Plant Based Breakfast Basics: 8 Helpful Tips
By Molly Patrick
Dec 1, 2015,
Congratulations, you’ve decided to up your plant game starting with plant based breakfast basics!
If I were doing this in person I’d hug you until it got uncomfortable, making it too awkward to stop hugging, making it even more uncomfortable.
We’d finally separate ourselves from one another, neither of us quite sure what to say after our long-for-no-reason embrace, until we both blurt something out simultaneously, only making it weirder.
At this point, I’d wish that I was capable of drinking at a normal level because drinking makes awkward situations less awkward.
But because I have to drink alcohol like a goddamn parched fish, I would take a sip of my water, say something about the weather, and then exit the situation to go find someone else to share an awkward embrace with.
Okay – maybe it’s best that we’re NOT doing this in person.
Let’s dive in and talk about something not unlike the guy in my hot yoga class who wears nothing but tiny leopard underpants and looks exactly like Tarzan – totally mysterious.
I’m talking about breakfast, specifically plant based breakfast
This is a tricky one for a lot of people. Let’s work this out.
First things first.
The most efficient and healthy way to eat – whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or in-between, is to listen to your body and allow it to navigate what, when and how much you eat.
Your body is designed to send signals when it needs and has had enough fuel.
But here’s the thing – when hyper-palatable foods like processed foods are part of your daily diet, those signals get screwy, and you can’t fully trust your body to navigate you in the right direction with food.
So listening to your body is the smartest way to gauge your eating, but it works most efficiently when processed foods and junk foods are taken out of the diet. So keep that in mind as we plot our route through the breakfast waters.
I want to set the stage by encouraging you to think about breakfast as you would any other meal of the day and don’t put more fuss into it than necessary. It’s just a meal that happens to be the day’s first meal. Easy peasy.
Here are eight specifics to help you untangle the topic of breakfast and make it easy and manageable.
I’m also giving you a bunch of plant based breakfast ideas so you’re not left hanging.
1. Eat breakfast when you get hungry, not because it’s “breakfast time”
If you get hungry at 7 am, then eat at 7 am. If you don’t get hungry until noon, then have breakfast at noon. If you feel like you need to fuel up at 10 am, have breakfast at 10 am.
There is no optimal time to eat breakfast – the best time to eat is when you get hungry, so as much as your schedule allows, make choices based on what your body tells you. And if you think you’re getting wonky hunger signals, take note of the processed foods in your diet and start to taper off.
The next time you’re about to eat something, stop for a second and notice if you’re eating because you’re truly hungry, or if you’re eating because you’re bored or because you’re used to eating at that time. If you’re not actually hungry, have a glass of water and wait to eat until you are hungry.
If you aren’t hungry but you have to go to work or school, and you won’t be able to eat until later, pack some food with you and eat when you get a break. Your body has plenty of reserved glucose to run on, so even if you do get hungry and can’t eat for a while, you’ll burn stored glucose. If you have blood sugar issues, this may not be the case, so make sure you listen to your body and adjust as necessary.
Bottom line – only eat when you’re hungry and always stop eating when you’re no longer hungry.
2. Make breakfast a two-part affair
As soon as your first wave of hunger hits, have a hot date with a green smoothie, and then wait for your second wave of hunger. When that second wave hits, have a love affair with a nutrient-dense meal.
Again – it’s all about listening to the signals that your body is giving you, not eating willy nilly because it’s “breakfast time.” If your first wave of hunger hits at 9 am, that’s when you should drink your smoothie. If your second wave of hunger hits at 11:30 am, that’s when you should eat a nutrient-dense meal.
Now – just to be crystal clear on this, I’m not suggesting that you replace breakfast with a smoothie. I’m suggesting that you make a green smoothie part of your breakfast routine, in addition to a nutrient-dense meal that will keep you full and satisfied until you get hungry again.
One last note on this. When I talk about green smoothies, I’m talking about whole food smoothies. The kind with mainly veggies, some seeds, and some berries, and a bit of banana to sweeten it up.
I’m not talking about sweet smoothies with protein powder, yogurt, or added sweeteners.
3. Combine plant protein and starch for maximum morning energy
Starchy foods like oatmeal are awesome for keeping us full, and they also increase the production of serotonin in the brain – the same feel-good chemical that gets boosted by antidepressants. This is a nice benefit of eating starchy foods, but for some people, the release of serotonin makes them sleepy.
