Breakfast is often touted as the most important meal, and rightfully so, because it sets the tone for the rest of your day. From the food choices you’ll make, to the way you’ll feel, to your ability to perform mentally and retain information: breakfast has a hand in all of it. Starting your morning off with the right foods to provide reliable energy is an important way to keep your blood sugar levels balanced, and helps with the focus and concentration important not only for working adults, but also for every kid headed off to school. Finding ways to get vegetables on the breakfast table is just one more way you can start the day off right. Don’t hit snooze! Dress for success and include these breakfast vegetables on your morning menu.
Why a Balanced Breakfast Matters
The phrase “well-balanced breakfast” has a real and specific meaning. A well-balanced breakfast includes foods from at least three out of the five food groups: dairy, fruits, grains, protein foods, and vegetables. Some cereal with fruit and milk would hit that mark, as would an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich in a pita pocket or English muffin, but there’s a lot more variety to be had than just sweets and carbs, eggs and bacon, if only the vegetable category could be more fully explored. It’s definitely worth the effort if you start by looking at the benefits a balanced breakfast can bring.
Have you ever tried to do anything even moderately strenuous on an empty stomach? If you have to climb stairs to get to work, or if your kids ride their bikes to school, a dramatic hunger will arrive as soon as the body goes looking for energy to fuel these pursuits and finds you didn’t feed it breakfast.
We’re often pressed for time first thing in the morning, but there are a lot of creative ways to get at least one or two of the food groups in before asking your body to rush around. For instance, whip up a quick Spiced Peach and Granola Breakfast Smoothie and grab a granola bar as you go, and you can start the day off on friendly terms with your own body. Many people feel faint when they’re hungry, or get irritable (thus the coined term “hangry,” meaning hungry/angry), and what could make a Monday worse than starting it off like that?
A little bit goes a long way in the morning. The American Council on Exercise suggests a snack before a morning workout, and a more substantial meal afterwards, just so that your body is never tempted to start cannibalizing itself for energy. A little protein from some Greek yogurt or a poached egg, a few carbs in some delicious roasted rosemary potatoes, anything to jumpstart your energy. Peruse these following points to see just how much of your life breakfast can impact.
Whether you desire to keep the healthy weight you have or are attempting a new weight-loss routine, skipping breakfast isn’t a good idea. Less food in the morning only means inviting hunger pangs, which inevitably leads to a higher calorie intake throughout the day. A review in Circulation, the American Heart Association’s journal, states that there is an abundance of data to show “an association between breakfast skipping and adiposity,” i.e. obesity.
A 2018 study from Israeli researchers suggests that when you eat and how often are more significant that the specifics of what you eat and your caloric intake. According to the research, breakfast should be your heftiest meal of the day because breakfast activates a lower glucose response than the same food eaten at dinner. Lead study author Daniela Jakubowicz, M.D., professor of medicine at Tel Aviv University, explains “Our body metabolism changes throughout the day. A slice of bread consumed at breakfast leads to a lower glucose response and is less fattening than an identical slice of bread consumed in the evening.”
In other words, a healthy breakfast in the morning will actually go to work for you, providing the steady energy you need to move throughout the day.
Blood Sugar Control
Blood sugar levels are by no means the concern of diabetics alone. Being cognizant of blood sugar spikes and how what you eat affects your glucose levels is an excellent way to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.
Eating breakfast will help steady your blood sugar throughout the day. For diabetics that means lowering the likelihood of hypoglycemia, and for non-diabetics it means avoiding the symptoms of low blood sugar like tiredness, irritability, anxiety, and even a slight shaking of the hands. More extreme symptoms might be an irregular heartbeat or even seizures, so blood sugar control is not a subject to be taken lightly. The American Diabetes Association suggests a good portion of fiber for breakfast, and most vegetables are rich sources of fiber.
The American College of Cardiology’s journal reports that skipping breakfast makes people more susceptible to developing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening/narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup, which can then lead to strokes and heart attacks. There’s also a correlation between breakfast skipping and other unhealthy habits: smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and lack of exercise, all of which can adversely impact heart health. Correlation isn’t causation, of course, but then again if you start every day on the wrong foot, there’s also a fair chance that the rest of your day will follow that same path.
