10 Surprising (But Healthy) Breakfast Ideas from Around the World
Food experts reveal their favorite healthy breakfasts from around the world, including dishes served every morning in Japan, Vietnam, Israel, and other countries.
Healthy breakfast ideas from around the world
At an early age, you were probably told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You may try to get your daily intake of vitamins and minerals in the morning. However, you may also be bored of the same old eggs and toast with a side of orange juice, or cereal with milk. What’s more, some of the breakfast foods you love may not always be good for you.
So, how do you change up your breakfast options? And most importantly, how do you stay healthy? We asked chefs and other food experts to share their favorite healthy breakfasts from around the world.
Japanese cuisine’s heavy emphasis on soy, fish, and sea vegetables, provides a solid foundation of nutrition, starting with the morning meal. “Traditional Japanese breakfasts consist of rice, vegetables, seaweeds, soy products, eggs, and fish, plus seasonal fruits,” says former executive chef Takashi Yamamoto of Suzuki, a traditional Japanese Kaiseki restaurant in New York City. With all the good things in there, you won’t miss what’s been left out, namely too much sugar, and oil. “The ingredients used in a Japanese breakfast allows you to consume balanced nutrients. Seasonal vegetables and fruits add vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Natto (fermented soybeans), are also a popular breakfast item in Japan, thought to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, plus increase memory,” Yamamoto adds. (Here are good reasons why you need to start eating seaweed.)
Ask any Filipino, and they’ll tell you that nutritious and fragrant, don’t always go together. Francis Tariga, former Top Chef contestant and executive chef at MEGU in New York, says, “Growing up in the Philippines, my favorite breakfast was fried dried Salinas fish, called tuyo, that my mom always paired with sautéed bitter melon, garlic fried rice, and a sunny side up egg. I don’t fry tuyo now in my apartment, because I know my neighbors will complain about the smell, but every time I visit the Philippines I make it a point to have my mom cook my favorite breakfast. We’ll also sometimes eat a bitter melon salad, which is very specific to Filipino cooking. The more bitter, the better.”
Many healthy breakfast foods in this Mediterranean country rely on swapping out butter for olive oil, a healthier fat. There is also a large emphasis on vegetables and fruits. Juan Suarez de Lezo, executive chef at Brasserie Lafayette, Indiana, was born in Grenada, Spain. So, what’s his take on pan con tomato? It’s a traditional breakfast sandwich comprised of tomato, garlic, and olive oil, folds in a side of fresh pineapple, plus a green salad. “When I’m in Spain, I savor a balance of salty and sweet. My other go-to is a refreshing watermelon gazpacho,” he says.
Holistic nutritionist, Sally Pansing Kravich, based in New York City and Los Angeles, has traveled the world, in search of the healthiest foods you can eat. The breakfast foods of Israel are some of her favorites. “Israeli-style breakfasts are filled with great nutrients, from fresh veggies, and fruits. The fruit that grows in Israel is the most delicious! A typical Israeli breakfast includes chopped salad, fresh fruit, lebeni, a type of yogurt spread, hummus, tahini, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes, shakshouka. “Shakshouka is one of my favorites to make on a weekend, or when the family comes by for a late, weekend breakfast. It’s comprised of scrambled eggs in a cumin laced tomato sauce, and fresh cheese,” Pansing Kravich says.
Kravich also adores the breakfast foods served many miles away, in Switzerland. “I began my studies of diet in varied cultures in the 1960s, when we moved to Switzerland, to regain good health. The Swiss breakfast contains muesli (good fiber), dark bread (rye, high in protein and again, good fiber), yogurt (healthy bacteria), fresh orange juice, stewed, dried, and fresh fruits, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh cheese,” she explains.
If you love coffee, consider a trip to Sweden. The art of brewing, and drinking, high-quality coffee, is an integral part of Swedish culture, and always has a prominent place on the breakfast table, according to Frida Harju, in-house nutritionist for the Swedish health app, Lifesum. “Breakfast is such an important meal here. Some staples of a healthy Swedish breakfast are eggs, open sandwiches, oatmeal, and filmjölk, which is unique to Sweden. It has the sour taste of yogurt, the thinner consistency of milk, and the health benefits of both. It is loaded with vitamins, and healthy bacteria, for the gut,” she says.
