Ever look at your kid’s morning bowl of Cheerios (or their charred Pop Tart, no one’s judging you) and wonder what parents around the world feed their own kids for breakfast? It turns out, all sorts of stuff, and some countries do a decidedly better job than others. That’s according to Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietician and the author of the book Eating In Color. While Largeman-Roth stresses that “really any breakfast is better than no breakfast at all,” after her assessment of normal kids’ breakfasts from 12 different countries, one thing is clear: Don’t let a Dutchman serve your kid hagelslag.
Tortillas, black beans, eggs, plantains, papaya or mango, and avocado — even their breakfast sounds like a tropical paradise.
Largeman-Roth Says: “The beans offer up protein and fiber, the eggs contribute more protein, plus choline, which is vital for brain development. The avocado is rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats and the mango and papaya both deliver beta-carotene and Vitamin C, which is important for a kid’s vulnerable immune system.”
A Japanese kid’s breakfast — rolled omelet, grilled salmon, miso soup, and okayu rice porridge — is basically the best takeout meal you had last week.
Largeman-Roth Says: “Delicious! This breakfast offers protein, omega-3s, and hydration, and it sounds very filling. The omega-3s are vital for brain development in kids.”
Dutch kids drink milk for breakfast, along with buttered bread topped with “hagelslag,” which is apparently Dutch for “a crap-load of sugary sprinkles.” It would be lazy stereotyping to call this the most stoner-sounding breakfast of all time. It would also be true.
Largeman-Roth Says: “The milk is a great choice, but the bread is quite atrocious. It’s all refined carbs without any fiber or protein to mitigate the spike in blood sugar, which is not great for getting kids to sit still and focus.”
Icelandic kids start things normally enough, with an oatmeal porridge called “hafragrautur” that includes brown sugar, maple syrup, butter and fruit. But, because nothing is normal in a land where the sun never rises for several months a year, they finish things with a shot of cod liver oil.
Largeman-Roth Says: “The cod liver oil provides those all-important omega-3s, and while the porridge is sweetened, it’s made with whole grains, which provide sustained energy.” She seems to gloss over the fact that cod liver oil is made with oil from the livers of cod.
Kids in Capetown (and, presumably, the rest of the country), like a steaming bowl of “hot pap,” which is a cornmeal porridge similar to grits, with milk and sugar and a cup of hot tea. No word on whether or not they have to ask meekly when they want some more.
Largeman-Roth Says: “The porridge is whole grain, and likely very filling, which is important for small kids. Milk provides calcium for growing bones. We don’t approve of giving kids caffeine in this country, but it’s commonplace in many countries and, depending on the strength of the tea, it may not have that much caffeine.” This avoids the obvious question: “What kind of masochist gives their kid caffeine?”
Iranian kids eat a Persian flatbread called “noon sangak,” served with butter, jam, and a feta-style cheese, along with Persian tea and a diatribe from the Ayatollah against the The Great Satan.
Largeman-Roth Says: “Noon sangak is a whole wheat bread, and while the feta-type cheese is salty, it’s relatively low in fat and provides calcium.”
If you like pho, the soup that made Vietnam famous (and, really, who doesn’t love boiled tripe?), move the family to Hanoi because that’s what kids eat at pretty much every meal. The breakfast version might include a “bun” of vermicelli noodles, sticky rice called “xoi,” and a congee-style rice porridge called “cháo.”
Largeman-Roth Says: “Pho is very hearty and has a ton of protein; the rest of the meal is quite starchy but fairly balanced. It doesn’t have many vegetables, but does contain plenty of herbs and spices, which are antioxidant-rich.”
Like their Southeast Asian neighbors, Thai kids have soup for breakfast. “Khao” is broth and rice, usually with bits of seafood and vegetables mixed in. Say what you want about seafood for breakfast — it’s still lighter than tripe.
Largeman-Roth Says: “Hearty, and provides lots of protein and carbs.”
The traditional English breakfast is bangers (sausage), baked beans, eggs, and toast. Befitting a stiff British upper lip, they don’t switch it up for the wee ones.
Largeman-Roth Says: “While a good source of protein, this breakfast lacks Vitamin C and fiber. I’d love to see some fruit on that plate.” Unfortunately, there is no fruit in Great Britain.
Contrary to what your buddy told you, French tykes don’t smoke a pack of cigs for breakfast, but they’re not necessarily winning nutrition awards with the jam-covered baguettes, crepes, and hot chocolate this is common.
Largeman-Roth Says: “This breakfast isn’t that nutritious, but the hot chocolate has milk and provides some calcium and protein.”
If you ever wondered what Augustus Gloop ate for breakfast besides candy, it was probably a spread of rolls and jam, cheese, soft-boiled eggs, cold meats, and tomatoes. But, mostly, it was candy.
Largeman-Roth Says: “My mother was German, so I enjoyed this breakfast many times when we visited family. It seems heavy, but the rolls are small and hard and not very caloric. The eggs, cheese, and meat provide protein. The one issue is that it’s relatively high in sodium.” The other issue is that she’s clearly biased.
Despite a reputation for flamboyance, a traditional Brazilian kids’ breakfast is pretty routine: a dry, Corn Flakes-style cereal and “bisnaguinha,” which is sweet bread served with cream cheese.
Largeman-Roth Says: “These 2 items combined are a pretty sugary way to start the day, but the cheese does provide some calcium and protein.” At this point, it appears Largeman-Roth is willing to hand out participation trophies for any nation that feeds its kids cheese for breakfast.