Dr Suzie Edge on 21st century nutrition and health

We need to talk about breakfast.

We need to talk about breakfast.

We need to talk about breakfast.

The most common question I am asked when it comes to diet is what to eat for breakfast, especially by those seeking a low-carb option. When you’ve got a whole family to sort out before school and work, breakfast needs to be fast and free of too much thought. It is no wonder breakfast cereals have risen in popularity (convenience being one thing but the vast amounts of addictive sugar being another). In the past, it has been no different in my house, especially once my girls were able to make breakfast for themselves. Health seekers, keen to not fill up on so much sugar will go for yoghurts, low-fat of course, fruit juice, raisins, and oats. Either way, the sugar and carbohydrate content are still high and the hormonal response by the body will be the opposite of what you might think. I wrote about this in another post here.

As a doctor based in hospital, I was recently discussing the overnight wayward blood sugars of one of our patients when the breakfast trolley was wheeled past. Our conversation stopped in its tracks, I just couldn’t take my eyes off the breakfast. I was asked if I wanted some.

Er, no thanks.

The trolley was laden with toasted white bread, with pots of fake butter and jams, there were boxes of sugary breakfast cereals with skimmed milk, there were cartons of orange and apple juice and low-fat fruit yoghurts. I was shocked at the amount of sugar and carbohydrate we were feeding our patients but that’s breakfast isn’t it? It really shouldn’t be.

I was told that you can’t expect hospital patients to get bacon and eggs, after all who is going to cook it? Of course, there is nobody to cook it, because we are too cheap to pay someone to cook for our patients. We choose cheap convenience over our health and the health of our hospital patients. They need protein and fat, but we can’t provide it with the resources or the attitudes that we have.

At home it is easy to make the effort to change what we choose for breakfast. We can choose how to start our day with a breakfast that will not shoot up our insulin, nor prevent fat cells from giving up their precious reserves and will not make us hungry only hours later. In hospital it is a different matter. The foods we feed our patients, the very people who need the best nutrition that we have, are based on the government guidelines that attempt to prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease. They don’t prevent obesity, diabetes or heart disease, they make it worse.

Breakfast needs to break free from the low-fat, high-carb sugary nonsense. We need eggs, meat, fish, real yoghurt, real butter, real cream, nuts and seeds. It can’t be fat-free and protein-free, these essentials are being restricted by this diet. The only thing you are restricting with a low carbohydrate diet are chronic western diseases.

What we need to do is to start taking what we feed our patients seriously, as seriously as we take all the drugs we dish out. We might be able to do that at home but unfortunately, things won’t change in our institutions without a change in the government guidelines and that’s not coming any day soon.


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