Tick off a serve of vegetables for breakfast
I get it. The clock is ticking away, the kids still haven’t brushed their teeth, you’ve forgotten to hang the washing, and then you realise you haven’t eaten breakfast. It’s the same story at my house. So, you start the day with whatever you can grab on the go, but in the meantime, you’ve missed a golden opportunity to kick-start your veggie intake for the day.
Did you know, 94 percent of Australian adults aren’t consuming the recommended amounts of vegetables and fruit, with detriment to our long-term health? (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020/21 National Health Survey). According to the Heart Foundation, fruit and vegetables can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Eating fruit and vegetables can also help manage cholesterol levels and weight.
Ideally, adults should eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day. Two serves of fruit are achievable: a banana or apple for morning tea, a handful of dried fruit, such as apricot or sultanas. Similarly, lunch and dinner are more straightforward – a sandwich with cucumber, tomato and lettuce, a bowl of grains with a salad, leftover veggie pizza from the night before, roast vegetables for dinner or a stir fry. But there’s one meal of the day that’s crying out for attention, and that’s breakfast.
A balanced breakfast should have a mix of carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals and a small amount of good fats. Vegetables are high in fibre, and boast antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that will give you the boost you need to kickstart your day. Not only that, knowing you’ve knocked off one serve of veg with breakfast is pretty satisfying for the mind.
According to Eat for Health, a standard serve is about 75g or:
- ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots, or pumpkin)
- ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas, or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ cup sweet corn
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, pumpkin)
- 1 medium tomato
I’m not someone who has ample time in the morning. I’ve got a toddler on my hip, another child who wants to get their paints out before daycare drop off and a job that I’m trying to get to on time. But I’m passionate about vegetables, eating well to feel better, and being a good role model, so I wanted to see how I could easily incorporate a serve of vegetables for breakfast. I’m talking minimal prep, minimal cooking, quick delivery, and pretty tasty.
What I learned from this experiment over a couple of weeks is that it’s certainly achievable with a little bit of preparation and an open mind.And whose kids don’t want to eat whatever is on your plate? A happy outcome of this experiment was seeing my little ones eat vegetables at breakfast too.
Here are six easy ways I’ve managed to eat one serve of vegetables (and sometimes two!) for breakfast.
I love wholemeal or wholegrain toast for breakfast and generally opt for toppers like peanut butter and banana, or vegemite and cheese. But I had to change my thinking and be a bit more inventive to get vegetables on my toast.
Here’s what I came up with:
- Snack or cocktail tomatoes are super sweet and so convenient since you don’t even have to chop them. Just heat some oil in a pan, throw in a cup of snack tomatoes, and jiggle them around the pan so they don’t burn. Crack and egg in the same pan, then serve on toast with a sprinkle of salt.
- Cannellini beans have an excellent nutritional profile, so while my toast was cooking, I mashed ½ cup of cannellini beans with ½ an avocado. Spread on toast with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Avocado and beans are both neutral flavours, so if you enjoy more of a flavour punch, you can mix through some fresh garlic, a squeeze of hot sauce or sprinkle with an ‘everything’ or ‘bagel’ seasoning (available at supermarkets).
- I always seem to have leftover sweet potato from dinner. Inspired by ‘loaded sweet potatoes’, I spread crunchy peanut butter on my toast, added warmed sweet potato wedges, and topped with banana slices. It was such a great way to eat up leftovers and add more nourishment to my toast. This would also work with sweet potato mash.
- In a sandwich press or grill, I discovered I can turn leftover broccoli into a tasty breakfast. I put the broccoli on bread, sprinkled with Colby cheese and then stuck it in the sandwich press. During toasting, I recommend letting the top of the sandwich press just lightly touch your cheese for a crispy finish!
- I love cheese and tomato on toast, and often have toasties for lunch. But, why not have a cheese and tomato toastie for breakfast? Thickly slice one tomato, add some cheese, salt, and pepper, and while that’s cooking, you have two hands to manage everything else!
I made an easy tomato, cucumber, avocado for dinner one night and wondered why I couldn’t eat this in the morning! It was fresh, tasty, and energising so it made sense to start my day with it. It’s more of a weekend breakfast for me since I have a little more time to prepare the ingredients. All you do is chop even amounts of each vegetable into bite sized pieces, and drizzle olive oil and fresh lemon juice to your taste. Season with salt and pepper. You could also serve this with a dollop of hummus.
Did you know you can grate vegetables like zucchini, carrot and even cauliflower into your oats? I didn’t, but I’m so glad I do now! Add your veggies at the beginning of cooking to give them time to soften and blend through. I found the stovetop works best and a delightful mix was carrot, oats, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a dash of maple syrup and some sultanas.
In the mornings, you won’t catch me in the kitchen cutting up vegetables for an omelette. I happily discovered that you could grab a packet of steam vegetables, like beans, carrot, peas, corn, cauliflower and broccoli, microwave as per the instructions on the packet, then add to the egg once it’s already cooking. Flip when the underside is cooked. Easy peasy.
Breakfast wrap for on the go
A breakfast wrap is something that you make ahead of time so you can grab it on your way out the door. Remember not to add any wet ingredients that will make the wrapping soggy.
Here are some combinations I love:
- wholemeal wrap, baby spinach, sliced boiled egg, avocado slices, feta cheese, hummus, capsicum strips, seasoned with salt and pepper.
- wholemeal wrap, baby spinach, smoked salmon, 1 cup of uncut snack tomatoes, cream cheese, avocado slices, seasoned with salt and pepper.
It’s no surprise that I opted for smoothies for breakfasts some mornings! They’re super easy, good for ‘on the go’, and just about any vegetable can be incorporated. The obvious vegetables are baby spinach, cucumber, celery and avocado, however I found neutral vegetables were excellent additions. While preparing dinner one night, I steamed extra cauliflower, which I then froze into 1 cup portions. Raw zucchini can also be chopped and frozen, as well as carrots, or thrown straight into the blender. You can also use vegetable leftovers from dinner - sweet potato and broccoli are great blended into smoothies. Generally, I found you’ve got to be a little bit gutsy and adventurous and move past barriers like, ‘broccoli doesn’t belong in a smoothie’! Broccoli pairs very well with apple, mango, or banana.
- 1 cup of cooked cauliflower, oats, natural peanut butter, banana, and 1/3 of an avocado, and any type of milk.
- 1 cup of baby spinach with a frozen mix of banana, mango, and pineapple, with yoghurt, and any type of milk.
- ½ cup of leftover sweet potato (either baked or mashed), with ½ cup cauliflower, nut butter, almond milk, and a dash of maple syrup.
My general smoothie add ins are hemp seeds because they are rich in protein, fibre, and contain good fatty acids. Chia seeds are low in calories and a terrific source of fibre and protein. Flax seeds are good source of dietary fibre and omega 3. Oats are filling and have lots of important vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. Don’t shy away from tinned beans – they are a great source of protein and fibre.
From this personal challenge, my biggest learning was that I needed to change my mind set to get a serve of vegetables at breakfast. I didn’t magically have more time to participate in this personal challenge, I simply had to place value on kickstarting my day with a healthy breakfast and ensure I prioritised my time. Not only did a substantial breakfast with vegetables fill me up, but it left me feeling more energised and in a better headspace.
I was also left wondering why it’s such a strange concept to eat vegetables in the morning – why is the idea of a salad for breakfast so unreal? If only 6% of the adult population is eating enough vegetables, maybe it’s time we look for different and inspired ways to increase our vegetable consumption – starting with breakfast. Will you take on the challenge?