Eating a high protein food (like nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, etc.) along with starchy foods (like whole grains, oatmeal, potatoes, pasta, etc.) blocks the serotonin and ensures that we have lots of energy all morning long. So, for example, if you have steel-cut oats, be sure to add a small handful of walnuts.
4. Be open to eating non-traditional breakfast foods
When you drop eggs, meat, dairy, and processed foods from your diet, all of a sudden, breakfast looks like a Tarzan yoga guy – totally mysterious. I get it. The fix for this is being open to eating foods for breakfast that aren’t always associated with breakfast.
There’s no rule saying that you can’t eat soup, beans, or leftover plant based lasagna for breakfast. Most people find this strange because it’s not what they’re used to, but a nutrient-dense meal is a nutrient-dense meal, regardless of the time of day. I often eat soup and greens for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner simply because I feel like it.
So start telling yourself a different story about breakfast and be open to the idea that food is food and it doesn’t matter so much the time of day that you eat a particular food. What matters most is the nutrient density and the quality of the food that you eat.
5. If you’re leaning towards a plant based diet, here are the things to avoid eating for breakfast
and any other meal
Meat and Dairy
Eating saturated fat and animal protein isn’t an optimal way to start your day. Choosing plant based protein and fat will make the rest of your day easier to navigate. Plus, you’ll have more energy throughout the day.
One egg contains 213 milligrams of cholesterol – that’s as much as an 8-ounce steak! Cholesterol-rich foods are not healthy for your ticker.
Sugary breakfast cereals
Most breakfast cereals (even the “healthy” varieties) have lots of sugar. Even granola is notorious for being loaded with sugar. If you can’t live without cold cereal, look for the Engine 2 brand – it’s solid.
Things like white flour pancakes, waffles, french toast, tortillas, pastries, etc. will spike your blood sugar and make you cranky, hungry and tired the rest of the day. Go for complex carbs like sprouted toast, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc.
People tend to get too much protein, not too little, and excess protein (especially animal protein, like whey) is not good for the kidneys and a plethora of other things. If you want added protein in your morning smoothie, add some chia seeds, hemp seeds, or flax seeds and call it good. Even the cleanest of protein powders aren’t one bit necessary.
Whether it’s brown sugar, raw sugar, agave, or maple syrup, the body isn’t meant to be bombarded with sugar – especially in the morning. Your body will adapt to the taste of whole foods that are naturally sweet (like fruit) as you eat less and less processed sugar.
6. Choose from the following plant based breakfast ideas below and start playing around
Keep in mind that if you’re new to eating plant based food, it takes about three weeks for the palate to adjust and to be able to find pure enjoyment and satisfaction in eating whole plant foods. If oatmeal without sugar or scrambled tofu doesn’t taste as satisfying as bacon and eggs or sugary breakfast cereal right now – it will eventually. Just keep truckin’!
- Gluten-free Porridge
- Cooked sweet potatoes with pomegranate seeds, banana, applesauce, and chopped walnuts
- Overnight cinnamon oats with blueberries, chopped dried dates, toasted coconut, and pumpkin seeds
- Scrambled tofu with veggies and sprouted toast with almond butter
- Leftovers from my Wizard Plans (my personal fave as the meals are different every week)
- Creamy Amaranth Porridge
- Sprouted toast with tahini, raspberries, chia seeds, banana, and raisins
- Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats
- Beans and brown rice with avocado and salsa
- Avocado, cashew cheese, and kale on toast
- Coconut Vanilla Granola
- Breakfast burrito in a sprouted wheat tortilla with sautéed mushrooms, peppers, lentils, and arugula
- Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with unsweetened almond milk, berries, and sunflower seeds
- Coconut Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies and Tangerine Cashew Cream
- Oil-Free Butternut Squash Breakfast Tacos
- Instant Pot Teff Porridge
- Instant Pot Poppyseed Carrot Cake Oats
- Banana Walnut Muffins
7. Prepare in advance
Leaving the house for work early in the morning might be annoying, but it’s no reason to skip breakfast. If you do a little planning during the weekend and the night before, you’ll be golden.
