “no matter the time of day. I gear towards breakfast being higher in fat, simply to feel satiated until lunch and to avoid that mid-day slump.” I wouldn’t say that a stack of doughnuts exactly provides that.

Instead of getting your early dosage of carbs in the morning from waffles and bagels, why not opt for something you haven’t tried — perhaps a dosa or a bowl of warm pho? In place of bacon and sausage, other proteins may prove beneficial, like fish or tofu. And if you’re struggling to get your daily dose of vegetables, “breakfast can be a great time to slip in a serving or two of vegetables. For some it may be hard to get 2-3 cups of vegetables in each day but starting off with some at breakfast can help,” recommends Neuendorff. May we recommend a “breakfast” salad? Throw on some bacon and a fried egg if you must.

Eating non-traditional breakfast foods can also have great financial benefits. Instead of waking up and having to mix-up batter and flip pancakes or whip up an egg sandwich — why not just heat-up yesterday’s dinner? Yes, even the two last slices of pepperoni pizza. This way nothing goes to waste and you don’t have to waste time or precious dollars crafting a breakfast spread. Trust us, it’s much faster to microwave leftover lo-mein than it is to make toast, fry bacon, and scramble an egg.

Besides, we have gone on far too long limiting ourselves and our imaginations to maple syrup and tater tots. Do not take this as a call to banish these items, but as an opportunity to expand our horizons. We should be consuming foods that not only nourish our bodies and provide the nutrition necessary to start the day, but enjoying foods that may provide for our souls. And if that means having a non-traditionally-Western meal for breakfast, then so be it. “I think that as long as you have a good carbohydrate source, protein and some good fat you can eat anything you want at breakfast,” Neuendorff confirmed.

At the end of the day, dishes reserved for dinner or lunch or special occasions don’t have to be consumed in their invented time slots. If you can have “breakfast” for dinner, then why can’t you have dinner for breakfast? The answer is that you can, and you should.

Source: Thrillist


A Dietitian’s Perspective on the New Canada’s Food Guide

Vincci Tsui wrote . . . . . . . . .

Health Canada released its latest update to Canada’s Food Guide on Tuesday, 12 years after the previous version was released. At the press conference, health minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor joked that the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet when the last food guide came out.

Though not a perfect document, early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the biggest improvements to Canada’s Food Guide, plus some areas that still need a bit of work.

What the New Food Guide does Well

Goodbye rainbow, hello plate

The most obvious change can be found on the front of the food guide. Instead of a rainbow graphic depicting the four food groups, Canadians are now greeted by a colourful plate featuring vegetables and fruit, protein foods, whole grain foods, and a glass of water, which we’re told should be our “drink of choice.”

The protein foods section of the plate shows a variety of choices, including beef (ahem), dairy (ahem), and various plant-based proteins, like legumes, nuts, and tofu.

The food guide has also done away with recommended serving sizes and number of servings of different types of food per day. I think this is a reflection that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition, and that many eating patterns can be health-promoting.

A focus on how we eat, versus what we eat

In addition to the plate, Canada’s Food Guide includes seven recommendations under Eating Habits:

  • Be mindful of your eating habits
  • Cook more often
  • Enjoy your food
  • Eat meals with others
  • Use food labels
  • Limit foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat
  • Be aware of food marketing

This section of the food guide has received the most praise, as it shows a shift away from what and how much we eat toward how and why we eat, echoing the Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population that also received an overwhelmingly positive response when they were released in 2014.

More than just a handout

While the Canada’s Food Guide Snapshot will likely be what will pop up in doctor’s offices near you, Health Canada has developed a host of resources on its website. Beyond details on the plate and healthy eating recommendations, the website includes recipes, healthy eating tips including meal planning and cooking, as well as more specific recommendations for different life-stages and environments. Petitpas-Taylor stressed that Canada’s Food Guide will be constantly updated instead of the static document of versions past. In fact, there is a plan for another release later this year that provides more specific recommendations on amounts and types of foods.

Where the New Food Guide Can Improve

More flexibility and cultural sensitivity

Although the plate image and lack of recommended serving sizes and amounts is far less rigid than previous editions of the food guide, there are also parts that can be interpreted as being less flexible. While the beef and dairy industries have been up in arms about being grouped together with plant-based proteins, I’m curious how companies will feel about “grain products” being turned into “whole grains.” Despite the lack of recommended serving sizes and amounts, at the press conference, Petitpas-Taylor highlighted that Canadians should aim to eat foods in the proportions indicated on the plate: filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit, a quarter with protein foods, and a quarter with whole grains.

