A Better Breakfast: Transform Your Mornings into the Strong Start They Should Be

Image of Healthy OatmealEntirely too often, the foods which are most aggressively marketed as healthy options are the products of companies willing to make enormous promises that their goods simply do not deliver. There are few situations where this is more of an epidemic than the breakfast food market. As the United States has slipped more and more dramatically into a health epidemic over the years, the demand for food that will not create such catastrophic health problems has begun to soar. Unfortunately, the modern consumer has been on the receiving end of so many years of brutally incorrect and manipulative messaging that many of us no longer remember the simpler times when good food was a given. Instead, many individuals have become accustomed to believing in “the magic pill.” As a result, the empty promises made by pre-prepared and prepackaged solution option look more appealing than choices that are actually healthy, like portion control and whole, unprocessed foods.

Consider oatmeal. In its purest form, the appropriate serving of whole rolled and steel cut oats (which should be minimally processed) is a great option for the first meal of the day. When they are processed and packaged, whoever, the grains are ground into much smaller “pre-digested” parts and additives like unnatural sweeteners are added in abundance, thus negating any potential health benefits. Businesses are almost always way more interested in creating a product which caters to the modern palette which, over time, developed a destructive preference for the unnaturally sweet or impossibly savory. To achieve that kind of taste, healthiness and quality and relegated to very bottom of the food producer’s priority pile. However, they rarely have any issues peddling the final product as the healthy food it could have been or initially was, nor do any of these producers make an effort to counter the widespread assumption that those sorts of benefits remain intact.

To reclaim your oatmeal and take control of your breakfast once again, you need to get back to basics. This means forgoing the options which have been processed heavily on your behalf and being an active, invested consumer. You have to care enough to read the ingredients and make new choices based on what is best for your health and body composition. Instead of prepackaged oatmeal, mix the following three ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup of rolled oats
  • ½ cup of mixed berries (or assorted superfruit that you may prefer!)

8 Foods You Shouldn’t Store in the Refrigerator

Modern technology allows us to conserve our food supply for far longer than our ancestors did. Something as simple as a refrigerator can help keep something that might spoil by nightfall good to eat for days. But, did you know that refrigeration can actually cause certain foods to spoil faster? Did you know that your refrigerator could be changing the flavor of your food? This is a started list of foods you should keep out of your refrigerator next time you bring home fresh groceries:

1. Bananas – Refrigeration actually disrupts the ripening process of bananas. Even worse, once refrigerated, a banana may never be able to resume the ripening process, even if returned to room temperature.

Foods Out of the Fridge 2. Potatoes – When exposed to cold temperatures, the starches found in potatoes go through a chemical reaction that turns those starches into sugar. This affects their flavor and texture, not to mention making them less healthy to eat because of their increased sugar content. Instead, store your potatoes in a paper bag in dark place like your pantry. The paper bag will allow the potatoes to receive more air, which will slow the deterioration process.

3. Tomatoes – The best tomatoes you’ve ever had probably didn’t come out of your veggie drawer in the refrigerator. That’s because tomatoes lose their flavor and become mushy when refrigerated. In the same way bananas are affected by refrigeration, so are tomatoes. The cold air stops their ripening process. It also affects the texture of tomatoes as it breaks down the membranes inside the tomatoes and turns them mealy. Instead, keep them in a basket or a glass bowl on the kitchen counter.

4. Apples – Similar to tomatoes, apples lose their texture and flavor in the fridge. If you prefer your apples cold, place it in the fridge about 30 minutes before eating.

5. Onions – Onions not only get soggy, they cause the rest of your food to taste and smell like onions. Try storing them in a paper bag (within a cool, dark cabinet) for maximum shelf-life. However, make sure to keep your potatoes and onions separate; when stored together, they speed up each others deterioration processes.

6.  Avocados – This one isn’t a hard and fast rule. Like bananas, refrigeration shuts down an avocado’s ripening enzymes. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s bad. If the avocado is as ripe as you want it, and you’re not planning on using it right away, go ahead and keep it in the fridge. If it’s still a bit hard when you squeeze it, you’re going to want to let it ripen outside of the refrigerator for a few days.

7. Coffee – This one might surprise you, but coffee is best stored at room temperature, otherwise not only is it going to lose its natural scent, but it will absorb odors from other foods in your fridge (remember those onions we were talking about? Gross.)

