5 Nourishing Breakfasts From Around The Globe, Recommended By An RD
The first meal of the day holds importance for many of us. In the United States, there are so many variations on what people and families eat for their morning meal. For some, it's a bowl of cereal with milk and bananas or a stack of pancakes and a side of fruit.
As you travel around the globe, that first meal may be similar to something you eat for breakfast, and in some cases, it may be new to you. In my upcoming book, Eating From Our Roots, I explore recipes from around the world, as well as heritage foods. One of these is breakfast, which can look very different depending on your ethnicity and culture.
I reached out to fellow registered dietitians, friends, and neighbors to learn more about what they grew up eating. Every dish is absolutely delicious and will surely inspire you to expand your breakfast horizons.
Johnny cakes - Tobago
As a child, when I visited my Uncle Ranny in Tobago, we would have fresh milk from his cows, smoked herring, and johnny cakes. The herring was prepared with onion, garlic, and thyme, and served with freshly sliced tomato and zaboca (avocado). The johnny cakes were made with a mix of cornmeal and flour. This was a breakfast we would enjoy on enamel plates.
This meal does take time to prepare, but in my opinion it's well worth it, as it's incredibly nourishing and satisfying. For the person short on time, smoked herring and johnny cakes can be made in a large batch and enjoyed for subsequent meals.
Bota Nedovi - Zimbabwe
Cordialis Kasago, MA, RDN, DipACLM, a California-based dietitian who specializes in eating patterns of the African diaspora, shared a breakfast staple from Zimbabwe. Bota nedovi is a porridge made with peanut butter. Whole ancient grains like maize meal, sorghum, millet, or a combination of grains is mixed with boiling water and brought to a simmer; then finished with a dollop of peanut butter and sugar to taste.
Kasago notes Bota nedovi is "a filling breakfast packed with slow-digesting and blood sugar-balancing whole grains, complimented with protein, vitamins, and minerals such as folate, magnesium, and vitamin E from the peanut butter." This breakfast lends itself to busy mornings as it's quick-cooking and requires minimal supervision. It can also be transferred into cups for a nutritious lunch at work or school.
Savory oat bowls - multiple countries
If oats are a staple in your morning, Tessa Nguyen's savory oatmeal bowls are the place to start. Nguyen is a chef, registered dietitian, plus a founder and principal of Taste Nutrition Consulting. She notes this breakfast is so versatile because the maker can get creative depending on what ingredients they have on hand. And a major bonus? This particular recipe is FODMAP friendly for people who are following low-FODMAP. Nguyen says she loves porridge because it shows up in so many diverse cultures with different spices, herbs, and or seasonal elements that make it distinctly unique.
Crema de farina - Puerto Rico
A breakfast that my neighbor, Gildren Alejandro, grew up eating in Puerto Rico was avena, crema de farina, or crema de arroz—porridge, cream of wheat, or cream of rice.
Alejandro remembers her mom making the breakfast porridges with milk, cinnamon sticks, a piece of lime, and some sugar. Sometimes it was served with sliced bananas. She also remembers lots of delicious breakfast fruits like mango, guava, guanábana, and pineapple.
This option is versatile, as the grains can be modified to meet the needs of and tastes of the home cook—and as Alejandro points out, it can really be topped with any fruit that is available.
Gyeran mari - Korea
A common breakfast in Korea, according to my friend Misook Ji, is gyeran mari (rolled egg omelet) with a toasted seaweed wrap and other side dishes. She says with the base of seaweed and rice (note: the white rice is not commonly seasoned, and salted sesame oil is preferred in place of soy sauce), families can add pretty much anything they have in their fridge to round out the breakfast. They may add leftover meat, grilled fish, or, as she prefers, avocado. This sounds like a wonderfully satisfying and savory way to start the day.
Now, you've taken a quick trip around the globe and had a glimpse of what our neighbors may be enjoying as their first meal of the day. Perhaps this inspires you to try something new in your morning routine!
Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN is the founder of Maya Feller Nutrition, a private practice that specializes in nutrition for chronic disease prevention. Maya shares her approachable, food-based solutions with millions of people through regular speaking engagements and as a nutrition expert on Good Morning America.
Maya believes in providing nutrition education from an anti-bias patient-centered, culturally sensitive approach to help people make informed food choices. In her practice, Maya and her team provide medical nutrition therapy nutrition and nutrition coaching for the management of and risk reduction of non-communicable diseases from a lens of cultural humility. She is the author of Eating from Our Roots: 80 Healthy Home-Cooked Favorites from Cultures Around the World (goop Press), (January 24, 2023).
Maya lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two children, two cats, and two dogs!