As a person of Chinese background, I also hope that future updates will be more culturally-sensitive, not only showing token pictures of “ethnic” foods, but also recognizing that many cultures eat foods served family-style, and that a plate may not be an helpful reflection of how people eat.

Mindful eating

For me–someone who literally wrote a book on mindful eating–the recommendation to “be mindful of your eating habits” actually sent up red flags. “Mindful eating” is often misconstrued as “careful eating,” like “I’m being mindful of my portion sizes;” when really, it’s about being present in the eating experience without judgment. While the more detailed section on that recommendation is more in alignment with what mindful eating actually is, I think that the “be mindful” wording and the fact that it’s being presented in a food guide takes away from the spirit of non-judgment. “Practice mindful eating” or “practice mindful eating principles” may have been a more appropriate and neutral choice.

Make resources more available and accessible

While Canada’s Food Guide is a huge improvement on previous editions, sadly, a lot of the “good stuff” is only on the website, which means a certain level of literacy, access to a computer, and time to review the information is necessary in order to get all that the food guide has to offer. Even though most Canadians won’t be using the food guide every day (nor is that how the food guide is intended to be used), as the second-most downloaded government document (behind tax forms), Canada’s Food Guide will have far-reaching impacts on our food environment and how we think about food, nutrition, and health. I hope the hard work that has gone into this document doesn’t get lost in oversimplification.

Source: Eat North

Hong Kong Food Critic Said He Wishes Hotpot Would Vanish from the World

From The Guardian . . . . . . . . .

A famous Hong Kong restaurant critic and TV personality known as the “Food God” has found himself in hot water – or a steaming vat of hot broth – after criticising the much beloved dish Chinese hotpot.

Chua Lam, a critic who is also the author of several cook books, made the comments during an appearance on the Chinese talk show Day Day Up.

He was asked by one of the hosts what dish he would like to see vanish from the world and said: “hotpot”.

“Because hotpot is a cooking method totally lacking cultural significance. You just throw some ingredients into a pot. I don’t get what’s delicious about it,” he said. “If hotpot fandom continues to grow, you’ll see fewer and fewer chefs in the years to come.”

Hotpot is a popular Chinese dish that is eaten communally, with people putting raw meat, vegetables and noodles into a shared pot of hot seasoned broth. Eating hotpot is often a social occasion, with groups gathering around and eating from the same pot.

Chua’s comments about the beloved dish prompted shocked reactions among the other panellists, one of whom exclaimed: “Many people love hotpot!”

Responding on Chinese social media, many viewers were outraged by the attack on the dish. One said: “Chinese hotpot has an abundance of cultural significance, from its broth to the order that you put ingredients into various sauces. Trashing hotpot exposed your ignorance and your inability to discover cultural details in things.”

Another suggested that Chua had “never had a good hotpot. I feel sorry for him.”

Hotpot was the subject of controversy earlier in the week when Australian metalcore guitarist and vegan advocate Jona Weinhofen tweeted a picture of hotpot saying “Meat eaters be like ‘vegan food looks and tastes gross.’ And then eat something that looks like leftover dishwater.”

Weinhofen’s tweet was criticised for its cultural insensitivity and for not acknowledging that hotpot can be made from entirely vegan ingredients; and for being classist, as hotpot developed as a way for working-class people to make their supply of meat and vegetables stretch further.

Jeff Yang, an American columnist, wrote that Weinhofen’s comment was an example of “neocolonialist” beliefs about food.

“Can we talk about white veganism for a second? The kind espoused by folks like Jona here, who begins his Twitter bio with the Sanskrit word for ‘non-violence’ but then craps on Asian cultural expressions in order to advance his neocolonial beliefs?” he wrote.

Source: SCMP

Opinion: Time and Money – the Biggest Hurdles to Healthy Eating

Tiff-Annie Kenny wrote . . . . . . . . .

Philippe Couillard, the freshly defeated Quebec premier, made headlines during the election campaign when he suggested a family of three — comprised of one adult and two adolescents — could feed themselves for $75 a week.

That figure is less than half the minimum cost (between $168 to $207) of a nutritionally adequate diet for a family of this size, according to the Montreal Diet Dispensary.

While Couillard eventually conceded that it “would not be a varied menu,” would require strict bargain-hunting, supplementing with food banks and would be “almost a full-time job,” he stood by his statement.

Diet quality, health linked to social status

Research shows that in developed countries, more affluent and educated people tend to consume higher-quality diets — including more fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains.

Conversely, socioeconomically disadvantaged people report diets that are nutrient-poor and energy-dense, replete with foods like pasta, potatoes, table sugar, fried foods and processed meats. They are less likely to have food-purchasing habits that conform to public health recommendations.