8. Basil –  Basil absorb all the smells surrounding food very easily. To store properly, keep it on the counter in a cup of fresh water.

There’s a lot we could cover about proper storage of your fresh foods, but for now, this is a great place to start. Head over to your fridge, pull out anything you now know shouldn’t be kept there, and make sure your next round of groceries gets properly sorted. If you do, you’ll notice your ingredients, and your meals, will start tasting a heck of a lot fresher. If you want to learn more nutrition tips, be sure to follow the official Josh Bezoni Twitter.

Is Your Cereal Saturated with Sodium?

Image of Salty CerealIt likely will not be totally unexpected to hear that a diet that is too heavy in sodium can be extremely detrimental to your health. However, many Americans are surprised to learn that most problems associated with sodium consumption actually have very little to do with salt you sprinkle over your food for seasoning. In fact, the FDA estimates Americans only take in about 10% of their daily sodium in the process of adding salt during cooking or at the table. The vast majority of your sodium intake, nearly 80% in fact, actually comes from eating processed foods.

This holds true, even for processed foods you might not even associate with saltiness. Consider breakfast cereals and other grains. These can be an unexpected source of sodium, the consumption of which can negatively impact your body composition. The two key steps you need to take in order to prevent that from happening are comprised of rather straightforward, positive habit building. First, have you ever actually investigated what an appropriate serving size is? You should. Secondly, can you stick to eating only that recommended amount per serving? Because, if you are serious about your health, you must. There is a decent chance that, currently, you are eating significantly more than what is recommended in the Nutrition Facts section. One of the most important habits for your health is learning to stay informed about what you are putting in your body – and how much of it is the appropriate amount.

Recent studies actually indicate that people who have taken the time to both learn and adhere to the correct portion of something like a breakfast cereal are much better off. Most people were, on average, pouring themselves twice the amount of recommended cereal per serving. When you factor in the amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates in many packaged cereal, as well as things like sodium, it becomes obvious how easily it can be to start your day off on the wrong foot with breakfast if you are not making an effort to live a better lifestyle.


How Sprouted Grains Start Your Day the Right Way

Prepackaged cereals are overwhelmingly bad news in almost every iteration you are likely to immediately recognize on most grocery store shelves. However, for many people, that form of breakfast is simply too comforting and comfortable a habit to want to give up completely. Eating cereal for breakfast is fast, easy, and delicious. It is important, then, to find the substitutes for sugary diet disasters that actually deliver on the promise of giving you a healthy beginning to your day. Food for Life® is a company that produces just such a thing. Their Ezekiel 4:9® line of cereals are a fantastic way to pack your breakfast bowl to the brim with nutrition and satiate your hunger while enjoying longer-lasting energy. They go above and beyond by not only using totally organic grains, but a specific type of them – sprouted grain, best understood by the layman as a true whole grain.

Sprouted grains differ significantly from traditionally harvested grains, and that is fantastic news for every health-conscious consumer interested in improving their body composition. On top of a load of inherent benefits that come from deviating away from the conventional harvesting method, these organic grain products from Food for Life® are also completely free of flour.

When grain is pulverized into flour, this creates a heavily processed form of the carbohydrates. Because they have essentially already been broken down by the automated, unnatural process before consumption, when you do eat foods made from these processed grains, you body is able to much more easily and quickly absorb them into the bloodstream. This is actually pretty bad news. Fast-digesting carbs are too rapidly incorporated into your blood as sugar, so it does not expend as much energy while your blood sugar and insulin levels spike. This contributes to chronic inflammation and fat gain.

Sprouted grains, on the other hand, actually increase digestibility, a benefit of it being more natural. It also improves the absorption of minerals. Additionally, they contain more antioxidant, more vitamin C, more vitamin B (like B2, B5, and B6), and much more fiber. Finally, they’re also a wonderful source of protein, which is too often lacking from a traditional breakfast. Sprouted grains are an all-around fantastic way to help you reach your health and body-composition goals.

Words to Watch For On Your Cereal Box

Josh BezoniThe best breakfast rule of thumb by which every person interested in living a healthy lifestyle needs to abide revolves around consuming low glycemic-index carbohydrates. These are slower to be absorbed into bloodstream. This means you feel fuller for longer, satiated by a decent breakfast instead of craving a snack way before it’s time to even think about leaving the office for lunch. You should focus on finding the kinds of carbs that will actually increase your energy levels for a sustained period of time, as well as enhance your insulin concentrations and body composition. Furthermore, a diet that includes plentiful consumption of unrefined carbohydrates also results in a more favorable nutrient density. This means more vitamins, more minerals, more phytonutrients, and more fiber. Additionally, you will benefit from a higher thermic effect of feeding (like an increased metabolic rate).

