Oftentimes, people suffering from a breakfast rut tend to complain about the limited choices. But beyond fruits, eggs or cereal, there are many other options if you’re willing to broaden the cuisine.
So I asked Ryan Grim—Editor of Extra Crispy, which is publishing its first book Breakfast this fall—to share some of the world’s most delicious breakfast foods, and had Jennifer Cholewka RD, CNSC, CDN—Clinical Nutrition Coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital—assess the nutritional value.
Here’s their take.
- PASTEL DE NATA (PORTUGAL)
The egg custard tarts, allegedly invented by monks during the 1600s, are so delicious— you’ll likely want to eat them throughout the day. And while taste wise, this makes the perfect all-day breakfast treat, think about the number of eggs you can (or should realistically) consume before scarfing down tart number five or six.
HOW HEALTHY IS THIS? “This seems more of a weekend-treat type of breakfast.” Aside from eating too many eggs, what you should be more concerned about are the saturated fat and calories from the sugary custard and buttery tart shell. What’s more, there isn’t much sustaining fiber, protein and unsaturated or “healthy fats.” So if you were to go for this Portuguese breakfast food (and snack), restrict to only one or two (as opposed to three or four) and add some fresh fruits for extra fiber.
- BEGHRIR (MOROCCO)
These spongy semolina pancakes are popular in Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia; it’s not hard to know why. More yeasty than your average American pancakes, these delightful beghrir—commonly known as “thousand-hole pancakes”—are sturdy enough to be eaten by hand. Pair it with honey or jam for a sweet breakfast treat, or a cheese spread if you prefer something savory.
HOW HEALTHY IS THIS? “This seems like another ‘sometimes’ option as opposed to an everyday choice.” Much like the Pastel De Nata, this breakfast food requires careful portion control. To feel fuller for a longer period, increase your protein and fiber intake rather than munching on simple carbohydrates. Therefore, substitute fresh fruits for jam if possible, and select ricotta cheese or nut butter for added protein.
- TAMAGO GOHAN (JAPAN)
Perhaps the healthiest (and simplest) option so far, this Japanese breakfast dish literally means egg and rice. Quick, cheap, and easy to make, all you need to do is steam some rice, crack an egg into it, and mix everything with sesame seeds and soy sauce. For some people, the raw egg may be a cause for concern. But together with the steamed rice, you’ll create something much richer and comforting than a regular oatmeal.
HOW HEALTHY IS THIS? Finally, a dish that could become an everyday breakfast—but not without a little tweaking. For example, you should add vegetables like mushrooms, spinach and broccoli to aid digestion, replace white rice with brown rice for added satiety, and pick coconut amino instead of soy sauce to reduce sodium.
- KALEH PACHEH (IRAN)
Offal may not sound like your average breakfast ingredient, but in many countries (including the U.S. believe it or not), they’re traditionally part of an inexpensive yet protein-packed meal. In Iran, many people start their days with this hearty breakfast soup, made by simmering sheep’s head and feet with herbs and spices for approximately 10 hours.
HOW HEALTHY IS THIS? This soup boasts many health benefits. First, there’s plenty of protein from the collagen and meat from the offal. Second, by using herbs and spices instead of store-bought stocks and broths, this soup seems to be low in sodium. To make this even healthier, Cholewka recommends adding vegetables such as spinach or kale to increase the fiber and vitamin content. “If sheep parts are not your thing, you could always use a whole chicken to make your own bone broth.”
- FILMJÖLK (SWEDEN)
Want an alternative to yogurt, milk or kefir for better gut health? Try this sour fermented milk from Sweden. Although it may be too bitter to drink on its own, Grim considers it a “wonderfully nuanced accompaniment to cereal.” In terms of consistency, this is more like kefir and not quite as thick as yogurt.
HOW HEALTHY IS THIS? “This sounds like a great way to start any day of the week!” In addition to offering probiotics for gut health and enhancing microbiome, Filmjölk is a wonderful source for protein and a touch of fat to help you stay full through lunch time. Rather than pairing this with cereal, the nutritional expert suggests incorporating your favorite fruits like fresh berries, cinnamon, and vanilla extract for a smoothie-like breakfast.