Breakfast from around the world

Breakfast around the WorldHave you ever wondered what people in other parts of the world eat for breakfast?

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.

Gallo pinto and eggs from Costa Rica

Gallo pinto and eggs from Costa Rica

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!)

Today’s Dietitian 14:3, March 2012

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

School-friendly snacks to share for Valentine’s Day

Kids Eat Smart Cinnamon Crisps with Fresh Fruit SaladSugar overload on any holiday is easy, but Valentine’s Day is one that is particularly heavy on sweets and giant heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. On top of being the month of love, February is also Heart Month—so what better way to show your tiny tots you love them than by showing them desserts can be both tasty and healthy.

This recipe, from the blog Chef Mommy, is perfect for any Valentine’s event – and a great one that your kids can help out with (see our earlier post Kids can help make nutritious meals too!). Pack it in some Tupperware containers and send to school with your kids for the class to enjoy during party time.

Heart Shaped Cinnamon Crisps with Fresh Fruit Salad in a Poppy Seed Dressing

Fruit Salsa


  • Fresh fruit, chopped (strawberries, melons, grapes etc…)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. poppy seeds


  1. Combine all fruit in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, sugar, and poppy seeds.
  3. Add to fruit and stir to coat fruit evenly.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Cinnamon Crisps 

Ingredients & supplies:

  • whole wheat flour tortillas
  • vegetable cooking spray (or water)
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • heart shaped cookie cutter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  3. Cut out hearts in tortilla’s and place the tortilla cut-outs onto a foil lined baking sheet.
  4. Lightly spray with the cooking spray or water, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix.
  5. Bake for 6-8 min.
  6. Cool and serve with the fruit salsa.


Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Preparing for the work week ahead

Eating healthy all week long doesn’t have to be a chore. Just like doing your laundry to make sure you have clean clothes, the key is preparation and can become a productive habit.

I like to take the weekend – usually Sundays – to prepare things in bulk to use throughout the week as easy grab and go items for lunch and supper meals. I find if I have healthy options on hand for meals and snacks I’m less tempted to want those unhealthier items or opt for take-out on those lazy nights I don’t want to cook.

Here are some tips to help meals stay on track for the week ahead:

Prepare proteins:

  • Buy chicken breasts in bulk (especially when they are on sale) and cook three to four chicken breasts at a time. Eat one right away for a meal, then chop the rest up and place in the refrigerator. You can throw the chilled chicken on top of salads, use in a wrap, or heat up with black beans for a quick chicken fajita dinner.
  • Hard boil a dozen eggs at a time. You can use them for egg salad, eat them individually for snacks, or chop them up for a salad topping.
  • Tuna can be pre-mixed and ready to go in the fridge for wraps and sandwiches.

Chop produce:

  • Fresh produce always takes a little prep time. Do it in bulk right when you get home from the grocery store, and you’ll spare yourself the effort later in the week. Pump up the jams or your favourite podcast to keep yourself entertained, and go to town.
  • Start by washing all produce, then trim any ends such as carrot tops, lettuce head bottoms, and sweet potato ends.
  • Then, chop and portion produce. For example, cut celery into snack-sized stalks and prepare a reusable container with celery, carrots, and chopped peppers for a grab and go veggie snack. If you are going to make a stir fry, chop all veggies that you want to include and place in a large container then refrigerate.
  • Take the same approach with fruit – have it cut and ready to go.
  • At the end of the week, if you have left over fruits and veggies, you can throw them in a blender for delicious and nutritious smoothies!

Prepare breakfast meals to go:

  • In the rush of the morning it’s sometimes hard to remember the importance of starting our day with a nutritious meal. Having items on hand helps to avoid unhealthy habits on the run.
  • Make breakfast sandwiches (whole wheat English muffins and eggs), wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the freezer. To reheat take out of freezer and plastic wrap, wrap in a paper towel, and heat in microwave for 45 seconds or until warm. Add salsa for a delicious kick.
  • Pancakes can be made ahead of time, wrapped in portions of 3, and then placed in freezer bag. To reheat take out of freezer and plastic wrap and warm in microwave for 1 minute or until warm.
  • I usually like to make a large batch of muffins over the weekend to have on hand throughout the week to have for snacks. Come mid week I usually wrap and freeze them individually to ensure they are not being wasted. One of my favourite recipes, Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins (from, is a source of fibre and has ingredients from four food groups – fruit, grains, dairy and eggs!