To figure out if your favorite breakfast cereals include make the cut for the kind of meal you should be enjoying every morning, be sure to closely read the ingredient list at the soonest possible moment. You are likely to be astounded by the sheer amount of sugar that appears. Marketers and food scientists are notorious for hiding sugar under clever and overly complicated pseudonyms. Here are words to look out for:

  • Molasses
  • Maple sugar
  • Any permutation of corn syrup/sweetener
  • Agave nectar
  • Sugar beets
  • Cane Sugar
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Hydrolyzed starch
  • Maltose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose

Look at that long list of words! It is so crucial to manage your blood sugar and insulin levels if you are serious about losing fat and improving your body composition. And the benefits extend way beyond the aesthetic. The way you eat will define your energy levels and all markers of health. Just beware that the vast majority of the boxes in the cereal aisle are likely to be more trouble than their pretty packaging might suggest.

What Your Morning is Missing

Josh BezoniHigh-glycemic index carbohydrates indicate the rate at which blood sugar rises in response to eating carb-based foods. However, the additional consumption of key nutrients – particularly fiber, healthy fats, and protein – can slow the gastric process and encourage insulin secretion. Those two developments can positively affect the glycemic index of carbohydrate-dense comestibles. In fact, studies confirm that adding protein and/or good fats to a meal that includes carbohydrates can actually decrease the glycemic response.

This is incredibly good news. Since high-glycemic carbs are typically low (if not totally devoid) of fiber, overeating such foods can have serious consequences for your health. Current science recognizes a connection between low fiber diets and increased risks of diabetes and obesity. Fiber is a fantastic nutrient that brings a lot to both the figurative and literal table. A high fiber diet can help the health-conscious consumer feel satisfied for longer, be more regular, enjoy better cardiovascular health, and more.

Unfortunately, many packaged consumer goods, like breakfast cereals, process the grains therein. That actually removes the high-fiber bran. Even brands of foods that boast high fiber contents may be misrepresenting the facts. Isolated fiber that has been added to the food after processing can technically allow a company to claim to be high fiber, although the benefits of keeping the true fiber in the food is all but lost. Look for additives like psyllium husks, soy fiber, or polydextrose, or check to see if wheat bran has been added back in as a separate ingredient. The naturally occurring form of wheat bran is what stands to bring you the most benefits. The fiber located in the outer layer of whole grains is the only kind that has been definitively found to lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and constipation.

This goes to show that you must always take the time to stay informed about the things you choose to put into your body. Taking a brand at its word is a recipe for disaster. Most food producers are, unfortunately, dedicated to their profit margins before your wellbeing – even if their marketing department has carefully crafted messaging that might suggest otherwise. Reading the ingredients is a truly wonderful habit to adopt. If you are looking to transform your body and improve your health, the first thing you need to flex are your critical thinking skills.

Correct your Eating Habits

American’s eating habits revolve around three things: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gorging on three big, calorie-laden meals throughout the day is just natural for us. Eating to the point of entering a “food coma” occurs often, leaving us tired, lazy, and full. But it has also expanded our stomach sizes and cortisol levels, a hormone produced in response to chronic stress and is associated with causing excess belly flab.

Josh Bezoni - Eating HabitsSo how do we fix this? Substitute those three belly-bursting meals for five small meals spaced out throughout the day. These well-balanced, nutritional meals should be between 300 to 400 calories, depending on your weight and activity level. And you calories should be coming from natural sources like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, nuts and eggs.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study which revealed that individuals who consumed mini-meals spaced three hours apart throughout the day decreased their cortisol levels by 17 percent compared to participants who consumed the same amount of food but in three meals per day.

And while switching from three big meals to five smaller ones may leave you unsatisfied initially, after a few days of sticking to your new habits your stomach will naturally begin to shrink, and those mini-meals will leave you feeling full satisfied, light, and full of energy. An added bonus? That cortisol-blunting effect occurs after just two weeks of making the meal shift.