These dietary disparities are often accompanied by higher rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease — conditions linked to diet — among lower-income people.

This inverse relationship between social class and diet quality and health is extensively documented. However, the research does not explain why this is the case — a question that has significant implications for designing effective policies and initiatives to improve diets and prevent chronic disease.

Public health & prejudice

Public-health initiatives to promote healthy diets often focus on providing nutrition education and recipes. These approaches, however, often presume less food literacy (i.e. food knowledge and skills) among low-income people. Are unhealthy diets really the result of poor choices, limited food skills and knowledge?

Research suggests that, in fact, adults in food-insecure households are just as likely as those in food-secure households to adjust recipes to make them more healthy. They are also just as proficient in food preparation and cooking skills. There is no indication that increasing food skills or budgeting skills will reduce food insecurity.

Instead, disadvantaged groups are constrained by their economic, material and social circumstances.

Higher-quality diets are costlier

It’s well-established that food prices are an important determinant of food choice, particularly among low-income consumers. Low-income households report that they find it difficult to adopt dietary guidelines because food prices are a barrier to improving their diets.

When researchers estimate the cost of diets people actually eat, higher-quality diets are typically more costly. Some research suggests healthier diets cost, on average, approximately $1.50 a day more than less healthy choices. For low-income consumers, the cost of substituting healthier foods can represent up to 35 to 40 per cent of their food budget.

While this may be so, it does not, in itself, prove that healthy diets are necessarily more expensive or cost-prohibitive. After all, not all socioeconomically disadvantaged people consume poor diets.

We can easily think of a number of foods and recipes that are both inexpensive and nutritious. The internet is full of recipes for “eating well on a budget.” Indeed, for many costly healthy food items like fresh salmon, a lower-cost alternative exists, like tinned salmon.

Some have even suggested that the higher relative cost of healthy foods is a myth and a problem that can be solved by healthy, low-cost meals.

Others maintain that poor diet is the result of poverty, not lack of education.

This begs the question: Do healthy foods really cost more?

‘Apples to oranges’ drives researchers bananas

Foods contain calories and a whole array of nutrients in different quantities that we require at different life stages in different amounts. At the same time, some ingredients must be limited, like sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

Researchers have developed indices like the Nutrient Rich Food Index to rank foods based on their composite nutrient profile, taking into account both the good and bad.

Food comparisons also require a standard unit of comparison and to this day, researchers are still debating — how do we effectively compare apples to oranges?

And when we add food price to the equation, how can we be sure we are getting the biggest nutritional bang for our buck?

When food prices are compared on the basis of average portion (like one apple versus one orange) or edible weight (like 100 grams), healthful foods can be cheaper for the consumer.

Calories cheap, nutrients expensive

However, when foods are compared based on their energy cost (amount of money per calorie), energy-dense foods like grains, fats and sweets represent the lowest-cost option. These cheap calories also tend to be the least nutritious.

While some researchers have argued that consumers don’t purchase foods based on the cost of energy, others have shown that this metric best matches the actual consumption patterns for low-income people.

The fact that low-cost, energy-dense foods of low nutritional content are heavily relied upon by low-income consumers means we can’t ignore this metric.

Not enough money, or time

Although nutritious, inexpensive food options do theoretically exist, whether they’re accessible and feasible, particularly among the most socially disadvantaged consumers, has long evaded both nutrition researchers and politicians.

As Couillard admitted, his food budget would have demanded significant time and planning commitments.

The “time cost” to prepare raw food items relative to prepared or convenience products may lead to differing conclusions about relative prices of food — despite the higher price tag of prepared foods.

In fact, research suggests that time is more constraining than money in following nutritious food plans.

Access to a healthful diet is not just about food prices, which have have been rising across the country for several years; it’s also about income and purchasing power. Low income is the strongest predictor of food insecurity in Canada, where one in eight households experience insufficient access to nutritious foods.

Modest improvements in income through policy instruments such as a basic income guarantee have been shown to be effective in reducing the probability of food insecurity among the poorest households. Such programs and policies, however, are left to the government of the day and a change in politics can signal the cancellation of such initiatives.

Meanwhile, emergency food relief programs, like food banks and soup kitchens, are left to charitable and private organizations, which some have argued permit the government to neglect social welfare obligations.

So, can the most socioeconomically disadvantaged people afford nutritious diets? Are healthy foods really more expensive?

Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions about the true cost of food. As the UN special rapporteur on the right to food said of his 2012 mission to Canada: “The question of hunger is not a technical question, it’s a political question.”

