September is National Breakfast Month, a good time to remember that eating breakfast is not only good for our health, but also beneficial to academic performance.

Although I’m an avid breakfast eater, I tend to favor bountiful and rich breakfast fare, especially on days off and holidays. So, by the time the winter holidays are over, I have worked through every butter-laden breakfast pastry with a good helping of bacon, and coffee with heavy cream. Because butter is generally on sale around the holidays, I have no excuse not to make pastries.

Counting Calories.

As someone who doesn’t have the discipline to exercise, I have always been interested in how many calories I burn with every physical exertion I do. For example, I have wondered how many calories I expend every time I carry a hamper of laundry up the stairs, when I walk from the parking lot to my office, or when I stand for five hours of teaching. I’m hoping these activities can bump me from the sedentary category and into the lightly active lifestyle.

What Does Dr. Oz Say?

This summer, I heard Dr. Oz say on TV that it’s better to exercise before eating breakfast because our bodies will be forced to use stored fats for energy. A few weeks later, a fitness expert advised on a morning TV show that we should eat breakfast first before exercising, because our metabolism increases every time we eat, and therefore, we’ll burn more calories. Who was right?

Exercise Before or After Breakfast?

Looking around the Internet, both claims seem to be represented well. The New York Times, Men’s Fitness, and USA Today covered the same research in Belgium (article published in Journal of Physiology) where, from the group of healthy young men fed a high-fat and high-caloric diet, only those who exercised before breakfast did not gain weight. In addition, despite eating 30 percent more than they should, with a diet of 50 percent fat, these men did not develop insulin resistance. Meanwhile, those who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, stored extra fat, and developed resistance to insulin. Both groups consumed the same amount of food with the same nutrient content and had the same exercise regimen.

No Easy Answer.

So which is the right strategy? There is no easy answer, according to an article in San Diego Union Tribune, although you can burn slightly more calories on an empty stomach, you may not be able to do a higher intensity workout. You can probably do a comprehensive literature review and meta-analysis of available research and not come to any satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps, when the holidays come around and we will all inevitably overeat, we can try exercising before breakfast and neither gain weight nor develop insulin resistance. And then, we can all have a New Year’s resolution of losing weight by using high-intensity interval training.

Eat Healthy.

Whether we eat breakfast before or after we exercise, there is a consensus that we should eat something and we should be eating something healthy. The USDA suggest’s a lot of whole grains and whole wheat and nothing that is very sweet (that is, no donuts or heavily glazed Danish pastries).

Breakfast Recipes.

Here are two recipes you may enjoy for a weekend. The omelet is highly nutritious (except you will have used up the maximum allowable cholesterol intake for the day) and the waffle is mostly delicious (it’s okay to indulge once a year).

Omelet with Sautéed Vegetables and Cheese

Yield: 1 serving

1 egg

2 egg whites

Salt and pepper

1 T. of chopped yellow onion, chopped bell pepper, thinly sliced white mushroom

2 T. chopped tomatoes

1 T. shredded cheese (whatever you prefer)

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. olive oil

3 T. salsa (optional)


  1. Beat the egg and egg whites together. Season salt and pepper. Take care not to overdo the salt since cheese is already salty. Set aside.
  2. Heat the first teaspoon of olive oil in small sauté pan over medium heat until it barely begins to smoke. Add in the onion, bell pepper and mushroom and sauté for a few minutes. Add in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Just cook until tomatoes are heated through. Do not overcook the tomatoes or they will become watery. Keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, in a nonstick sauté pan, heat the 2nd teaspoon of olive oil. Add in the beaten eggs. Stir the eggs around to allow the cooked egg to come on top and the raw egg to get under and get cooked. When the eggs look done according to your preference (I prefer mine to look slightly wet), sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs. Top with the sautéed vegetables. Fold the omelet one-third from the handle of the pan towards the opposite end. Fold the lower third towards the center. Flip over a plate and serve with salsa on the side if desired.
  4. For a rustic omelet: Use a nonstick pan to sauté the vegetables. After the tomatoes are heated through, add in the eggs and stir until cooked to your preferred doneness. Sprinkle the cheese on top and fold halfway. Slide the omelet onto a plate.

Nutrition information (without salsa): Calories: 265, total fat: 19 g, saturated fat: 5 g, cholesterol: 198 mg, sodium: 500 mg (approximately, depending on amount of salt added), total carbohydrates: 5 g, fiber: 1 g, protein: 17 g, vitamin A: 18% RDA for males & 22% females, riboflavin: 30%, vitamin B12: 27%, vitamin C: 7%, vitamin E: 19%, calcium: 15%, iron: 21% RDA for males & 16% RDA for females, phosphorus: 33%, potassium: 6%. Recipe calculated using Nutrition Facts software and recommended daily allowances (RDA) data are from USDA Dietary Reference Intakes.

Bourbon Pecan Waffles

Recipe adapted from “Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington” by Patrick O’Connell

Yield: around 6 waffles, 1 waffle per serving

 Pecan-Butter Syrup:

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup pecans

1 cup maple syrup (I prefer Grade B for its stronger flavor)

¼ cup Bourbon whiskey


3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

2 T. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs, separated

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

½ cup Bourbon whiskey

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups buttermilk

 Whipped Cream:

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract


  1. For the pecan-butter syrup: melt the butter in a saute pan. Add in the pecans and cook until toasted, around 3 minutes. The butter will begin to foam at this point. Pour in the maple syrup. Turn off the heat and carefully add the Bourbon. Be careful of flare ups especially if you are using a gas stove. Turn on heat to low and cook for one minute. Transfer to a serving bowl. This syrup can be made in advance and rewarmed in the microwave oven or in a pan.
  2. For the waffles: combine the flours, sugar and baking powder and whisk to blend. In a clean bowl, whip the 2 egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the 2 egg yolks, melted butter, whiskey, vanilla and buttermilk. Set aside. Add this to the flour mixture and stir just until mixed. A few small lumps are OK. Fold in the whipped egg whites.
  4. Spray a waffle iron with nonstick pan spray. Follow manufacturer’s directions on how to cook the waffles. Keep warm in a low oven while cooking the rest of the waffles. Serve with the pecan-butter syrup and whipped cream.
  5. For the whipped cream: combine the cream, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whip until stiff but still smooth.

Nutrition information (for one serving): Calories: 700, total fat: 47 g, saturated fat: 20 g, cholesterol: 159 mg, sodium: 184 mg, total carbohydrates: 64.5 g, fiber: 2 g, protein: 7 g, vitamin A: 19% RDA for males & 24% females, riboflavin: 100%, thiamin: 36%, niacin: 16%, folate: 17%, vitamin E: 12%, calcium: 25%, iron: 33% RDA for males & 25% RDA for females, phosphorus: 34%, potassium: 7%. Recipe calculated using Nutrition Facts software and recommended daily allowances (RDA).



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