  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup mashed banana


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  2. Stir whole wheat flour, rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and chocolate chips together in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl until frothy; mix applesauce, skim milk, and banana into eggs. Pour moist ingredients into well made in dry ingredients; stir just to moisten. Batter will be lumpy. Fill prepared muffin cups about 3/4 full.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of several muffins comes out clean, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling on wire racks.

Makes 12 muffins.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

Per serving :177 Calories; 3.7 g Fat; 35 mg Cholesterol; 34.2 g Carbohydrates; 4.7 g Protein; 3.5 g Fiber; 202 mg Sodium.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Keeping the snack attack on track


Kristin’s mid-morning snack

Smart snacking is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps kids get the nutrients they need to keep going throughout the day. However, when you hear the call “I’m hungry!” echo through the house, it is tempting to sacrifice nutrition in the name of quick and easy.

Balance is the key – when putting together snack suggestions, encourage your kids to pair up any two of the four food groups from Eating Healthy with Canada’s Food Guide – like a piece of fruit with cheese, or peanut butter and with whole wheat bread.

My usual pick-me-up mid morning snack is cut up orange slices and some delicious Greek yogurt. I find this healthy snack gives me that extra boost I need until lunch time!

Try to think ahead so you can have quick and easy AND nutritious choices ready on hand. For instance, I try to have my fruit and veggies for snacks washed and cut-up and ready for easy access in my fridge.

Here are some other tips to keep the snack attacks on track:


Variety in food helps make sure that kids get the vitamins and minerals they need, rather than just getting the same vitamins and minerals at each snack.

When offering snacks, try to offer an assortment instead of offering the same snacks day after day.

Healthy snack foods include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain crackers, cereals, and bread
  • Eggs
  • Low fat cheese, milk, and yogurt
  • Protein-rich spreads and dips like hummus and peanut butter

Make food fun

Be creative when serving fruits and vegetables to your kids, when kids are interested in foods they are more likely to try them.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Cut fruits in fun shapes using cookie cutters
  • Serve fruits or vegetables out of healthy edible bowls, like a carved out pepper or melon
  • Make fruit or veggie kabobs using a variety of healthy options
  • Freeze 100% fruit juice with fruit chunks to make your own healthy fruit pop
  • Dip cut fruit in orange juice or apple juice to stop it from browning and add taste
Strawberry Kisses - a healthy and delicious snack, just in time for Valentine's Day!

Strawberry Kisses – a healthy and delicious snack, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Strawberry Kisses

Get creative for any and all occasions – with Valentine’s Day just around the corner check out these, why not try making these balanced and delicious Strawberry Kisses?


12 Fresh or Frozen strawberries, washed.
1 ½ cup low fat plain or flavored yogurt.


Dip strawberries in yogurt, freeze and slice.

Happy snacking everyone!

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Why are some kids picky eaters?

Kids Eat Smart Picky Eater

Many children are picky eaters, which can be frustrating when trying to introduce new foods.

As a child, Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me or my brothers and sister get up from the table until we had finished off our vegetables – and I tell you, sometimes we were so stubborn, we were there for an hour!

It wasn’t until my teens that I discovered that I actually liked them – and of course now I enjoy them each day as a part of a balanced diet.

Not wanting to try new foods is actually quite normal in children. They do not always like new tastes or textures but there are ways to encourage children to try new foods.

The key is to focus on creativity, to not getting frustrated and to keep trying.

“Dos” for Dealing with Picky Eaters

  • Be a role model. Try new foods with the kids.
  • Be patient. If the kids refuse a food, try again later. It may take 10-15 times before they try it
  • Combine new foods with old favourites like adding a new vegetable to a spaghetti sauce.
  • Make it fun. Try cutting food into fun shapes or presenting it in the shape of a happy face. Even teaching the kids something interesting about the food can help them warm up to new foods faster.
  • Involve the kids. Bring the kids grocery shopping while you select new foods or ask for their help as you prepare the meal or snack. (See our related post: Kids can make nutritious food too!)

