Would it surprise you to know that it isn’t local favourites like nasi lemak and roti canai, or even just bread and butter or jam, that are the most popular breakfast choices for Malaysians?
Instead, a survey reveals that the most popular choices are coffee and eggs (30%), followed by tea and rice, and coffee and rice (both 22%).
However, popularity does not equal quality.
“It’s interesting that all of these options stated don’t really provide a complete healthy breakfast,” says Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board chairman Dr Kent Bradley.
The Asia Pacific Healthy Breakfast Survey 2019 was commissioned by Herbalife Nutrition and included 11 countries in the region, including Malaysia.
Coffee and eggs could be healthier than nasi lemak, for instance, but it’s important to note that the recommended proportion of nutrients in a healthy breakfast is 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fibre.
“Eggs have essential amino acids, but they also have a high level of cholesterol and very little fibre.
“It’s recommended to have 20-30 grammes of fibre per day, but most individuals probably consume only half of that,” says Dr Bradley, who is also Herbalife Nutrition’s Medical Affairs and Education vice-president.
There are abundant health benefits related to having breakfast regularly, and fortunately, the majority of Malaysians are aware of them.
They recognise that gaining energy (83%) is the number one advantage of having breakfast, followed by increasing their metabolism (49%), improving their personal well-being (39%), improving their mood (38%) and maintaining their weight (37%).
Considering that breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day, it’s also encouraging to note that half of Malaysians (54%) fill up their stomach within two to three hours after waking up every day.
Consequently, 74% of them feel more energetic and productive post-breakfast.
“Our body goes through an overnight fasting period when we sleep.
“By eating within two to three hours after we get up, we can kickstart our metabolism and stave off hunger that may cause us to make unhealthy choices in order to address our cravings,” says Dr Bradley.
When it comes to preparing breakfast, the survey found that three-quarters of Malaysians are most influenced by convenience and accessibility, rather than the healthiness (39%) and nutritional value (37%) of their meal.
This is probably why one-third of Malaysians would buy their breakfast from an eatery, rather than prepare it from scratch (30%) or use processed food (24%) at home.
“Another way to incorporate convenience and nutritional value at home is to set aside food that can be eaten with minimal preparation and can be consumed on the go,” says Dr Bradley.
Although nine out of 10 Malaysians (94%) want to have a healthier meal in the morning, there are a few barriers that prevent them from doing so.
“The main issues in consuming a healthy breakfast are the desire for convenience (75%), lack of time (73%) and lack of money (36%), while one-third think it requires too much work,” says the nutritionist.
On the other hand, he suggests that lack of knowledge could contribute to Malaysians having less healthy breakfasts.
“For example, Malaysia’s third most popular breakfast option (which is a bowl of rice and eggs) has 400 calories (4g of fibre and 10g of protein) and has very low nutritional value.
“What we need to do now is teach the public on how to get better nutrition without the cost of the calories,” he says.
A complete breakfast that addresses our body’s needs should focus on a high density of protein, good sources of low calories, and adequate carbohydrates, fibre and multivitamins.
Spinach, two-egg omelettes and high-fibre wholegrain bread are good options, for example.
Dr Bradley notes however, that our protein intake should be spread throughout the day.
“The ideal protein for a person is 0.8g per kilogramme of body weight and it’d be great if it’s spread out evenly throughout the day.
“The body doesn’t store protein, but instead, uses it up, so it’s important to have some source of protein every three to six hours.
“Having a decent amount of protein consistently will help build our muscle. It’s extremely helpful to keep our metabolism high.
“Anything you can do to keep your muscle mass is really good and protein is a good way to do that,” he says.