If you make smoothie bags in advance, you can whip up your green smoothie in literally two minutes. Drink that in the car, on the bus, on the train – whatever mode of transport you use to get your ass to work or school. That’s part one of breakfast.
Then all you need to do is brown bag part two and eat it when you get hungry or when you get a break from work. Easy peasy.
It’s important not to make obstacles a big deal in your head.
If there’s something that you struggle with that you haven’t yet mastered, the story you’re telling yourself about it likely needs to be tweaked.
So instead of thinking about breakfast as a chore and something that you suck at, make a conscious decision to change your thoughts about it. Think of it as a necessary step in self-care and something that you’re willing to make time for.
When you shift your thinking, the rest will fall into place, and you will take the necessary steps to make it work.
8. Sign up for our free trial and eat leftovers for breakfast
Get instant access to our plant based meal plans and recipes when you sign up for a free 10-day trial. Breakfast is just the beginning, my friend!
Keep us updated in our Facebook group about what you whip up for breakfast! One of our favorite recipes for breakfast is Oil-Free Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos!
I hope that you have a happy week. May you be open to healthy experiments, and may your belly be filled with nourishing food.
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Hey Molly. Oh I loved the bit about the hug! And it’s spot on about letting your body tell you what it needs, but that if you’re eating the wrong things it can’t, that’s my experience completely. And when you’re stuck in that muddle and you don’t have the understanding of why it’s so hard, it’s a nightmare. Your advice, so beautifully explained, is so valuable. The world is a better place for your wisdom I’m SO glad you’re spreading it, God knows we all need help! XX
Thank you Amy!
“There is freedom waiting for you,
on the breezes of the sky,
and you ask, ‘what if I fall?’
oh but my darling,
what if you fly?”
Reminds me of this…
“Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost. I’ll be there on time, and I’ll pay the cost…for wanting things that can only be found, In the Darkness on the Edge of Town.”
Gotta go for it…
Thanks for a new, amazing quote in my life!
I quit drinking alcohol 5 years ago but since then i struggle with a sweet tooth and late night snacking! Help what should I do?
Congrats on 5 years! I have over 2 years myself. The sober life kicks so much assssss!
The easiest way to avoid that sweet tooth is to avoid processed food and overly processed sugar.
Other than that, I have super dark chocolate in my house for when my sweet tooth hits.
I run a live 5 week program every year in January designed to help kick people’s sugar and processed food habit.
If you want more info, add your name and email address here.
Hey – I LOVE your ideas on breakfast and your whole blog and recipes in general – (I also love that you connect articles to the recipes bc then I read all of them, whereas I might have otherwise gone simply to the recipes.)
I have a question- why dont you list avo toasts or anything like them for breakfast? – I like to eat avocado toast or beet toast for breakfast – on sprouted bread with one of your yummy sauces and sesame or chia seeds sprinkled on top with a little chili powder and then lemon – often I eat this in a bowl with walnuts instead of toast, as well. I will certainly try your oatmeal ideas though!
Hi Molly. I loved this article! Breakfast is the biggest problem for me! I crave toast but it doesn’t seem to agree with me. But the main reason I am always so desperate to shovel toast into my protesting belly is the dirty c word. That’s right. Coffee. I love that shit, but I can’t drink it on an empty stomach. It’s such a great fit with toast. I feel like I can’t wake up without it and it’s keeping me stuck.
Thanks so much for your inspiring blogs and community. I am determined to make this the year I fix my health and eating patterns. So I know I gotta ask for help..n
((((Non-awkward cyber hugs))))
That bit made me cackle with recognition. Xxx
Hi Molly I’m new on here a recent subscriber I was wondering if you could give the temperatures in gas mark as I have a gas stove or cooker as we call it here in UK.
Hi Zee! Welcome to the Plant Fueled Meal Plans! Head to the Meal Plans > Extra Info area of your classroom for a conversion chart that you can use as a reference. At this time we’re not planning to add them directly into the meal plans but if we get a lot of requests for this, we would definitely consider adjusting our process. ~Karen
Hi Molly, I’ve just finished my first batch making day and I’m wiped. However when I look into my fridge I feel amazingly proud to see what I achived today. On route in my first batch making journey I made a pot of soup from left over vegetables, which I’m so glad of now as I was too tired to make supper. The husband however was able to serve up soup and toast. Yum.
Yay! I’m so happy for you! Great job!!!