Seeing all of the coverage this morning of the meteor that passed over Russia as they were on their way to work, it made me wonder about the Russian breakfast routine.
Here’s what I learned:
“Russians usually have an early breakfast at about seven or eight in the morning right before leaving to work. It is very common for Russian families to have kasha (a type of porridge made from different grains), buterbrods (a kind of sandwich made of a single slice of bread and one topping such as butter or ham), boiled or fried eggs, tvorog (similar to cottage cheese) or cereal for breakfast. Coffee or tea is an essential drink for many Russians. Many people eat toast with cheese and drink juice for breakfast.”
Did you know that the tradition of having a separate food for breakfast was created in North America, whereas people in many other countries will often eat the same foods they have for lunch or dinner at breakfast time? For example, in many Asian countries, people will have rice, meat and vegetables for breakfast.
A lot of Western breakfasts are high in sugar and can include pastries, sweetened cereals, pancakes with syrup etc. Often other countries focus on healthier choices such as whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruits for their breakfast recipes.
If you look past your country’s border for breakfast ideas you may find some that are both delicious and healthy.
Turkey – A typical Turkish breakfast will include cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, honey or jam, French bread, and tea, with eggs or sucuk (spicy lamb sausage). This provides a well-rounded meal that includes vegetables, carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Olives are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, honey has anti-inflammatory properties and tea contains antioxidants.
Israel – Some of the most healthful breakfast foods can be found in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea like Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and garlic consumption. The typical Israeli breakfast usually consists of the Salat Katzutz, or chopped vegetable salad that generally includes finely chopped tomatoes, red onion, parsley, cilantro, and seedless, crunchy cucumbers, with red or green peppers on occasion and is served without salad dressing. Cheese is also usually a part of one’s breakfast in Israel, either Tsfatit, which is white cow’s milk cheese named for the Israeli city of Tsfat, or cottage cheese. Other traditional breakfast foods include yogurt, hummus and tahini with olive oil, pita or fresh bread, and hard-boiled eggs, olives, avocado, and fresh juices. It’s almost impossible to find meat on any breakfast plate in Israel, partly due to Kosher laws that require dairy and meat products be kept separate. Instead, many people choose to eat fish such as herring, smoked salmon, or mackerel, adding some healthful omega-3s into the diet first thing in the morning.
Costa Rica – A typical Costa Rican breakfast includes lots of pineapples, oranges, mango, papaya, corn, beans, rice, squash of all kinds, fresh cheese, and eggs. Gallo pinto is a popular breakfast dish which consists of rice and black beans with eggs on the side – a meal high in fibre that will give you the energy you need until lunchtime.
China – A typical Chinese breakfast might consist of a dumpling or bun filled with vegetables or meat, along with a cup of soymilk tea, or a soupy rice porridge called congee. Both of these breakfast choices are low in fat and sugar and allow for an early opportunity to incorporate vegetables into the daily diet. A favorite street-side breakfast food is a jian bing, which consists of a very thin, crêpe-like pancake cooked on a hot drum. The pancake is covered with green onions, a spicy chili/bean paste, and then topped with an egg. Once the egg cooks, the pancake is rolled up, sliced in half, and served hot to the waiting customer. It’s an excellent combination of carbohydrate and protein with a healthful dose of green onion and a bit of fibre from the spicy chili/bean paste.
Venezuela – In Venezuela, as well as in other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Perú, the high consumption of corn is a big part of what gives this cuisine high marks. A Venezuelan breakfast often includes baked corn flour bread called arepas, which are filled with cheese, fish, beef, or chicken, or eaten as a side with shredded beef, black beans, white cheese, avocados, and/or fresh fruit juices. This provides good sources of protein, carbohydrates, dairy, fruit, and fibre. Black beans, also a mainstay of this country’s breakfasts, contain flavonoids, fibre and folic acid, and the white cheese typically eaten with this meal is a great source of calcium. To round out the meal, Venezuelans enjoy fresh fruit juices such as papaya, mango, watermelon, orange, tangerine, cantaloupe, or pineapple, all of which add their own array of vitamins.
Why not try serving something from a different country in your home to celebrate diversity and add a little spice to your winter? Hopefully you won’t be interrupted by any meteoric distractions!
(My thanks to my colleague Peggy Orbasli for providing the inspiration for today’s post!)
Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.