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Breakfasts around the world: How healthy are they?


1st Jan 2015 Recipes

Breakfasts around the world: How healthy are they?
In the battle of the breakfasts, which country from around the world has the healthiest start? We asked an expert to analyse meals from 15 countries, including the classic full English. 
According to Claudia Thienel, a qualified nutritionist from Bonn, "Breakfast is an important meal because our stores of nutrients need replenishing after a night's sleep. Our bodies need to stock up on carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals."
But what is the best way of providing our bodies with these nutrients? We’ve asked our Reader's Digest colleagues around the world what a typical breakfast would look like for them.

United States

Markus Ward, Art Director

American breakfast
Americans often breakfast differently on weekends than they do on weekdays.
  • During the week, many just take a bowl of cornflakes with milk and a bit of sugar.
  • Saturday and Sundays tend to be a bit more elaborate. A typical plate could have two or three strips of bacon, two fried eggs and a serving of hash brown potatoes.
  • A cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice is a daily ritual for many.

Our expert's verdict:

The glass of orange juice counts as one portion of fruit. 
Cornflakes often already contain sugar. Sprinkling more sugar on top of them will only increase the calorie count without adding to their nutritional value.
The weekend breakfast contains far too much fat.


Daniel Weigandt, Editor-in-Chief

Argentinian breakfast
  • White or rye bread spread with butter or white cream cheese. Sometimes topped with marmalade or jelly.
  • On weekends, the bread is replaced by sweet or salted croissants.
  • A cup of milky coffee (250 ml).

Our expert's verdict:

The milky coffee and cheese are both sources of calcium, which is good for your bones and teeth. I would recommend low-fat milk and cheese with between 30% and 40% fat in dry matter.
There aren't any fruit and vegetables in this breakfast. Moreover, a single croissant can contain up to 25 grams of fat. That's half of the recommended daily allowance!


Raquel Zampil, Editor-in-Chief

orange juice
  • Southeast Brazil: 1 bread roll (50 g) with a tablespoon of butter. Many Brazilians add a slice of white cheese or a slice of ham and yellow cheese.  1 cup of coffee with whole milk and a glass of fresh orange juice.
  • Northeast Brazil: Corn couscous (a kind of corn cake) served either with eggs or coconut milk and a tapioca pancake.

Our expert's verdict:

Cooked ham is a good low-fat source of protein.
The coconut milk and fried pancakes are both relatively high in fat.


Mohan Sivanand, Editor-in-Chief

Brazillian breakfast
  • A couple of rice pancakes made in a small wok. They are dipped in a curry that gets its flavour from a mix of onions, carrots, potatoes, green chilli, coconut milk and a mix of spices.
  • Adding meat is optional. Alternatively, the pancakes are dipped in a much spicier curry with fried onions and hard-boiled eggs.
  • 1-2 cups of coffee with a bit of milk and sugar.

Our expert's verdict:

The vegetables in the curry contain vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Because they are fried, the pancakes have a high fat content. Also, there aren't any whole grain products in this breakfast.


Bayu Maitra, Author

Indonesian breakfast
  • 1 small bowl of fried rice with sweet soy sauce and a fried egg, chicken cutlet, two slices of cucumber, a slice of tomato, prawn crackers and chilli sauce.
  • Sometimes, it is also served with a small cup of soup that contains carrots and cauliflowers.
  • As for drinks, Indonesians prefer hot tea or coffee, with 2-3 teaspoons of sugar.

Our expert's verdict:

Chicken is a low-fat meat. Three portions of vegetables (400 g) a day are recommended, so vegetable soup is definitely a healthy choice!
Sugar should only be consumed in moderation.


Siti Rohani, Editor-in-Chief

Singapore breakfast
  • Malay-inspired breakfast: Nasi Lemak: 1 cup of rice cooked with coconut milk and sambal (chilli paste), 1 palm-sized fried fish, 1 tablespoon of fried peanuts and fried anchovies.
  • Chinese-inspired breakfast: Kaya toast: 2 slices of bread with coconut jam, and 1 soft-boiled egg with a dash of soy sauce.
  • We have our breakfast with coffee or tea sweetened with condensed milk.

Our expert's verdict:

Fish is a valuable source of iodine. Fatty fish also contains Omega-3 fatty acids which boost your fat metabolism.
Eggs contain cholesterol. Your daily cholesterol intake should not exceed 300 mg. Many foodstuffs such as noodles and cakes already contain eggs.
Health experts therefore advise against eating more than three eggs a week.


Raycine Chang, Managing Editor

Taiwanese dumplings
  • 1 bowl of rice porridge (300 g of rice) with pickled cucumbers, shelled peanuts or dried meat floss (50 g each). 
  • Sesame seed cake (approx. 200 g of wheat) with one deep-fried fluffy dough stick (approx. 100g of wheat). 
  • Steamed buns with stuffing (wheat, vegetables and a little minced meat, about 400 g total).
  • 1 cup of soybean milk.

Our expert's verdict:

Steaming the buns is a good way of preserving the vitamins in the vegetables.
The portions are rather large. One portion of cooked rice should be between 150 and 180 g.
Fifty grams of peanuts contains 48 g of fat, which is almost your entire daily allowance!


