Breakfast of Champions by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

What DOES a champion eat?
New knowledge is the most valuable commodity we have on earth,” Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions


Breakfast: three fried egg sandwiches with fried onions and mayonnaise, one five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast with powdered sugar, three chocolate chip pancakes and two cups of coffee.

Lunch: one pound of enriched pasta along with two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread and 1,000 calories’ worth of energy drinks.

Dinner: another pound of pasta, another 1,000 calories’ worth of energy drinks and an entire pizza.

Is this the “diet” of your dreams? After all these years, have we finally found that eating more processed foods is actually the key? Yea, right! Dream on!

You too can eat this way and maintain a healthy weight if you are willing to live like an athlete with the dedication to win more gold medals than any other Olympic athlete in history. Then and only then can you eat all the processed starches and mayonnaise laden sandwiches that your heart desires.

This is not the diet of your dreams but it is the diet of Olympic athlete Michael Phelps, the 23-year-old swimmer who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 195 pounds. He eats all that food: 12,000 calories per day.

The average person who is trying to lose weight and keep it off can do so on 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day. Imagine consuming ten days’ worth of food in one day, everyday. Imagine being able to eat pasta ad lib and soft white bread. Imagine the food bill of a 12,000 calorie diet!

These low fiber, over-processed options are simply not ideal choices for the average American, but they certainly have a place in an athlete’s diet. High fiber foods take longer to consume and may be more difficult to digest. An athlete needs to wolf down calories in order to rebuild and refuel the body in preparation for multiple training sessions. They need quick, nutrient dense, low fiber energy sources.

Most processed foods are enriched and fortified with vitamins and minerals. Food manufacturers often replace lost nutrients and sometimes add ones which weren’t even there in the first place. The disadvantage is that nutrients in food are developed by plants or animals for a reason. Each nutrient is available in specific proportions because they all act synergistically, helping each other in just the right way to give good fuel and protection to that specific plant or animal. We eat the food and also get energy and protective benefits.

The prospect of food spoilage is one reason processed foods were created. White bread, pasta and rice were developed as a way to make grains last longer. By removing the outer hull or bran as well as the inner, fat rich, germ, the grain can be stored for long periods. This is why white rice is so popular in China. When you have a lot of people to feed in far reaching places, you need food that will travel without spoiling. Here in America we have easy access to all types of food.

You’ve heard by now that brown rice is better than white. Medium grain is actually best and slow cooking is ideal. Brown rice contains the essential nutrients we seek for energy and protection from disease.

In the spirit of the Beijing games, here is a recipe for healthy fried rice, a popular dish in Asian-American cuisine. In Chinese banquets, fried rice is served just before dessert. Hopefully this more calorie-friendly version will allow you to enjoy a light dessert, followed by a nice after-dinner walk for at least 30 minutes or more. I’m not asking you to do Michael Phelps’ routine, but you also don’t get to eat 12,000 calories a day. Not on my watch anyway.

This dish is reminiscent of my breakfast for the past five years. In place of bok choy, I usually add steamed spinach. Start your day this way and you will see your energy sore.

Non-Fried Vegetable Brown Rice

1/2 cup cooked brown rice (prepared ahead)
1 egg (omega-3 rich, cage free)
2 egg whites or 2 whole eggs total
1 carrot, cut into half moons
1 stalk celery, finely chopped, including leaves
1/4 piece yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1 tsp Tamari Soy Sauce or 2 tsp is using low sodium
1 head Bok Choy (about 6 leaves, steamed)

Prepare brown rice ahead and use within 3 days. Three cups of water to one cup of grains. Boil for 35-40 minutes. Add more liquid as needed.
Heat 2 Tbsp of water in a medium skillet. Add onions and carrots and steam sauté until soft. Add the celery, garlic, peppers and tamari. Add the brown rice and the eggs. Heat until the eggs are cooked through. Steam the bok choy in a bit of water until it is bright green. Place bok choy on a plate and top with brown rice dish. This makes a wonderful way to start the day or end it in the traditional Chinese way.
Per serving (546g) about 2 cups: 320 calories, 7g of fat, 45g carbs, 8g fiber, 20g protein, 320% Vitamin C, 410% Vitamin A