By Molly Patrick
Dec 1, 2015,
Congratulations, you’ve decided to up your plant game!
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 at the same time, only making it more weird.
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.
Okay – 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 fuel and when it 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 first meal of the day. 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.
ONE: Eat breakfast when you get hungry, not because it’s “breakfast time.”
If you get hungry at 7am, then eat at 7am. If you don’t get hungry until noon, then have breakfast at noon. If you feel like you need to fuel up at 10am, have breakfast at 10am.
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 is telling 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.
TWO: 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 9am, that’s when you should drink your smoothie. If your second wave of hunger hits at 11:30am, 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.
THREE: 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.
FOUR: 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 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, or 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.
FIVE: If you’re leaning towards a plant based diet, here are the things that you want 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 and you’ll have more energy throughout the day.
1 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.
SIX: 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 Plant Fueled Meal 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
- Butternut Squash Breakfast Tacos (recipe below)
- Instant Pot Teff Porridge
- Instant Pot Poppyseed Carrot Cake Oats
- Banana Walnut Muffins
SEVEN: 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, it’s likely that the story you’re telling yourself about it 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 and 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.
EIGHT: Sign up for our Plant Fueled Meal Plans and eat leftovers for breakfast.
Keep us updated in the private Facebook group about what you whip up for breakfast!
Make these for breakfast. Do it!
- Roasted butternut squash method below // make in advance
- Sprouted corn tortillas
- Romaine lettuce chopped
- Preheat the oven to 347°F (190°C)
- Peel the squash with a sharp knife, scoop out the seeds, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Place the squash on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 80 minutes, until the squash is soft and slightly browned. About midway through cooking, take it out of the oven, turn with a spatula and then put back in the oven to finish cooking.
- Once you have the squash all ready, heat however many sprouted corn tortillas you want, spread some hummus on each one, top with the squash, add some avocado slices and then top with romaine lettuce.
I hope that you have a happy week. May you be open to healthy experiments and may your belly be filled with nourishing food.