The War on Good Breakfasts

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As I have learned through experience, when you start the day with adequate protein and plenty of good fats, your blood sugar remains stable throughout the morning, your brain stays sharp and focused, you won’t doze off and you’re unlikely to think about snacking. Here’s a few of the nutrient-dense breakfasts that keep me going for a good six hours until lunchtime.

Bacon and eggs, a healthy breakfast
  • Scrambled egg with an extra yolk and cream, sauteed in butter, with bacon or sausage; glass of whole raw milk; fresh fruit like banana (cooked in the bacon fat) or grapefruit.
  • Cheese omelet made with sauteed peppers or mushrooms; sourdough whole grain toast with plenty of butter; glass of whole raw milk.
  • Soaked oatmeal with butter or cream and maple syrup; glass of whole raw milk.
  • Sourdough whole grain pancakes with butter and maple syrup, with blueberries and bacon or sausage, glass of whole raw milk.
  • Two fried eggs with scrapple fried in lard; glass of whole raw milk.
  • Chicken liver pate with sourdough crackers and butter; glass of whole raw milk.
  • Leftover homemade soup with sourdough toast and cheese.

Unfortunately, the food industry and its partner the U.S. government have been making war on good breakfasts for many years. Since the breakfast of nutrient-dense foods that keeps me going is high in saturated fat (from butter, bacon fat and lard) and in cholesterol (from eggs, scrapple, pate and animal fats) it is not approved! Moreover, since I salt my food generously and eat salty bacon, I am committing another dietary sin. As for the whole raw milk. . . let’s not even go there!

USDA guidelines for breakfast for grades K through 5 call for 1 half-cup serving of fruit or vegetables, several servings of whole grains, no serving of meat or “meat alternative”; one cup of nonfat or lowfat milk (defined as 1% milk); and 540 mg sodium, the equivalent of ¼ teaspoon salt: In theory, the guidelines call for keeping sugar at a minimum, but that’s not what happens in practice.

School lunch menus following the USDA guidelines do include the occasional egg and sometimes a little cheese or a piece of sausage—giving children bacon would cause the salt-o-meter to go berserk—but with no exceptions, the USDA-approved breakfasts that school children get are high in carbs and sugars.  Every child gets a carton of skim or low-fat milk, usually chocolate milk, which contains almost 1 tablespoon of sugar, and a bowl of dry “whole grain” cereal. The cereal the school children get does not contain a lot of sugar (there’s about 1 gram of sugar in a cup of Cheerios), but that is easily fixed by putting the chocolate milk on the cereal! 

The serving of fruit is often canned fruit in syrup, or fruit juice—4 fluid ounces of apple juice, for example, contains almost 14 grams of sugar. Often the children get additional sugar bombs, such as pop-tarts, muffins or graham crackers.

Folks, these breakfasts are diabetes starter kits!

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Now, let’s talk about the serving of cereal given to all school children every day of the week.  The invention of John Harvey Kellogg and his brother William, the original cold cereal (corn flakes) was produced by roller drying thin sheets of dough.  Today breakfast cereals are produced by a process called high-temperature extrusion, wherein the dough is heated to high temperatures and then forced through a tiny hole at high pressure and heat; the final product will take its shape from the size and shape of the hole. Corn flakes, cheerios and shredded wheat are all products of high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion. A similar high-temperature, high-pressure process produces puffed cereal grains.

The worldwide revenue for breakfast cereal in 2023 is expected to be $74 billion, and retailers make quite a bit of money on cereal—about a dollar on every four-dollar, fifteen-ounce box. Fifty percent of Americans start their days with cereal and Americans consume 101 pounds or 160 bowls of cereal per person every year.

Since so many Americans are eating extruded cereal for breakfast, you would expect to find research published in the scientific literature on the effects of these cereals on the health of animals and humans. Unfortunately, such studies do not exist. I do, however, know of two unpublished studies. . . studies that should give us pause. 

One was described in the 1983 book Fighting the Food Giants by biochemist Paul Stitt.  Stitt worked for a cereal company and found a study on puffed wheat, dated 1942, locked in the company’s file cabinet.  The study compared four groups of rats.  The first received whole wheat grains; the second group got puffed wheat; the third group got white sugar; and the fourth group got no food at all. All groups received water containing a mix of vitamins and minerals. 

The whole-wheat rats lived over a year on their diet; the rats who got nothing but the water and nutrient mix lived about two months; the rats who got the sugar-and-water diet lived about one month. But the rats on puffed wheat died within two weeks—earlier than the rats who got only sugar or no food at all!