Sally McMullen, Editorial Coordinator

Image via Flickr
  • 2 slices of soy quinoa or multigrain toast with 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of vegemite. Or:
  • 2 multigrain Weetbix (about 40 g) with 200 ml low-fat milk.
  • Australians love fruit so these are usually accompanied with a banana or an apple.
  • 1 glass of orange juice or 1 cup of milky coffee with 1 teaspoon of sugar

Our expert's verdict:

Whole grain products such as multigrain or soy quinoa toast are high in fibre and make you feel full for longer. Low-fat milk (1.5%) is a source of calcium and is a healthier alternative to whole milk.
A glass of orange juice and a piece of fruit already account for your two daily portions of fruit. Any additional fruit will just increase your sugar and calorie intake.


Michael Kallinger, Editor-in-Chief

Image via Martha Stewart
  • 2 slices of rye bread, 2 teaspoons of jam, approx. 15 g of butter, 2 slices of cheese or cold meat (approx. 40 g).
  • 1 boiled egg once a week.
  • 2 cups of coffee (approx. 300 ml coffee and 100 ml milk).

Our expert's verdict:

Rye bread contains iron, which our bodies need to help transfer oxygen through the blood, for example.
15 g of butter on two slices of bread is a rather generous portion. And there are no fruit and vegetables in this breakfast.


Ilkka Virtanen, Editor-in-Chief

  • 1-2 slices bread made from rye or oats, covered with butter or margarine, 1 slice of cheese, ham and cucumber or tomato.
  • 100-200 g muesli, cereals or oat porridge accompanied by Finnish wild blueberries or lingonberries and a small bowl of milk.
  • 1-2 cups of filter coffee with a drop of milk (10-20 ml).

Our expert's verdict:

Rye and oats are both rich in iron. Throw in ham and vegetables, or fruit if you are having porridge, and you get a genuinely healthy breakfast.


Stéphanie Calmeyn, Editor-in-Chief

  • 2 slices of fresh baguette (about 70-80 g in total) generously spread with butter (25 g) and 40 g strawberry, apricot or bitter orange jam.
  • 1 croissant (about 45 g).
  • On Sunday, we gladly add on the table a brioche (sweet bread made from yeast dough).
  • 2 cups of coffee with or without milk and 1 glass of orange juice

Our expert's verdict:

The glass of orange juice delivers one portion of fruit. Two portions a day are recommended.
With 25 g butter on the baguette the recommended 15 to 30 g of fat spread a day is already reached with breakfast. On top of this a croissant or brioche!
All in all this breakfast contains too much fat and no fibre.


Olga Ovchinnikova, Editor

  • 1 slice of wheat bread with 15 g butter, 40-50 g of cheese or cold cuts.
  • 1 bowl of porridge (oats or millet boiled in water or milk), about 200-250 g. Or:
  • 2 fried eggs or an omelette. People normally alternate between porridge and eggs on different days.
  • 1 cup of tea or coffee.

Our expert's verdict:

Oats and millet are rich in iron. Prepared with milk the porridge is also a source of calcium.
Even if you alternate between porridge and eggs you eat more than the recommended three eggs per week.


Alexander Vitolic, Editor

jam on toast
  • 2 buttered slices of half-white or wheat-and-rye bread, spread with butter and raspberry jam, sometimes topped with semi-hard cheese (10-15 g).
  • Some people additionally have a small bowl of breakfast cereals or wholewheat muesli (30 g) with cold milk (120 ml).
  • On Sundays, the standard bread is substituted by a traditional plaited loaf of white bread.
  • 1 cup of coffee with a dash or two of coffee cream.

Our expert's verdict:

Wholewheat muesli and wheat-and-rye bread are a source of fibre; cheese and milk contain calcium.
As a matter of fact jam counts as candy. The same is true for dried fruit in muesli.


Natalia Alonso, Editor-in-Chief

Spanish breakfast
  • 3 churros (made with salt, water and flour, fried in olive oil).
  • Toasted small baguette with olive oil, grated tomato and a pinch of salt.
  • 1cup of milky coffee and a glass of fresh orange juice.

Our expert's verdict:

Olive oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids. They have a positive influence on our lipid metabolism and help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Poisonous chemical compounds may develop when olive oil or other deep-frying fat is heated to high temperatures. Deep-fried foods contain an extreme amount of fat.

United Kingdom

full english breakfast
  • Many people still think a typical English breakfast consists of eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, mushrooms and baked beans. This traditional breakfast is still widely available in hotels and boarding houses; and is sometimes eaten at home on weekends.
  • 1 bowl of cold cereal with low-fat or whole milk, and a slice of white or brown toast, with butter or margarine and jam or marmalade.
  • 1 mug of tea or coffee and 1 small glass of orange juice.
  • In winter many people will eat hot porridge with a little milk and sugar or jam on it.

Our expert's verdict:

Whole grain cereal, ideally without any extra sugar, is recommended as a good source of fibre.
Whether you choose to drink tea or coffee is purely down to personal preference. Black and green  tea both contain caffeine, so they are just as likely to wake you up as a cup of coffee.
Nothing beats the famous full English breakfast for cholesterol, fat and calories — this is one breakfast you should definitely steer clear of!