Do yourself a favor and get that big, beautiful brain firing on all cylinders every day by eating a good breakfast. Kids from kindergarten to college perform better, concentrate better, retain more information, and test much higher than kids who skip breakfast, and age has got nothing to do with it: we’re all smarter when we’ve had a balanced breakfast to eat before work. The research you’re doing today, the project you’re working on, the chores you have to get done, all of it will go quicker and more efficiently if your brain is fully awake and well-fed. Never forget that breakfast is as important for you as it is for the whole family.
Breakfast Vegetables: The Forgotten Food Group
Getting vegetables in as one of the three minimum food groups needed for a balanced breakfast isn’t that hard. I know it’s easier to think of fruit when you think of breakfast: fruit on crepes and in cereals and fruit jams and an apple a day, etc. and so forth: it’s bananas how much fruit can be found in breakfast! However, just because fruit and veggies are at the same level on the food pyramid doesn’t mean one can stand in for the other. It’s still recommended that adults get between 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.
Though sometimes vegetables seem better paired with savory dinner dishes like hardy stews and the like, since we’re supposed to be eating so much vegetable content each day, let’s dispel the idea right now that veggies have nothing to do with breakfast. Check out the following list of breakfast vegetables and consider the ease with which you can include them.
First of all: potatoes. Though starchy and not exactly the sort of vegetable the food pyramid is looking for when it suggests your daily helpings, potatoes are indeed a root vegetable, and they’re easily a classic breakfast food. As hash browns, sweet potato hash with a little maple syrup, home fries, or dashed into a breakfast taco, it shouldn’t surprise you to see spuds on the breakfast table at all.
Putting sautéed spinach in with your scrambled eggs and some olive oil is no more trouble than making your eggs in the first place, right? Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on that, put it on some whole wheat toast, and there you go! You’ve got an easy breakfast with four out of five food groups right there. Have half a banana as a palate cleanser, and you’re five for five! Don’t want to plate a whole meal? Put baby spinach into a breakfast shake and get many of the same benefits by including fruit and other healthy eating ingredients together in a big green smoothie in your blender.
Not even hard: meal prep a week’s worth of breakfast by baking some asparagus into a quiche (also known as a frittata if you’re festive) to have a ready-to-go balanced healthy breakfast every day. Just chop in some asparagus along with eggs, cheese, and any meat of your choosing, bake, then cut a slice from your pie-like quiche for each day’s morning meal. Or, if you want to make it even easier (and kinda fun), you could bake up a whole tray of mini frittatas in a muffin tin, and then each day just grab one in the palm of your hand and head out.
Avocado toast is in the news for being a supposed Millennial favorite, but avocados have long been included in the breakfast favorite huevos rancheros, a delicious Mexican dish of eggs, refried beans, tomato-chili sauce, rice, and avocado, served on tortillas. Seeing as avocados are technically a fruit, add some cheese or a glass of milk to this dish and you have another five-for-five breakfast option.
Popular for those eating a Paleo diet, breakfast ideas for butternut squash include using it cubed in breakfast bowls, mashed and spread over toast, or chopped into a breakfast hash. It’s not the only kind of squash either, so you can keep getting creative.
Whether chopped into an egg white omelet or cooked up with your side of bacon so they’ll take on that tasty bacon flavor, Brussels sprouts can be easily incorporated into a breakfast stir-fry or hash. Stir some sliced up Brussels sprouts in with ingredients like eggs, goat cheese, and bell peppers, and you’ve just gotten your vegetable, protein, dairy, and fruit requirements (surprise: bell peppers are botanically fruits) in one hot dish. That plus toast completes the food group set once again.
Breakfast Is Served
Start getting your daily vegetable intake first thing in the morning by including these vegetables and more in your breakfast recipes. Medley dishes like breakfast casseroles, fruity breakfast salads, breakfast burritos, the above-mentioned huevos rancheros, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-style omelets are fantastic ways to make every breakfast balanced and beneficial to your health.