Eating veggies at breakfast
There are many ideas about what constitutes a healthy way of eating – should you eat meat and animal products, or not – low carb, moderate carb, carb cycling? One thing most would agree on, however, is that vegetables are important to include in your diet – it’s almost difficult to overdo them. It is safe to say that most of us could always use a few more servings of vegetables. I’ve been making a concerted effort to eat as many vegetables, and as large a variety of vegetables as possible, and I’d like to share a secret for getting them in…make sure you include them with EVERY meal. Guess what? That includes breakfast!!
Veggies at breakfast?
At first this may seem like an odd suggestion. Veggies at lunch, or dinner, sure…maybe even some carrot sticks as a snack, but breakfast? No way. And besides seeming strange, the concept may be daunting. Breakfast is often the most rushed meal of the day…so many of us need something to scarf down as we’re getting ready to go, running out the door, in the car, on the train…how would we possibly have time to prepare and eat veggies when we can barely make time for a cup of coffee and a protein bar?
Don’t worry, I have tips for you. Try them out…try adding them on weekends/days off at first, when you have more time. Then slowly add them to more breakfasts when you can. Then one day, you’ll realize it is part of your morning. Occasionally I will be unable to eat veggies in the morning when traveling, or staying at someone’s house, but I always find that I miss them now, and I’m always glad to get back to my breakfast veggies.
First of all, let’s get past the weirdness factor. If you’ve ever eaten an omelet with spinach, or peppers and onions for breakfast, you’ve eaten veggies for breakfast. Not too weird, huh? Of course if your idea of breakfast generally revolves around something like coffeecake, doughnuts, or pancakes, it may be hard to imagine veggies alongside your normal meal…but if you’re trying to eat more healthfully, these type of breakfast foods are probably best reserved for weekends and special occasions.
So, how do you go about getting those morning veggies in? Let’s start with the easiest ideas first:
Use your leftovers
Make a habit of cooking extra veggies at your dinners, then store them in your fridge to eat at your breakfasts. Most any cooked veggie will keep a good four days in a well sealed container in the refrigerator, and will heat up quickly in the microwave while you prep the rest of your breakfast.
These are easy to prep ahead of time and have ready to go in the morning. Some easy options are baby carrots, carrot sticks, celery sticks, pepper strips, sliced daikon radish, sliced jicama. As an extra benefit, these are all very portable to eat on the run. You can also try handfuls of salad greens, spinach, or arugula, if you have time to sit down and eat your breakfast. Leftover veggie salads are also a great option – just leave off any dressing when making the salad ahead, or it might be unappetizingly soggy.
Mix them in
If you like eggs for breakfast, it can be a natural way to include veggies. Omelets and scrambles can be great with spinach or other greens, peppers, onions, tomatoes. But don’t think eggs are the only way. You can also mix in chopped veggies when making homemade sausage patties. Sausage patties are simple to make ahead and warm up for quick breakfasts. Simply mix your favorite ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey) with some veggies and salt and pepper. Add in herbs for extra flavor, form patties, and bake or cook on the stove. You can make these on the weekends, and freeze for the coming week ahead. Here are some basic recipes to give you an idea of how easy they are to throw together. Just add a small amount of veggies to any of the below recipes…or experiment on your own!
Have a little more time? You can make the following on mornings where you have time to spend in the kitchen, or if you like to batch cook on weekends:
Sautéed veggies go great alongside any breakfast meat you might eat, from ham to bacon to sausage – and they are also great alongside eggs. Any veggie you like is good. Some that are quick and easy to sauté include zucchini or yellow squash, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. Also, I will often buy pre shredded broccoli or cabbage slaw veggies – these are great sautéed in your favorite healthy fat. If you own a veggie noodle maker, it can always be fun to have some veggie noodles at breakfast.
Hashes or grains
Hash generally requires taking some type of meat, and cooking it with chopped or grated veggies. You can brown some ground meat of your choice, pull the meat out of the pan, then cook your veggies in the rendered fat, then toss altogether at the end with your choice of seasonings. If you’ve got leftover cooked chicken, turkey, roast, or the like, you can even throw a hash together more quickly. Just sauté your veggies first, leave in the pan, then add your chopped leftover cooked meat and heat stir to warm up with the veggies. You can also layer cooked grains such as rice or quinoa with cooked veggies, either leftover or cooked that morning.
Sweet potatoes or winter squash
You can either bake sweet potatoes in the oven ahead of time and heat up as needed throughout the week, or pop them in the microwave in the morning. All you need to add is a little salt and butter or ghee, but you can also go crazy and load them with toppings – chopped nuts, a dash of honey, or maybe crumbled bacon or sausage – or more veggies like onions and mushrooms. Winter squash takes a little more time, so you might want to cook ahead of time, although you can also sometimes buy peeled and chopped butternut or acorn squash at the grocery store. These can be sautéed, steamed in a pressure cooker, and even cooked and pureed.
What about juices?
Some people like to juice fresh veggies in the morning, and it can be tasty. However, if you are going to juice regularly, there are some cautions here. Make sure you choose your juicer carefully, as different juicers will have an impact on the preservation of nutrients in the juice. Since mastication-type juicers juice at lower speeds, and do not heat the juice, they are often considered to be the best at preserving nutrients. You can also lose most of the fiber from the veggies that you’re using. One option is to use a high tech blender like the Blendtec or the Vitamix for your juicing. I own a Blendtecand it has a “whole juice” function, which will basically pulverize any veggie or fruit (including seeds and peel) into a liquid. The end product is thicker than your typical use, and may take some time getting used to, but will be a healthier juice, as it will include all the fiber and nutrients of the original ingredients. Another caution – if you have thyroid problems, or are at risk for thyroid problems, there is some evidence that juicing large amounts of raw crucifers (such as kale) on a regular basis may be problematic (see this link and this link) . If this is a concern for you, you can juice these occasionally instead of regularly, or alternatively, steam them lightly before juicing, which will lessen the goitrogens in the juice.
Well, that should give you some ideas to get you started. Try it for a few weeks, and see if it doesn’t grow on you. We will have more ideas for veggies at breakfast in a future article.