“Don’ts” for Dealing with Picky Eaters

  • Never force a child to eat a new food
  • Don’t make it a big deal if a child will not eat a particular food
  • Never use food as a reward. Don’t use dessert as a reward for eating a vegetable
  • Don’t withhold other foods until new foods are eaten
  • Don’t transfer your food dislikes to the kids. Just because you don’t like a specific food doesn’t meant that the kids won’t like it.
  • As every child matures they tend to become less picky about food, but everyone has their own tastes. Don’t expect your children to like every food they try.

What strategies work for picky eaters in YOUR family? We’d love to hear about them – please comment below, post to our Facebook and/or Google+ page, or email me directly at

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Research supports good eating = good thinking

Common sense says that we get better results with better fuel, and research provides the data to back it up.

A project by the Toronto District School Board, ‘Feeding Our Future: The First and Second-Year Evaluation’ (March 2012) showed that 78 per cent of grade 10 students who ate morning meals on most days were on track for graduation compared to 61 per cent who ate morning meals on only a few days or not at all.

Other findings showed:

  • Middle school students who ate breakfast at school on most days achieved or exceeded provincial reading standards by a rate 10 per cent higher than students who did not have breakfast
  • Middle school students who ate breakfast at school most days achieved better results in science courses
  • Middle school students who ate breakfast at school showed higher rates of independent work, problem solving and class participation
  • Secondary school students who ate breakfast at school were half as likely to be suspended and were more likely to attend school regularly

ImageCloser to home, the Kids Eat Smart Year-End Principals Evaluation (2010-2011) showed that 100 per cent of respondents agree or strongly agree that Kids Eat Smart Clubs in Newfoundland and Labrador contribute to an improved atmosphere in their schools.


  • 87 per cent of respondents agree or strongly agree that Kids Eat Smart Clubs contribute to an improved attention span in students; and
  • 75 per cent agree or strongly agree that Kids Eat Smart Clubs contribute to decreased disruptions in the classroom.

Findings from Kids Eat Smart evaluations and the Toronto School District study let us know good eating really does equal good thinking. So how can you help make breakfast a healthy start to your child’s day?

  • Be sure to include foods from 3 of the 4 food groups
  • Include at least one fruit or veggie
  • Choose whole grains more often
  • Choose high fibre cereals
  • Be creative and shake things up – add a smoothie to the breakfast mix!

Since it started in 1992, the Kids Eat Smart Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken an evidence-based approach to its program and findings from the Foundation and from other similar organizations show that nutrition programs support learning. It supports the operation of over 200 Kids Eat Smart clubs in school across the province.


Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nutritious alternatives for Superbowl Sunday

Nutritious Southwestern Bean Dip

A nutritious alternative for Superbowl Sunday – Southwestern Layered Bean Dip – high in fibre, lower in fat

We all know that Super Bowl Sunday is not just about the game—it’s about the food!

I usually pass on the store-bought snacks and take-out foods and enjoy making delicious homemade dips for the Big Day.

By making homemade dips we can choose the specific ingredients that go in the dip. By choosing low sodium salsa and sauces, as well as low fat cheese and sour cream we can reduce fat and sodium content drastically.

Try this easy Tex-Mex layered dip with plenty of black beans, salsa and chopped fresh vegetables – which mean a healthy amount of dietary fibre – and it packs less than half the calories and fat of traditional versions of other Super Bowl favourites:

Southwestern Layered Bean Dip

Source: EatingWell

We use reduced-fat sour cream along with full-fat (and full-flavored) cheese to make the dip lighter without compromising great taste. Be sure to have lots of baked tortilla chips on hand when you serve it.


  • 1 16-ounce can nonfat refried beans, preferably “spicy”
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa (low sodium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack, or Cheddar cheese (light)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup canned sliced black olives, (optional)


  1. Combine refried beans, black beans, scallions, salsa, cumin, chili powder and jalapeños in a medium bowl. Transfer to a shallow 2-quart microwave-safe dish; sprinkle with cheese.
  2. Microwave on High until the cheese is melted and the beans are hot, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Spread sour cream evenly over the hot bean mixture, then scatter with lettuce, tomato, avocado and olives (if using).

Makes 12 1/2-cup servings.

Per serving :146 Calories; 7 g Fat; 3 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 12 mg Cholesterol; 15 g Carbohydrates; 7 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 288 mg Sodium; 164 mg Potassium

Make Ahead Tip
Prepare through Step 1, cover and refrigerate for up to one day. To serve, continue with Steps 2 & 3.

