Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so make it count with nutritious whole grain dishes, both sweet and savoury
Breakfast is absolutely necessary to replenish one’s supply of energy and other nutrients to jump start metabolism. It is thus important to pick healthy foods that keep one energised throughout the day and whole grains are definitely the best choice. Thus, it’s good to get a few servings of these daily at breakfast.
Whether one craves pancakes, oatmeal, bread, dosas or upma, for breakfast one can have delicious and healthy options brimming with whole grains like quinoa, barley, millet and buckwheat, in some form or the other. Owing to the array of nutritional benefits that whole grains impart, coupled with the lifestyle changes people are undergoing, whole grains are back in several households and hotel kitchens. A tasteless bowl of steaming mush made with oatmeal or muesli with nuts and fruits, are not the only porridge or cereal options. The choices today are infinite – buckwheat, quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley, nachni or ragi, rajgira and bajra. These can be incorporated in a myriad exciting ways, along with other ingredients, into one’s breakfast to inculcate variety.
Chef Pradeep Rao, Chef de Cuisine, The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore, reiterates, “Whole grains retain the bran and hence are rich in protein and fibers. Because they digest slowly, one ends up feeling fuller longer and retain their energy levels. Also, if you’ve started the day on a healthy note, you end up feeling upbeat and fitter. Whole grains are very easy to work with. A chef only needs to get creative and work his magic with these grains.”
Versatile Whole Grains
One merely needs to use one’s imagination when combining whole grains with other flavourful ingredients to rustle up an interesting breakfast item. These need not be consumed in the grain form alone as flours made from whole grains are a simple way to make use of these. Whole grains can add interesting textures to dishes too. Chef Anurudh Khanna, Executive Chef, The Westin Pune, Koregaon Park, suggests combining these with milk, yoghurt or water, either by boiling, roasting, poaching and stewing whole grains, thus making them easily digestible.
Even if one is keen on a western breakfast with toast, eggs or pancakes, whole grains easily lend themselves to these. Multi-grain bread, quinoa in omelettes, barley cereal with low fat milk or yogurt, buckwheat crepes, millet porridge or ground millet muffins, there’s something for every palate. Chef Rao cautions, “Balance of ingredients is critical when using whole grains with other ingredients. Also, a little bit of planning ahead is important, as some whole wheat grains are coarse and need a fair bit of soaking in water to help them fluff up.”
Eat Local, Think Global
These whole grains are versatile and need not merely be used in cereals or in pancakes and crepes. Closer home, as Indians prefer dosas, upma, idlis, theplas and parathas for breakfast, whole grains like ragi, bajra, kuttu and barley, can be added to these too.
Again, couscous, barley, buckwheat and quinoa can be incorporated interestingly into Indian breakfast items too. Chef Khanna, recommends couscous for upma instead of the usual rawa or semolina. “Couscous can be tossed with fresh green vegetables and seasoned well to make a healthy high fibre, light upma for breakfast.”
Similarly, buckwheat (not from wheat) is a pseudo grain that is hugely popular as it is gluten free and is being used to make parathas for breakfast, apart from the usual crepes. Oats too make for a delicious savoury upma with vegetables, apart from being cooked with milk as porridge. Oats can also be mixed with besan (gramflour) to make a healthy chilla with vegetables, or even used to roll a ragi patty or tikki for breakfast, before being shallow fried.
However whole grains need not always be exotic as local whole grains are equally beneficial. A source of calcium, magnesium, iron, protein and fibre, the finger millet or ragi is now in great demand. Keppa or ragi roti has made a comeback and is being combined with fenugreek for additional benefits. Koozh, a ragi-based porridge with a buttermilk base, consumed mainly in Chennai, is also preferred. Many also opt for ragi idli. Many chefs suggest that, ragi, which is generally difficult to digest, should be soaked, sprouted and dried, prior to milling into atta, to improve its nutrient absorption.
Bajra or jowar Khichu is another breakfast staple of Gujarat, where bajra or jowar flour is combined with other whole grain flours, yoghurt and spices to make an upma-like dish. Thalipeeth, the savoury multi-grain pancake of Maharashtra too uses bajra and is perfect to kick-start one’s day. Bajra roti and garlic chutney is a breakfast enjoyed by our ancestors and is making a comeback again.
Jowar flour combined with rice flour, makes the perfect batter for uttapams, along with onions, green chilies and coriander. Rajgira, a wonder grain, comes in flour and grain form and is used in extensively in making rotis, theplas, breads and puris.
For the Sweet Tooth
Crepes, muffins and granola bars are not the only options to pander one’s sweet cravings at breakfast. Ragi halwa, nachni satva or a popular porridge in Maharashtra, sweet pancakes made with multi-grain flours like ragi and jowar, are equally great options. Enhance the sweetness with maple syrup, jaggery or honey.
So be it scrambled eggs with whole wheat grains paired with an oatmeal toast or a ragi upma, almost any dish can be made healthier by substituting regular flour for a whole-grain variety. With a little effort, this can set the tone for the day.
written by: Mini Ribeiro