The second study occurred in 1960.  It was not published but the author, a researcher named Loren Xanier, described it to me on the phone. The researchers had eighteen rats, divided into three groups. The first group got cornflakes; the second group got the cardboard box that the cornflakes came in; and the third group received regular rat chow.  (All three groups received water.)

The rats getting rat chow enjoyed good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box died of malnutrition—they became lethargic, then lay down and died. But they actually lived longer than the rats who got the cornflakes! (The last cornflake rat died the same day that the first box rat died.) But whereas the box rats just became listless, the cornflake rats became agitated.  They bit each other, threw fits and finally went into convulsions.

Xanier’s autopsies found degeneration of the spinal nerves and dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys. In short, the rats were poisoned by the cornflakes.

Children eating a bowl of cheerios or cornflakes in the morning is not like rats getting corn flakes as their only food.  Still.  .  . one can’t help but wonder whether the extruded breakfast cereals that make rats go berserk—especially in the context of a sugar-laden meal–aren’t contributing to the behavior problems and violence that we are seeing today in our schools.

While studies on the effects of extruded cereals on the health, longevity and behavior of humans and animals are absent from the scientific literature, we do find a couple of papers that provide some explanation for why cornflakes have poisonous effects.  One study found that high-temperature extrusion alters the protein structure in grains, creating damaged proteins, which could be toxic.  Another found that pigs fed extruded grains had less diverse gut flora, with more bad bacteria and less beneficial bacteria—the kind that produce calming, feel-good chemicals.

A number of moms have come to me intent on “changing school breakfasts and lunches.”  My advice to them is to put their energy into something productive:  feeding their own children a good breakfast at home and making their lunches to take to school.  Guidelines for school meals are set in concrete by the USDA guidelines—backed by the full might of the food processing industry–and schools lose money if they try to give children anything nutritious. It will be a long time—maybe generations—before America reaches the point where food choices for our children are taken out of the hands of accountants; but meanwhile, we can our feed children in the right way, one family at a time.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is your source for accurate information on healthy breakfasts, nutrient-dense food and health.  Your membership supports the work we do.

Author: Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is best known as the author of Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.

8 thoughts on “The War on Good Breakfasts”

  1. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, that is a fallacy created by the cereal industry. If you fast and don’t eat until lunch time you still have all the benefits that you mentioned, “your blood sugar remains stable throughout the morning, your brain stays sharp and focused, you won’t doze off and you’re unlikely to think about snacking”. If you are going to eat breakfast, for sure one made with good proteins and fats is the best choice.

    1. Not always wrong, but if we are talking about kids, definitely wrong. I can’t imagine my four-year-old lasting a whole morning in a good mood and with energy if she doesn’t get a good breakfast.

      And this is the technique that we employ. She gets a good breakfast at home and a good snack that we send with to school. I try to make sure she gets her fill of good things and then I don’t worry about the extra bits of garbage she indulges in. I don’t want to make food a fight.

    2. Fasting is not a good strategy for a growing child Although I do think today’s American child could do with fewer snacks, they need regular, nourishing meals for growth.

  2. Thanks, Sally, for this wonderful article and the breakfast suggestions! I recently came upon a breakfast dish that I believe is in line with the Wise Traditions way of eating: banana pancakes. The recipe consists of one ripe banana and two eggs — that’s all. Combine the ripe banana with the 2 eggs in a blender and fry in butter. Makes about 4 pancakes. Eat with butter and honey. Delish! (A pinch of aluminium-free baking soda can be added to make the pancakes rise more, but it’s not really necessary.)

  3. I noticed a common theme with breakfast.
    That glass of whole raw milk. I know most families can do away with the sugary cereal and such but let’s face it, most parents seeking healthy foods can not provide the raw whole milk. Thanks to our government for all the regulations. In our state it is illegal and very hard to find. I guess so the best u can.

  4. I would have guessed school breakfast guidelines would be pretty bad, but they are even worse than I would have imagined. I have to have good quality animal protein and fat at breakfast (and lunch and dinner, for that matter) or else my mood takes a nose dive and cravings haunt my afternoons. My mother is diabetic and also suffers from the same mood disturbances I do. I have gotten her to start having plenty of protein and fat at breakfast, and she really notices a difference in how she feels throughout the day. I know intermittent fasting works great for some – my husband, for example – but many of us, children and adults, need a good breakfast to feel and function our best. Thank you, Sally, for the excellent article!

  5. Dr. Joseph Mercola (who occasionally posts your articles in his e-newsletter) recommends intermittent fasting. I haven’t had breakfast in a long time (mainly because I wake up late). I’m thinking about getting back into the habit of eating breakfast again.

    Do you recommend intermittent fasting and if so how should one go about it ?

    Any information is much appreciated.

    Thank you !

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