Harju chooses a natural form with no sugar, and tops hers with lingonberries, a Swedish staple, full of powerful antioxidants. She also sprinkles healthy nuts such as walnuts, or almonds, on top, as these have been linked to increased brain health. In addition to cool-tasting filmjölk, oatmeal is the other, most common breakfast eaten in this cold-climate country. “You learn to like it in kindergarten. It’s filled with minerals, and creates a satiety that should last until lunchtime, due to its high fiber content. Together with lingonberry jam (lingonsylt) and milk, it boosts your immune system, and provides you with calcium, as well as the right amount of protein,” Harju explains. (Also, try making these healthy breakfast recipes a few times a week to keep a good diet.)
A mecca of locally sourced food, Australians love their outdoor lifestyle, and start each day with a healthy breakfast, hearty enough to sustain it. Bowls brimming over with tropical fruits, such as mangos, lychee nuts, papaya, jackfruit, black sapote, pumelo, and pineapple are common. So are big fry ups which, despite the name, always includes veggies like tomatoes, and mushrooms, as well as eggs, and breakfast meats. And, of course, there’s always Vegemite, the thick and malty-tasting food spread made famous in this country by the rock group, Men At Work. One of the richest sources of B vitamins, Vegemite is often spread on thick slices of sourdough bread, and served with a layer of smashed avocado and a poached or scrambled egg for breakfast.
Considered one of the healthiest countries on Earth, Iceland’s cuisine is heavy on caught-that-day seafood, hormone-free meat, and protein-packed forms of familiar dairy products, like skyr, a super-dense, incredibly delicious yogurt. A short growing season reduces the amount of produce Icelanders consume each day, but breakfast more than makes up for it. Oily fish, full of omega-3s, are abundant at breakfast, as is incredibly thick, fiber-rich oatmeal, made from scratch. Many people start their meal with a spoonful of cod liver oil, full of vitamins A and D.
In India, food is as synonymous with healing of the mind, body, and soul, as it is with health. “Ayurvedic medicine is the oldest form of whole-body healing, which began in India, thousands of years ago. The Ayurvedic system of eating is more than just food. Warm, quality ingredients, served in a calm environment, is a must. In the Ayurvedic tradition, starting your day with breakfast helps rehydrate the body, and sets a nourishing base, from which to approach the day. A balanced morning meal can consist of rice, stewed fruits with warm spices, such as apples or pears, mixed with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, plus simple grains, such as boiled oats with tomatoes, ghee, and cumin, topped with shredded coconut,” explains Linden Schaffer Pravassa, a travel tour guide. (Learn more about how Ayurvedic medicine works.)
Another of Prevassa’s top picks for healthy international breakfast is Vietnam. “Here, breakfast is the most important meal, and the primary energy source for the day. Throughout Vietnam, street food is popular, with certain stalls becoming famous for crafting one, perfect dish. The dish is made very early, the process begins around 2:00 a.m. for a 6:00 a.m. opening and when it’s gone, vendors pack up and go home. Pho, a noodle soup, is Vietnam’s traditional breakfast. Find the right vendor, and you’ll be reward with handmade, gluten-free rice noodles, bone broth, spices such as cinnamon, clove, fennel and star anise, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties, onions and ginger. Pho is served with a side of fresh herbs and greens, such as mint, basil, bean sprouts, cilantro, and some chili. You can add as much or as little as you want, depending on your palate.”
- Takashi Yamamoto, former executive chef at Suzuki, New York City
- Francis Tariga, former Top Chef contestant and executive chef at MEGU, New York
- Juan Suarez de Lezo, executive chef at Brasserie Lafayette, Indiana
- Sally Pansing Kravich, holistic nutritionist, based in New York City and Los Angeles
- Frida Harju, in-house nutritionist for the Swedish health app, Lifesum
- National Museum of Australia: “Vegemite”
- Iceland Magazine: “Consuming fish oil like Icelandic Lýsi helps burn fat and fight weight gain after middle age, new research shows”
- Linden Schaffer Pravassa, a travel tour guide