Your Guide to Wholesome, Healthy Indian Breakfast

What we all know – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives us energy to carry on with the activities of the day, makes us feel full and avoid over-eating later, helps us keep weight in check, provides with essential nutrients, and should be loved just for giving an occasion to eat.

What we don’t know – how to rightly do what we all know i.e. to get ourselves a meal that gives us all the above mentioned benefits. We, Indians generally have a tendency to neglect the nutrition quotient of the meals and go after dishes that are heavily cooked, believing that is what will energize us. And if you have a North-Indian mother like us, you haven’t really eaten anything unless you have had paranthas for breakfast! Luckily, the present generation wants to go easier on their stomach and is concerned more with the quality of food rather than the quantity.

So, what’s an ideal breakfast like? A healthy breakfast should offer us complex carbs, protein, fiber and a small amount of fat. Carbs are needed to make you feel full and to provide calories for energy. When combined with lean protein, it makes the whole break-down process last longer as the body takes more time and calories for digesting protein. This keeps us satiated for long and also helps to keep weight in check. Adding fiber and fat to it ensures that our breakfast becomes a wholesome meal giving an important amount of vitamins and minerals for the day. Read further to know about these macro-nutrients and a suggestion of sources suitable for the Indian market.

Carbs – after a long night’s fast, get yourself some quality carbohydrate in the morning to get energy. Instead of choosing sugary cereals, filtered fruit drinks or white bread sandwich, go for minimally processed complex carbs that take more time to digest like whole grains, oats, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, corn, peas and lentils, poha.

Protein – protein increases metabolism and helps you control sugar and food cravings by causing a drop in ghrelin (the hunger hormone) other than the basic muscle building benefits that it offers. Avoid high-fat and high-cholesterol proteins and instead go for egg whites, paneer, soya, beans and pulses, greek yogurt, lean meat, sprouted beans and tofu.

Fiber – it is a part of plant-based foods that the body can’t digest. It normalizes bowel movement by bulking up stools and hence helps in cleaning digestive tract, lowers bad cholesterol that impacts our heart, provides a host of essential vitamins and minerals and improves skin appearance. As they bulk up your diet they make you feel full for a long time. Fiber absorbs water, so drink plenty of water to avoid any discomfort and get benefits of increased liquid intake as a bonus! Include them in your diet by eating wholegrain cereals, flaxseeds, fruits (with peel whenever possible) and veggies, kidney beans, lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, broccoli and cabbage.

Fat –the assumed villain is not so bad after all. If you make a wise decision of including good, unsaturated fats in your diet instead of the artery-clogging trans fats, you’re doing your body a favour. Find it in almonds and walnuts, peanut butter, dark chocolate, olives and olive oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salmon, sesame seeds, avocados, ghee (recommended 1 tsp. a day), greek yogurt, parmesan cheese, low-fat dairy products.

Just for fun, read below to know what famous and fit people like to have as their first meal - 

1.       Hrithik Roshan – 4 egg whites, 2 brown breads, a protein shake, corn flakes with milk and a platter of fresh fruit.

2.       Barry Jay, Barry’s Bootcamp – oatmeal with natural almond or peanut butter, whole-grain bread with almond butter, or a protein shake consisting of almond milk, protein powder, peanut butter, and banana.

3.       Bear Grylls - the recipe for his shake : The night before, roughly chop 100g cucumber and 100 broccoli and put in the freezer. The next morning, put the frozen vegetables into a (powerful) blender with half an unwaxed lemon, skin and all, a big thumb of ginger, skin on again, and enough cold water to loosen the whole thing up (75-100ml). Blitz, then use a spatula to scrape the mix down and blitz again. Repeat a few times until it’s fairly smooth. You can try to pour it into a glass, but it’s easier to eat with a spoon. If you don’t like eating smashed-up lemon pips or bitter pith, grate the zest into the blender, then squeeze in its juice.

4.       The Dalai Lama – tsampa, which is flour made of ground, roasted barley is eaten in dozens of ways as part of the Tibetan diet, including, as the Dalai Lama does, at breakfast, which he has at 5.30am. Traditionally, the nutty flour is mixed with tea and the rich, fermented, sometimes slightly cheesy butter from yak’s milk. It can also be had in porridge made with milk.

5.       Bruce Lee – a bowl of muesli!

Having said all this, you can still choose to have your old traditional breakfast that your mom serves (Akshay Kumar, one of the fittest actors, loves having parathas for breakfast) provided you support it with appropriate diet throughout the day and enough physical activity. But, it’s better to make some small changes like using whole wheat flour, rice bran oil, brown rice/oats for idlis, etc. to keep things on the positive side.