How Traveling Through Scandinavia Changed the Way I Eat Breakfast

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Kaat Zoetekouw/Stocksy)

While traveling through Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway last summer on my honeymoon, I fell in love with breakfast. This was definitely not the breakfast I knew back home in the South, which consisted of hearty dishes like fried chicken and waffles, biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, and Bloody Marys garnished with bacon and every pickled vegetable under the sun. In Scandinavia I was enamored of the lighter, healthier fare — cozy bowls of porridge, smörgås, and gravlax.

Back at home, I would flip-flop between eschewing a proper breakfast all together on the weekdays to binging on carb- and calorie-rich brunches on the weekends. It took me traveling to the motherland to get schooled in what a proper, healthy breakfast entails.

A New Way to Breakfast in Scandinavia

It is only fitting that our first meal on our Nordic adventure was breakfast. When we arrived at the Reykjavik, Iceland airport at 5 a.m., we tided ourselves over with a fruit smoothie and then later that morning enjoyed gravlax downtown. While staying on Vestmannaeyjar (Iceland’s Westman Islands), one morning we satiated ourselves with a healthy spread of cured meats, cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, and skyr (a low-fat Icelandic yogurt-like product), which helped sustain us during our hike up the volcanic island’s Eldfell peak.

For morning meals in Denmark we sipped espresso drinks and indulged in savory pastries at hip coffeehouses. On other mornings we dined in cozy eateries that served brunch small plates for the table to share — avocado topped with chile pepper and cilantro, rye bread slathered in sweet butter, ham topped with fresh veggies, along with a hard-boiled egg gingerly snuggled in a nest of straw.

In Sweden, breakfast staples like müsli (raw rolled oats), filmjölk (fermented milk), lingonberry jam, and smörgås made an appearance. While in Norway each morning I enjoyed smoked fish topped with paper-thin radishes and vibrant herbs.

How I Eat Breakfast After My Trip

After our Nordic adventure, I felt myself longing for the authentic Scandinavian breakfasts we enjoyed at the hotels and cafes we visited overseas. I missed the protein-rich spreads of smoked fish, slices of cured meats, and hard-boiled eggs and decided to make some changes with my uninspired breakfast routine back at home.

I started boiling a batch of eggs on Monday mornings so I would have them readily available for the whole week. Rather than grabbing a boring breakfast bar, I found myself enjoying a sliced egg topped with sea salt and pepper or, if I was feeling adventurous, hot sauce. And recently, enabling my hard-boiled egg addiction, my husband purchased an electric egg cooker, which requires a small amount of water to steam six eggs.

I got creative with my morning meal prep by beet-brining eggs and then creating a vibrant smörgås by topping my toast with fuchsia-and-gold egg slices, cracked sea salt, and dill. Or beet hummus with egg and dill. The morning after a dinner party, while rummaging through our refrigerator, I took out our charcuterie spread leftovers of cured meats, raw veggies, and cheeses and fashioned myself a lovely breakfast snack board.

Get the recipe: Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs

When dining out, I now forgo the heavy breakfast burritos, butter- and syrup-smothered pancakes, and fried chicken and waffles that I used to stuff myself with. Smoked fish is my new go-to — a gravlax bagel or frittata topped with smoked fish. At our local Jewish delicatessen I’ll order a smoked fish platter that is served with capers, red onion, radish, sprouts, and my choice of bagel and pickles. Breakfast, which was either an afterthought or a binge-fest, is now a meal I approach with intention and care.

After exploring my family’s heritage in Scandinavia, I started embracing certain aspects of the Nordic lifestyle and applying them to my day-to-day routine. And I can’t think of a better way to start off my day than with an energizing meal that reminds me of the place where my family came to be.