Go 49ers! 🙂

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tackling the trip to the grocery store

Nutritious family eating starts with having healthy foods readily available in our homes.

Heading to the supermarket to stock up can be overwhelming and stressful at the best of times. With so many options, knowing what to choose for you and your kids each week can certainly be a challenge.

I like to remind myself that with a little preparation and knowledge, making the right choices can be as easy as one, two, three:


1. Make a list – I try to take the time to prepare a weekly menu and make a list to gather what we’ll need. A list helps keep me on track and avoid the things we don’t need – and it helps me look forward to all of the great meals we’ll be enjoying throughout the week!

2. Do not go shopping hungry – This is probably the biggest, most costly mistake we can make. If I shop hungry, I am almost guaranteed to come home with food I don’t need – and most of this food I end up throwing in my cart will be high in sugar, salt and fat. I try to shop either after dinner or after a filling brunch on the weekends. With a full belly in tow I am more likely to stick to my list!

3. Shop the perimeter of the store – This is where the real food is found, i.e. produce, dairy, meats, fish, etc. I try to make sure that I spend the bulk of my money here and only go to the centre of the store for frozen/canned fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains.

With recent struggles for access to fresh fruits and veggies here in Newfoundland and Labrador, remember that it’s okay to buy frozen fruits and veggies to kick up the nutrition in our meals – frozen fruits and veggies are just as healthy as fresh. (Sometimes even better, because they are frozen as soon as they come out of the ground!)

Need to get organized? Here’s a link to 36 free templates for organizing your menus and your shopping list from fellow blog Cheap, Healthy Food.

Good luck!


Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Kids can help make nutritious meals too!

Eating together can support healthy eating habits for both adults and children. Having kids help out in the kitchen may help them enjoy a nutritious meal that much more!

Here’s a delicious and balanced recipe perfect for a chilly winter’s night – plus some suggestions how everyone can lend a hand to help get a healthy dinner on the table:

Family Favourite Shepherd's PieFAMILY FAVOURITE SHEPHERD’S PIE
(Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation)

Here are some suggested duties for the whole family!

Younger children – mash potatoes and help spread over beef/vegetable mixture; sprinkle the paprika

Older children – gather ingredients;  prep and chop the veggies and garlic; spoon the meat mixture into the dish for baking

Adults – cook the meat mixture; oversee the baking; serve


  • 500 g (1 lb) lean ground beef, pork or lamb or a combination of these
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 75 mL (1⁄3 cup) tomato paste
  • 150 mL (2⁄3 cup) water
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) dried thyme
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 mL (1⁄4 tsp) or less salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 500 mL (2 cups) mashed potatoes
  • Paprika


  1. In skillet over medium heat, cook beef, stirring to break up meat, until brown; pour off fat.
  2. Add onions, garlic and carrot; cook until tender.
  3. Add tomato paste, water, thyme, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring up any brown bits from bottom of pan.
  5. Spoon meat mixture into 2 L (8-cup) baking or microwave-safe dish;
  6. Spread mashed potatoes evenly on top. Sprinkle with paprika to taste.
  7. Bake in 190°C (375°F) oven for 35 minutes or until heated through, or microwave on High for 9 minutes.

Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition information per serving
Calories: 258; Protein: 20 g ; Total fat: 9 g; Saturated fat: 4 g ; Cholesterol: 48 mg; Carbohydrate: 26 g; Fibre: 4 g; Sodium: 480 mg; Potassium: 785 mg

From Anne Lindsay’s Lighthearted at Home. ©2010.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Welcome to the new Kids Eat Smart Family Nutrition Blog!

Kristin of Kids Eat Smart

Hi, I`m Kristin with Kids Eat Smart

Hi! I’m Kristin Harris and I am a registered dietitian with the Kids Eat Smart Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am passionate about healthy eating and living and take pride in supporting access to adequate nutritious food.

I do this by providing advice regarding food, diet and nutrition for the over 200 Kids Eat Smart clubs being run in schools across the province. We help provide access to adequate nutritious food for over 20,000 school children in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our vision is that every school aged child in Newfoundland and Labrador attends school well nourished to be ready to learn. In a nutshell, we believe that good eating = good thinking!

Of course healthy eating is something that goes far beyond the school day, so we’ve decided start this Family Nutrition Blog to share recipes, tips, menu planning, news and advice for families in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions as we move forward.