Source: The Conversation

The Sugar Wars: Rhetoric or Reason?

Over the past 50 years researchers, clinicians, professional organizations, and health charities have waged war on sugar, calling for dietary recommendations to be changed and for a sugar tax on soft drinks and sweet treats in an effort to reduce obesity and cardiovascular diseases. In 2014, the WHO recommended that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than ten percent of their total energy intake. But could the war on sugar be bad for your health? Experts present the arguments both for and against sugar in this hotly contested debate on the “Sugar Wars” published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

In his article, Edward Archer, PhD, of EvolvingFX, Jupiter, FL, USA, challenged the latest dietary recommendations and presented evidence from multiple domains to show that “diet” is a necessary but trivial factor in metabolic health. “Anti-sugar rhetoric is simply diet-centric disease-mongering engendered by physiologic illiteracy,” he wrote. “My position is that dietary sugars are not responsible for obesity or metabolic diseases and that the consumption of simple sugars and sugar-polymers (e.g., starches) up to 75 percent of total daily caloric intake is innocuous in healthy individuals.”

In defense of sugar, Dr. Archer argues that:

  • Biological life depends on sugar in its many forms, for example, sugars and sugar-polymers are major nutritive constituents of many foods and beverages including breast milk, dairy products, fruit, fruit juices, honey, sucrose (i.e., table sugar; a disaccharide of glucose, and fructose), sugar-sweetened beverages, rice, beans, potatoes, wheat, corn, quinoa, and other cereal grains.
  • Sugars and sugar-polymers have played critical roles in both human evolution and dietary history and were the major sources of nutrient-energy (calories) for most of the global population throughout human history.
  • “Diet-centric” researchers often ignore the fact that physical activity, not diet, is the major modifiable determinant of metabolic health.
  • The consumption of dietary sugars up to 80 percent of total energy intake is entirely innocuous in active populations.
  • There is strong, positive association between sugar availability/consumption and health.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus are not diet-related diseases but are metabolic conditions caused by the positive energy balance (i.e., over-nutrition) driven by physical inactivity in past and current generations.

Relations between physical activity (PA), body mass, and energy intake. As PA declines below the metabolic tipping point into the “Sedentary” range, energy intake and energy expenditure become dissociated due to insufficient depletion/repletion cycles, and body mass begins to increase as energy balance becomes positive and insulin sensitivity is lost. (From Archer: In Defense of Sugar)

In a Letter to the Editor, James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, and James H. O’Keefe, MD, of the Department of Preventive Cardiology, Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MI, USA, provide strong criticisms to Dr. Archer’s positions by arguing that dietary sugar (either glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup) is not necessary for life, and that humans did not consume refined sucrose or high fructose corn syrup throughout most of their evolution.

“The truth is you really can’t outrun a bad diet, especially when it comes to overconsuming refined sugar. While it’s true that exercise may reduce the risk of obesity from overconsuming refined sugar, it doesn’t prevent dental cavities, inflammation of the gums, or inflammation that occurs in the intestine, liver, and kidneys when the body processes large amounts of sugar,” say Dr. DiNicolantonio and Dr. O’Keefe. “Healthy populations that consume fairly high amounts of raw honey who also live hunter-gatherer lifestyles should not be used as an example to give an industrialized sedentary population an excuse to overconsume refined sugar. Importantly, raw honey is not the same as refined sugar.”

In his rebuttal, Dr. Archer reasserts that obesity and metabolic diseases are caused by the confluence of physical inactivity and non-genetic evolutionary processes over many generations. He points out that by the late 1940s, both the life- and health-spans in the USA had increased dramatically despite half of all infants being reared on infant formula – a 100 percent artificial/synthetic product containing around 40 percent of calories from added sugars (e.g., lactose, sucrose, glucose, fructose, and/or corn syrup). He concludes: “It is time for the medical and scientific communities to return to their roots, eschew magical and miraculous thinking, and demonstrate a modicum of skepticism by refuting the illiterate nonsense and puritanical proscriptions engendered by diet-centrism.”

In an accompanying Editorial, Carl J. “Chip” Lavie, MD, FACC, FACP, FCCP, of the Ochsner Clinical School, The University of Queensland School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA, USA, and Editor of Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, states his personal belief that the ill effects of sugar have been over-emphasized by scientists and, especially, by the media. “Most sedentary people who are gaining weight and/or have high glucose and/or triglycerides should limit their carbohydrates and, especially, simple sugars, but for lean physically active individuals without these characteristics, sugars and carbohydrates are not toxic and, in fact, are probably helpful.” Dr. Lavie, however, feels it is important to have the scientists discuss opposing viewpoints in the journal.