A Balanced Breakfast?


Dr. Pavka helps a reader size up his bowl and suggests foods perfect for morning munching.

​“My question is about a breakfast meal I have created and enjoy. All the ingredients are organic. I add 1 cup of oatmeal to a pint of spring water, slowly heating to a brief simmer then removing from the heat to cool. I grind 1/8 cup of almonds (about 22) to a powder. I grind 1/3 cup of pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds (equaling 1 cup) into a powder. Then, I add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and mix dry ingredients before adding to the now cooler oatmeal. I add more water as needed. My question: Is this meal balanced? I’m a 58-year-old male, long-term strict vegetarian, going on vegan. I like to eat fresh foods, but as I live off the grid, I’m limited to what will keep without refrigeration.” —Richard O., Todd, NC

Thanks so much for this rich question, Richard, that could take my answer in many directions. Here are a few key thoughts.

​The balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your breakfast looks very good. Oatmeal, of course, is a healthy source of whole grain carbohydrates high in fiber. The nuts provide good quality protein and generous amounts of fats. The flax seeds are a nutritious addition because they contain generous amounts of the health-promoting omega-3 fats that we hear so much about today. Yes to grinding the whole flax seeds, which cannot be digested unless they are very well chewed or ground.

​I’m glad you sent more information about yourself, because that helps me estimate what you need nutritionally. In addition, your e-mail signature says you own a yard service company, so I assume that you’re physically active. Based on the information you provided, I’d say that this breakfast is well-balanced and appropriate for you as a physically active man. If this e-mail had come from a 30-year-old woman with a desk job, my comments would have been different.

​You could consider varying your grains. Another possibility is quinoa, a quick-cooking, whole grain. Cooking directions: Bring two cups of water to a boil. Add one cup of quinoa and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let sit for five minutes and eat. Also consider varying your nuts. Other choices could be walnuts and pecans.

​Keeping in mind that you and other readers live off the grid with no refrigeration, here are two other suggestions. Fruit would be a nutritious addition. Consider adding dried fruits like raisins, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries or pineapple. If you added the dried fruit to the cooking oatmeal, the fruit would soften. Or, if you added it with the nuts, the dried fruits would lend a chewier texture. Consider that fresh apples will keep for quite a long time in a cool spot in your home. Place the apples in a brown paper bag with a small hole poked in the side to allow the apples to “breathe.” Even if the apples do wither a bit, they will still be a nutritious addition to your oatmeal.

​Greens would be another nutritious addition. Consider adding chickweed to the simmering oatmeal. Chickweed often grows all winter long around here, tucked away in sunny protected spaces near stone walls. And, you can grow chickweed in a pot in a greenhouse or in your home. Consider, too, adding a small amount, say 1/8 teaspoon, of spirulina or cracked cell chlorella. But, be prepared for green oatmeal! It’s an acquired taste. Gradually increase the amount.

​And a final note: cinnamon is what cooks and nutritionists call a “sweetening spice.” In other words, when you add cinnamon to a food, it creates a sweeter flavor without having to add a sweetener. So, using it in this meal and others is a great choice.