Just remember to cut out processed foods and other foods containing obesity additives; they may be delicious but they are essentially junk for your body that offer no nutritional value. Consistently eating balanced-mini meals spaced throughout your day (think 7am, 10am, 1pm. 4pm, 7pm) will result in a healthier body and eliminate the need for any invasive and costly procedures like gastric bypass surgeries.

Breakfast: How You Are Doing It Wrong

For an image of what we are expected to understand the typical American breakfast, close your eyes and picture one. There is a quite a large likelihood that it resembles the meal that pops up at the end of almost every commercial for a breakfast product in recent history. It probably includes a tall glass of orange juice, perhaps a fruit, and a bowl of cereal – all with the words “Part of this complete breakfast!” plastered overhead. You may be surprised to learn that, contrary to popular belief, this is an early morning health disaster.

Breakfast cereals are so dense in carbohydrates that they do little to nothing in terms of encouraging your body to burn fat. This is particularly problematic, given that it is very likely the first thing you put in your body all day! That is the definition of starting your day on the wrong foot, if it’s not shooting yourself in the foot completely. Cereals that come straight out of the box are filled with high-glycemic index carbohydrates. This means they are totally loaded with heavily processed grains and refined sugars. These are exceedingly fattening and closely associated with obesity.

The glycemic index indicates how quickly and extensively the carbs from food break down and enter the bloodstream as blood sugar. A low-glycemic diet offers you better nutrition in the form of more micronutrients and a better fiber intake. It also makes you feel more full. This decreased hunger is obviously extremely helpful in terms of avoiding overeating and thus losing weight. In addition, you need to eat less later in the day. In contrast, eating higher-glycemic index foods result in much higher blood sugar and insulin concentrations, as well as increased blood triglyceride and bad cholesterol.

Perhaps most damaging in the short-term, the inevitable crash in blood sugar that comes from eating highly refined carbohydrates is an awful way to begin the day. You are bound to feel hungry merely a few hours after you ate, as your body demands even more high-glycemic carbs. It is a destructive cycle in terms of your body composition and a recipe for disaster.

The Breakfast Calorie Bomb You Don’t Even Realize Does Damage

One of the staples of the American breakfast, cereal comes in an mind-numbingly wide variety of shapes, flavors, consistencies, and colors. We grow up watching breakfast cereal commercials with kid-friendly cartoon spokespeople (or spokes-animals!) and then, as we get older, trade the heavily frosted options for what we understand to be healthier choices in terms of morning meals on-the-go. Cereal is fast, filling, and delicious. Unfortunately, it is likely also much more trouble for your health-conscious lifestyle than you even realize.

That misconception is definitely not your fault. As consumers age and come to be more aware that the breakfast cereals kids love tend to be jam-packed with sugars and artificial flavorings, we naturally outgrow them. The cereal industry, however, has an equally large portfolio of cereals marketed to speak specifically to that inevitable shift in preferences. You can likely even note the difference on TV. The cereal commercials that air when you are sitting on the floor watching Saturday morning or after-school cartoons as a child are not the same ones you see now that you are fully grown and relaxing on your couch in the evening after a long day of work.

In the commercial and on the packaging itself, cereals marketed for adults aggressively make the case that they are great for you. Invariably, they are marketed as delicious and easy. The second ubiquitous theme – breakfast cereal is (allegedly) healthy. Many cereals for adults tout all sorts of claims to be “all-natural,” and brag about organic ingredients or added gimmicks like dried fruit. Often, they boast about the kinds of grains they use and all the energy for the day you should expect to derive from them. Above all, phrases like “heart healthy” and “filled with vitamins and minerals” reign supreme.

All those claims may be very exciting for someone looking to lose weight or get healthier. Breakfast is a critical meal, and the right breakfast can turbocharge your metabolism for the rest of the day. However, if you opt for cereal regularly, you are likely hindering all the hard work you put in to lose weight the rest of the day. In fact, you might even be making yourself fatter! Marketing breakfast cereals as a health food is great for lining corporate pockets, and nearly as good for lining your body composition with unnecessary fats. In the coming weeks, I will break down the science of why exactly that is true, as well as outline some better options. Right now, however, you should reconsider that innocuous box of breakfast cereal in your pantry and start practicing one of, if not the, most important skills a healthy person needs: reading the ingredients. To be fit for life, you need to be a conscious and informed consumer, and the best way to do that is start learning as much as you can today!