Foodie Fix

Breakfast: What To Eat And What To Avoid

I grew up in a tiny suburb in the neighboring country Uganda, and as true to most suburbs, people there were never in a rush. One thing that was profound however is how seriously they took food, especially breakfast.

Mothers woke up by 5 AM, lit their charcoal stoves and put a cooked breakfast for their families. Hot matooke (green bananas) mixed with meat or cow’s intestines, boiled bone soup with potatoes, and porridge loaded with lots of milk was a typical breakfast in most homes.

For single men, there was always an option for them down the street where ‘Rolex’ (chapatti sandwiched with fried eggs) and fried cassava, to mention but a few, were easily available and at a cheap price. Life was good!

Fast forward to now, and times have clearly changed: everyone is in a rush, kids must be dropped by AM, most offices start by 7 AM as well, so really apart from children, most adults have omitted breakfast from their daily schedule, and understandably so. 

With all that being said, research has shown that Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day for it kicks off your metabolism, gives you the needed energy and sets you up for a productive day, wether at work or school. Skipping this meal has been linked to irritability, weight gain and fatigue.

Although this meal is essential to the overall performance of our bodies, the wrong choices can be detrimental to our health and give the opposite effect to the desired results. (One should also note that consuming most foods in moderation is key).

Here are some of the foods you should avoid when you sit for breakfast:

The Bad

White bread: This is a bummer because it is the most available and common breakfast option in Rwanda; spread  with margarine (Blueband) and you will be sure that the majority of people have this almost every day. White bread is made from refined flour, which provides you with few nutrients and little fiber, and because it is high in carbs and low in fiber, it spikes your blood sugar very fast, which later collapses, leading to rebound hunger that causes you to eat more on the next meal. Margarine contains trans fats which is the most unhealthy type of the fat we eat: it leads to inflammation and several illnesses.

Cereal: At all supermarket breakfast aisles you find variety of cereals, in different shapes and colors. This is especially desirable for parents with young children for most of them just love those, and to be honest sometimes what matters to the parents is seeing the kids eat something – particularly the picky toddlers . Cereal companies claim in the nutritional fact section on the  boxes that the cereal contains fiber, vitamins, is full of fruit and all the needed nutrients your family will need: however that’s not the whole truth:cereals are loaded with sugar, additives and the nutrients added are artificial and have little benefit to a growing body.

Fruit juice: One may think that juicing your fruit should be healthy. Contrarily to the belief, Juice is a bad choice especially if you are trying to avoid hunger or lose weight. Juicing the fruits removes the fiber and also increases the sugar content. This as a result make you feel tired, shaky and tired later in the day. It can be taken alongside another meal that will help on the sugar absorption and also fill you for longer 

Donuts: Most offices has a mama that comes in at 10 AM and brings in amandanzi, or ‘donuts’ by its fancy name; the greasy yummy goodness serves the purpose for those that have skipped breakfast in their homes yet it is not a good healthy choice. Just like white bread , donuts are made from refined flour and has that same effect as the bread, but on top of that anything deep fried is just not right for morning energy. 

Coffee: There has been a growing trend here in Kigali where many people will have their first stop at the coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee before they start their day, and you will also find that the majority of those people have only that coffee as a replacement of the breakfast meal. The caffeine in the coffee might dull your appetite temporarily, but chances are you will find yourself reaching for snacks by mid-morning. Instead of sipping the coffee solo, enjoy your coffee with a meal.

Unfortunately the beloved and popular amandazi do not make a good breakfast

By now you must be despairing that all your go to breakfast foods have been mentioned and wondering what on earth is left for you to enjoy. Good news is there are plenty of healthy options out there.

The Good

Oats are one of the best foods we can enjoy for a number of reasons: they are filled with fiber and plant-based protein, iron, calcium and magnesium. They have been linked to reduce the cholesterol levels in your body, fuels probiotics that helps the friendly bacteria in your gut to survive and thrive. To prepare: boil water, add the oats and then thin it with milk. To avoid sugar, try adding natural fruits like bananas or berries.

Porridge: Most traditional markets have a side where they sell porridge flour and they can mix it to your own liking. The common mixtures include millet, sorghum, soybeans, and maize flours, and these are full of nutrients that your system needs. Adding milk boosts further the benefits of this power meal. Packed alternatives are available in most super markets, the popular one at the moment being Nutri Series flour that is great for breastfeeding mothers and children, and I believe men can also get equal nutrients from this option.

Eggs: The beauty about eggs is that it can be enjoyed in different forms such as boiled, poached, fried, and added in vegetables to make frittatas. They are rich in protein, full of vitamins and are easily available and affordable. 

Quick breakfast egg recipes: To poach an egg, add vinegar to water and bring to a boil, then lower it to a simmer and swirl the water with a spoon, then add the cracked egg, and cook until the desired doneness. For the frittata, cut your favorite vegetables into smaller bits, and lightly sauté those with olive oil then add the eggs to make something that looks like the ‘omelet speciale’. This can be made in a rice cooker for a hands-off option.

Other recommended breakfast foods include: whole grain bread, natural yogurt, fruits and if you have enough time, go ahead and make the traditional alternative of agatogon- this can be taken a notch higher if you add proteins like beans, beef, ground nuts and liver.

Make breakfast part of your day and achieve the energy, brain function and all the nutrients needed — your body and boss will thank you for that. 

{Featured image: A baked frittata courtesy Tasty}

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