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Health Matters

What’s for breakfast?

What’s for breakfast? Is that something you get asked at your place or is breakfast a traditional meal? That is, everyone knows what’s for breakfast. Brekkie as it is called in Australia is our first meal of the day. Unless you are a shift worker and your mealtimes run on a different clock.

When I was growing up breakfast was cereal and toast. My sister Susan’s favourite was Sanitarium Weet-Bix, mine Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. In the winter, my mother would make porridge. I was never a big fan of porridge; it was too mushy. However, these days I cope okay with porridge, fresh fruit, milk, and honey.

If you eat breakfast, what is your favourite breakfast food? What we eat for breakfast is usually defined by our cultural background. That is, what we are used to. The breakfast food we ate when we grew up can remain our ‘brekkie’ tradition for life. But breakfast should be more than a tradition. As some traditions are unhealthy. So how do we break our cultural traditions and change to a healthier option?

Are you the type of person who likes a hot breakfast, usually served with eggs? If so, you might be a farmer or have a job that takes a lot of energy. When I was a child, a ‘mixed fry’ breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, lambs fry or even steak. Serve with toast, tea, or coffee was a good start to the day. Not that this breakfast was served up for me. In the 1960s I spent six years living in a hotel (not on my own, but with my family). Guests were served the ‘hot’ breakfast with all the extras of their choice. On occasions, as a teenager, I would be the waitress! It was me helping out my Mum, I did not get paid.

This breakfast choice is not cereal or museli but it is still a healthy breakfast option.

These days, in Australia, we live in a multi-cultural society. We are exposed to different food cultures. A Vietnamese breakfast is different to a ‘westernised’ breakfast of cereal or eggs. When I stayed with a Vietnamese friend my eyes were open to a new type of breakfast food. I was served a dish whose name I cannot remember. But it was close to the popular Vietnamese noodle soup – Phở. It was wonderful to experience a Vietnamese breakfast. So different to my familiar breakfast food.

The United Kingdom (UK) and United States of America (USA) has had a big influence on what we eat for breakfast in Australia. The traditional breakfast in the UK is the ‘BIG’ breakfast. It consists of eggs, bacon, baked beans, sausages, and mushrooms with toast. In the USA they like both cereals and eggs. But also waffles, bagels, doughnuts, pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. In moderation such food is enjoyable. But too much carbohydrate as part of a daily breakfast routine can pile on the kilos.

When I was last in America our hotel in Boston was near a Dunkin Doughnut Café. I could not believe the number of people going in and out of the place, picking up their breakfast food. In Australia, the popular American coffee chain Starbuck’s offers a range of bacon and egg croissant, bagels, chocolate hot cross buns and muffins.

When in Europe I loved the experience of different breakfast food and cultural traditions. In France they love their brioche or baguettes. In Germany bread rolls, whole wheat and rye bread are popular. Spread the bread with butter, jam, and honey. Then add cheese, ham, or salami. I always went without the jam and honey. Cold boiled eggs were also on offer. This type of breakfast food was available in Austria and Switzerland. I enjoyed the variety of breakfast foods and the change bought about by a European holiday. Yet, once arriving back in Australia, all I wanted was toast with vegemite and a cup of tea!

So ‘what’s for breakfast’ and what should we be eating for our first meal of the day? In the 1960s nutritionist Adelle Davis coined a well-known statement.  She said, ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.’ By the 2020s we have mixed it up and dinner is more likely to be a kingly affair.

Nonetheless, breakfast, as we are breaking our fast, is an important first meal of the day. It is not only food for our physical body, but we are also feeding our brain. That is, improving our cognitive function. Charles Spence is an experimental psychologist, University of Oxford, England. He has conducted extensive research on the science of food. There is science behind why we should eat breakfast and why breakfast should be considered the most important meal of the day.

If I want to improve my health, wellbeing, and cognitive performance then I must make mindful breakfast choices. What about you? Are you choosing the healthy food options for breakfast or skipping it altogether? So, ‘what’s for breakfast?’

Feature image of museli and peaches by Alexander Nils,

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