Breakfast, revamped

Step away from the scramble. Why you may want to start your day the Japanese way.

The American-style country breakfast — a "bigger is better" buffet of eggs, bacon, home fries, toast and sausage — is hardly a healthy way to greet the day. When Western alternatives (read: oatmeal and smoothies) get monotonous, consider taking a cue from another nation’s traditional morning meal, which contains satisfying sides loaded with nutritional value.

In Japan, grilled or broiled fish is served with miso soup, steamed rice (or white rice porridge) and supplemental dishes like nori (dried seaweed) and natto (fermented soy beans). Sharon Palmer, RD, dietitian and author of the upcoming book The Powerful Plants Diet, breaks down the nutrient-rich components: "fish, high in omega-3s and low in saturated fats; anti-inflammatory seasonings; fermented soy-based foods, which appear to have heart health benefits; sea vegetables, which possess unique bioactive compounds that are high in antioxidants, and even vegetables for extra fiber."

The result? A low-calorie meal that not only aids in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes, but also promotes weight loss and sharpens mental acuity.

It’s likely such benefits appeal to diners at En Japanese Brasserie in NYC, where the most popular breakfast order is Shaké Teishoku, a well-portioned spread of salt-grilled Scottish salmon, mizuna and watercress salad, oshinko (housemade Japanese pickles), nori, soup, white rice, fresh tofu and vegetables. The balance of protein and carbs leaves you feeling full but not sick — the way American brunches can, explains co-owner Jesse Alexander. Not to mention its ability to cure a hangover.

Not in NYC to drop in and taste for yourself? Create a quick, condensed meal at home simply by salting a fillet of salmon, broiling it for several minutes, and serving with white rice. (It's Sarah Jessica Parker's breakfast of choice). For those attached to their Western breakfast routine, Palmer recommends incorporating high quality protein, unrefined carbs and veggies for a similar effect: "Try whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, or wheat berries with nuts, milk or soy milk, and fresh fruit or make a sandwich on hearty, whole grain bread with smoked salmon, lettuce and tomatoes."

En Japanese Brasserie is located at 435 Hudson Street, at Leroy Street, in NYC’s West Village (212-647-9196).