5 ways to veg up your mornings
Breakfast. I gotta say I love this meal almost more than any other (don’t tell lunch and dinner). For me, it is a chance to break the fast of the night before with something nourishing, delicious and satisfying that I know is going to fuel me through an exciting day. The time I take to prepare it and savor it is precious to me, helping me feel prepared and collected to take on the tasks at hand that day. Not to mention that it increases my ability to focus and prevents me from getting hangry later in the day. In case you're not familiar with the term hangry, it refers to a dangerous combination of hungry and angry that usually leads to poor food choices. Not. Cute.
When I embarked on my journey to becoming a Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition last May, one of the first assignments was to do “The Breakfast Experiment” - eat a different breakfast each day for one week and notice if you feel any difference in your daily health and energy. I had been in a habit since high school of pretty much always having cereal (choosing more highly nutritious varieties as I got older) with non-dairy milk and some sort of cut fruit, usually banana. I had also added in oatmeal with fruit and sometimes nuts, sometimes Ezekiel toast with nut butter and jam, and had done eggs before becoming vegan. All pretty standard breakfast foods.
For the experiment, I thought, “Cool, I’ll do my cereal, my oatmeal, a big smoothie one day, a vegan bran muffin another, pancakes and….” What else? Yikes! It dawned on me that in all of my breakfast adventures throughout my whole life, there was one extremely essential food group that I was completely neglecting. VEGETABLES. Big “Duh!” moment for me.
There can be no denying from any health camp (vegan, paleo, macrobiotic, low-carb, you name it) that one of the most important things for ANYONE to do to improve their health and well-being is to EAT MORE VEGETABLES. Yet most typical American breakfasts are sadly bereft of these key gems in our diets. When I was in Israel, however, I witnessed tons of people munching on whole cucumbers and tomatoes at the breakfast table. In my travels in Japan, traditional breakfasts were of miso soup with seaweed, pickled vegetables and rice. I thought these practices to be strange and foreign at the time, but now started to realize that I should perhaps follow their lead. If you are trying to eat more vegetables and you are not eating any at breakfast, you are cheating yourself out of a great opportunity to reap the benefits of some awesome superfoods!
Inspired by the experiment, by the Japanese, Israelis and one of my favorite books, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, I started the journey to break my fast with veggies (at least more often). I find that when I do, I feel more balanced, I have less cravings for unhealthy foods, and I go into my day with the satisfaction of having already done something really good for my body, which sets me up to be kind to myself the whole day! Now who couldn’t use a little more of that?
Below are my five favorite ways to incorporate veggies into your breakfast. Just pick one that looks good (maybe something you would want for lunch) and try eating it out one of these mornings. It will probably be less weird and more delicious than you think!
1. Green Smoothie
This is an obvious first choice but is a great go-to for those of you who is not quite ready to take the sweetness out of their morning meal, has very little time to get up and out the door in the morning, or who just really isn’t into eating breakfast. You don’t have to - you can drink it instead!
Here is my favorite recipe, but feel free to explore the plethora of green smoothie recipes out there on the internet, or simply create your own!
1 frozen banana
2 handfuls of destemmed kale leaves or spinach leaves (or as much as you can fit in the blender)
1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 tbsp almond or peanut butter
2 tbsp flax or chia seeds
1-2 dates (optional for added sweetness)
Pumpkin seeds to garnish (optional)
Blend all together, adding more liquid if need be! You can even make it the night before and stash in the fridge overnight to avoid the morning rush or waking up your roommates. Pour it into a glass jar and boogie out the door, or sip leisurely at home.
2. Avocado Toast or Rice Cakes
Okay, so avocado is technically a fruit (a berry actually!) and not a vegetable, but it has some seriously veggie-like health benefits and has none of the sugar that other fruits have, giving it a much lower glycemic load. This one is super easy and delicious and is gaining popularity as a staple in most brunch spots, as well. You can up the veg-tastic factor by using one of my favorite seasonings, Maine Coast Organic Triple Blend Flakes. It features three different kinds of dried sea vegetables, adding a delicious flavor and the essential but tough-to-get nutrient, iodine, to this dish.
- Toast two slices of sprouted grain (I like Ezekiel brand) or gluten-free bread (Food for Life is my fav), or just use organic brown rice cakes for more crunch!
- Mash 1/2 ripe avocado in a bowl or jar with 1 tsp olive or flaxseed oil, a tiny bit of lemon juice and a tiny pinch of sea salt.
- Spread on toast or rice cakes, sprinkle with your favorite toppings: kelp seasonings, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, paprika, lemon pepper are all awesome options.
- For more veggie power, add sliced tomatoes, roasted red pepper and/or cucumbers on top! Whatever you would put on a bagel, try it here. It will be more nutritious and delicious!
- Veg-crazy? Serve with a side of mixed greens with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
3. Quick Miso Soup
I took a cue from my Japanese friends on this one, who sip miso soup daily, and for good reason. Miso is contains gut-healthy probiotics that boost immunity and improve digestion, making it a wonderful food to start your day with. It also comes together so quickly and is easy to customize to your own preferences.
- Boil water in your kettle. After it boils, let cool for a couple minutes (overheating the miso deactivates its live probiotic enzymes)
- Place 1/2-1cup cooked quinoa or brown rice in a bowl.
- Use any sauteed, roasted or steamed vegetable leftovers you have in your fridge. I like to use kale, mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini, but you do you and experiment! Or you can do a quick sauté of the above, starting with the carrots, then zucchini and mushrooms, and ending with the kale, as it cooks down quicker. Place veggies on top of quinoa in your bowl. (Optional but recommended: add chopped green onions and/or strips of dried seaweed like kombu)
- Place 1.5 tbsp miso on top. Pour enough hot water over everything to cover and stir until the miso is dissolved. Taste and add more miso if desired.
Check out my previous post on recipes for the vegan-curious for more info about miso!
4. Tofu scramble
This is a great protein-packed option to keep you full throughout your morning and a great way to sneak in some veggies while you’re at it. It’s full of flavor and makes a great lunch or dinner as well! My recommendation: make a big batch when you have a little time and save the leftovers for meals throughout the week. You can put it in a brown rice tortilla with salsa and avocado as a breakfast burrito or serve it over grains or greens for a quick lunch.
I am a home cook, not a chef, so I will share with you my favorite, easy recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Minimalist Baker. Try out their Simple Tofu Scramble!
Another awesome, protein-packed breakfast option that is great to make fresh or ahead of time and warm up quickly in the toaster oven in the morning. I love these with hummus, a drizzle of watered-down tahini, avocado and cilantro, or just some salsa or hot sauce. You can even roll it up around some sprouts, your favorite sauce and avocado, wrap in tin-foil and be ready to go! Use the recipe below, but don’t be afraid of adding in whatever your ever-veggie-loving heart desires.
Also from one of my favorite blogs, The Simple Veganista, here is a great recipe for your Savory Chickpea Pancake.
Got more ideas? Share them in the comments below!
With all the love and light in my heart, GOOD MORNING!