Which Nation truly has the Breakfast of Champions?

They say an army marches on its stomach and The Pure Package has scoured Europe to bring you an insight into what the tournament’s top teams – and their hoards of supporters – will be tucking into for breakfast to prepare for battle.

With England taking on Ukraine, The Netherlands playing Portugal and Spain tackling Croatia there are some interesting match-ups to come on the pitch at Euro 2012 which starts on the 8th June.

Even if you’re not interested in the football, what about how the countries taking part match up to each other in the kitchen? What foods will be fuelling each country’s players when it comes to match day and whose national dishes might give them the edge?

As it’s the most important meal of the day, breakfast is a great indicator of a nation’s cuisine and delving into the continent’s kitchen reveals some very interesting differences in how some of these great footballing rivals choose to start their day.

Our founder, Jennifer Irvine gives her verdict on who has the true breakfast of champions:

When you say ‘England’ and ‘breakfast’ one immediately thinks of the good old Full English. However, it seems us Brits are much more likely to play it safe with plain old toast. A survey in 2011 revealed that, although porridge is gaining in popularity, 8 out of 10 people in the UK start the day with toast accompanied by the iconic English cuppa. 2 slices of white toast with honey and a cup of tea with milk: 209 calories and 1.3g saturated fat

Breakfast of Champions?
“Over-processed white toast is not worth eating (it lacks any sort of nutrition). This breakfast is also lacking in protein. Brown or rye bread release their energy much more slowly making you feel fuller for longer and by combining this low-releasing, healthier carb with a good source of protein (such as peanut butter) it will ensure you don’t go searching for a filling snack an hour later!” Jennifer Irvine, Founder, The Pure Package.

In Spain, “el desayuno” is by far the smallest meal of the day. As Spaniards typically eat a large lunch, a traditional breakfast may be little more than a café con leche (similar to a Latte) accompanied by deep fried, donut-like churros or small, sweet cakes called magdelenas. It’s also not uncommon to see Spanish people eating toast with a small amount of soft cheese or ham. Café con leche and Churros: 585 calories and 5.57g of saturated fat

Breakfast of Champions?
“It is really important to start the day with a balanced breakfast, and sugar laden churros or magdelenas are not going to give you lasting energy to keep you going until lunchtime. You can’t really go wrong with a breakfast of soft cheese, rye bread and a roasted tomato. It is a great combination of protein and carbohydrate and will come in at about half the calories of the churros.” Jennifer Irvine, Founder, The Pure Package.

In Russia many people start the day with “syrniki” which are a simple type of pancake made by frying beaten eggs, sugar and flour with cottage cheese. A breakfasting Russian may enjoy two to three of these served with sour cream and washed down with sweet black tea similar to that popular in Turkey. Syrniki with sour cream and black tea with sugar: 392 calories and 1.7g saturated fat

Breakfast of Champions?
“This isn’t far off an omelette – but make sure you leave out the sugar and flour! Having sugar at breakfast will spike your blood sugar levels, and give you an almighty high followed by a real low. I would suggest adding some vegetables and herbs (any that take your fancy) so that the proportion of carbohydrate and protein is better balanced.” Jennifer Irvine, Founder, The Pure Package.

Similarly to their Spanish cousins, the Greeks see breakfast as the lesser of their daily meals. With a late lunch and dinner usually not eaten until well after 9pm, many simply make do with a cup of tea or coffee. Those wanting to start the day the right way might eat some fresh bread alongside some feta cheese and olives. A popular breakfast drink is black tea sweetened with honey. Bread, feta and olives and a cup of black tea with honey: 462 calories and 5.9g saturated fat

Breakfast of Champions?
“I would be perfectly happy with this! Fresh brown/rye bread served with some feta cheese, olives and cucumber. Just watch your portions! It will not only give you an energy boost to start the day, but by eating a balanced breakfast (such as this) you may notice other health benefits such as weight control and improved mental performance.” Jennifer Irvine, Founder, The Pure Package.

There is a tradition for Croatian people to have “gablec” which literally means ‘breakfast eaten with cutlery’. This custom dates back to the former Yugoslavia, where people started work or school very early and had no time for breakfast. Eaten mid-morning, “gablec” may consist of a dish called sarm (cabbage stuffed with meat and vegetables) or goulash. Sarm and a glass of rakija: 407 calories and 6.6g saturated fat

Breakfast of Champions?
“I’ve said it before, it is really important to eat breakfast. Traditionally Croatians probably needed their hearty goulash mid-morning snack as they hadn’t had anything earlier. They should have started with it – balanced, with good protein and some carbs. A hearty breakfast I love is smoked mackerel and quails egg kedgeree.” Jennifer Irvine, Founder, The Pure Package.

“It’s interesting to learn how different countries around Europe choose to do breakfast and if I was put on the spot I’d say that the typical Greek breakfast looks the most balanced. However that’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement (especially with portion sizes). Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and has been proven to help weight control and boost mental performance. A healthy breakfast should always contain good sources of protein and carbohydrate and because many people still find breakfast to be a chore it’s important to vary what you have on different days to keep things interesting,” says Jennifer.