Healthy Breakfast

The Indian breakfast cereals market, though at a modest 250 crores now, is growing at an impressive 30% year-on-year. Though Kellogs has been in India for more than 10 years, it has not seen the kind of success it would have liked. The reason was quite simple. Indians like their breakfast hot and as you can imagine if you’ve not experienced it first hand, corn flakes and hot milk is not the best combo.

However, Kellogs has re-entered with some good introductions and still holds 80% share in a market where big names like ITC and Nestle are about to enter. What this tells us is that Indians are changing the way they eat and what they eat and even when they eat. And all changes are not necessarily for the better.


Lifestyle changes stem from education, awareness, exposure to other cultures, higher levels of income and concurrently more stressed routines. Most of us are too lazy for a morning walk and too indifferent for monitoring our sugar intake. With India being the diabetes capital of the world no wonder we let the pharma industry laugh all the way to the bank.

A wide majority of heart attacks are due to lifestyle issues. While not all things in your routine can be changed, things most amenable are the ones under your control. One area where one can bring about drastic changes with minimal effort is the first meal of the day. This is when the stomach is most absorptive having fasted for 8 hours, give or take. All subsequent meals are less efficiently absorbed. Having coffee and a cigarette for breakfast doesn’t seem too wise, does it?

So are we talking nutrition again?

When you haven’t been able to wash all the foam out of your hair since the water was running low and your two kids who are screaming on the top of their voices need to be taken to school and your already late for a meeting in which your boss will be expecting the file he wanted yesterday, nutrition won’t be the first thing on your mind. If at all you consider having breakfast, convenience would be the deciding factor. This is where breakfast cereals come in. All you have to do is pour. I’m sure people at Kellogs Head quarters still don’t get why we bother to heat everything! But as Indians become less and less Indian, business is bound to pick up.

Spare a thought for the Paratha?

Breakfast, like all meals, only more so, requires a mix of proteins, carbs and fats.

Surely, the very finely produced ready-to-eat breakfast offerings are healthier than your traditional breakfast bathed in oil. The answer is not so simple. While packaged foods may be perceived as healthier; very often, it is not the case. The more processed a food item is, the less healthy. It will contain more sugar and salt and preservatives. And a large proportion of the natural nutrients present in it will have been washed away in all the processing. Even when rice is polished, when it goes from brown to white and wheat is broken, a large part of the nutrients is lost. So imagine what is left in a packet of white bread or rice noodles.

If flour from whole grains and a mixture of grains is used to make Parathas and its variants, it would make for a pretty good choice of breakfast (of course assuming that you use oil/ghee sparingly). Like in previous articles, we are not encouraging you to count calories but some basic knowledge can go a long way.

This brings us to the topic of RDA:

Many foods these days, especially those claiming to be ‘health food’, including powders to be mixed with milk and also products required by law, display %RDA meaning the percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance that a certain serving of the product provides. The catch here is the serving. In a bid to look scientific and healthy, many foods have long list of nutrients, most of which you’ve never heard of, in proportions that are lower than those of pesticides in your food!

Of course, micro nutrients are required only in minute amounts. So as you are reading the various %RDAs, ranging from 1 to 50, do you notice how much of a serving would provide that amount? It’s usually in multiples of 100 grams. Having the whole pack won’t help. You may have to drink the whole stock available at the store to fulfill your daily requirement of a particular nutrient! Also, RDA is a generalization; different people in different conditions with different routines require different proportions of nutrients.

The options:

Some of the options; which are by no means exclusive, are:

1. Joining cooking classes: If you think you need to learn and don’t like eating outside.

2. Canteen at your place of work with the same old and expensive food everyday.

3. Muesli/oats: Now being introduced in India, are high fiber and high protein and help check cholesterol. They are also filling and surprisingly don’t taste like medicine. A 30-50 gram serving in skimmed milk can rival the energy from 2 rotis.

4. Soya: A similar serving of soy with milk is also highly recommended. Soy is a complete protein. It is the only vegetarian source comparable to animal proteins and is claimed to reduce cholesterol.

Beyond convenience is practicality:

If you don’t mind cooking and can find time for it, all you need to do is check the oil/ghee. By adding some fruits and curd, you have a pretty complete breakfast, one which has variety and is easier on the taste buds.

Soy is the most economical source of protein. However, the processed form that comes to you in cartons is priced comparably with all other types of breakfast cereals. And if you find it a bit too hard on the wallet, nothing can still beat 2 eggs and a glass of milk.

If you are a foodie, it is highly unlikely that you are reading this feature or having started, or are still reading it. But with so much variety, one can always mix and match. Some fruits or juices are never a bad idea at breakfast. And companies who understand the importance of palatability are coming up with more and more acceptable tastes.

Of course, it can never be as good as your mom’s cooking or yours, if you’ve successfully joined those classes we spoke about. But if I can ever formulate a healthy breakfast that also tastes the best, I’d be a rich man.

By-Punit G. Pania