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When I get up in the morning, I immediately think about breakfast. I'm starving. I'm so hungry that I can't hit the gym or even shower. Nope, the morning meal must come first. In my perfect world, breakfast is a chocolate chip scone, or when I have time, my mom's French toast.
Naturally, I know that eating some chocolate-studded, sugar and carb explosion is a less-than-ideal way to start the day. I also know that no matter the hour, I should be eating more vegetables. We all should. The USDA's most recent dietary guidelines, also known as My Plate, recommend that women age 31 to 50 consume two and a half cups of vegetables a day (men should eat three cups). Eating that many veggies isn't exactly impossible, but sometimes it's tough to fit it all in. If I indulge in that scone for breakfast and eat a burger at lunch, half the day is gone and I'm way behind on my veggie count.
To avoid coming up short on my recommended servings, I've started eating vegetables at breakfast. That might sound strange, but bear with me. Oftentimes, this just means adding a veggie or two to a dish I already eat for breakfast, such as toast or oatmeal. Other times it's simply a matter of being a bit more creative about what I have for breakfast. For instance, why don't we eat salad in the morning? Toss some greens with grapefruit and avocado and it starts to look a lot like breakfast.
Focusing on vegetables has added a ton of versatility to my morning routine, but that's just the beginning. I find that veggie-packed breakfasts help keep me full longer, so I'm less likely to snack before lunch, and instead of the empty calories of that scone, I'm getting lots of vitamins and nutrients. Perhaps best of all, a healthy breakfast sets me on the path to better eating the rest of the day.
Whether you need to eat more veggies or you're just looking for new breakfast ideas, here are 10 easy ways to make vegetables a part of your morning. Each recipe is for one serving, but they can all be scaled up to feed a crowd—and perhaps they should be since we could all use a few more veggies on our plate.
1. Make a toast
Recipe to try: Butternut Squash Toast with Ricotta
Directions: Toss 1 cup cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 400°F oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Toast 2 slices of whole grain bread, spread with ricotta cheese and top with the roasted squash.
2. Top greens with an egg
Recipe to try: Sautéed Kale with Poached Egg and Parmesan
Directions: Sauté 3 large handfuls of chopped kale in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with a poached egg and garnish with grated Parmesan.
3. Think tacos
Recipe to try: Mushroom Tacos
Directions: Sauté 2-3 sliced Portobello mushrooms and 1 chopped garlic clove in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and crushed red pepper; cook for another 2 minutes. Divide the mushrooms between 2 warm tortillas and top with shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese.
4. Sub a thick slice of cauliflower for bread
Recipe to try: Cauliflower "Toast" with Roasted Red Pepper, Feta, and a Fried Egg
Directions: Cut a 1/2-inch-thick slice from a head of cauliflower. Sear the cauliflower "toast" in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, 2 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper; roast in a 400°F oven until tender, about 15 minutes. In a food processer, blend 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, 1/2 cup feta, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper. Top the cauliflower with the red pepper spread and a fried egg.
5. Have salad for breakfast
Recipe to try: Grapefruit and Avocado Breakfast Salad
Directions: Peel 1 small grapefruit and cut into segments, reserving the juice. Toss the grapefruit with 1/2 cubed avocado, 1 cup baby greens, such as arugula, and 1/2 cup whole grains, such as pearled barley. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and the reserved grapefruit juice, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with toasted sunflower seeds.
6. Make fried rice
Recipe to try: Spinach Fried Rice
Directions: Sauté 1 chopped garlic clove and 1 chopped scallion in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 1 lightly beaten egg and scramble for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup baby spinach and 1 cup cold, cooked rice, raise the heat, and stir-fry until the spinach is wilted and the rice is crispy. Add soy sauce to taste, garnish with more scallions and serve with Sriracha on the side.
7. Treat a sweet potato like a pancake
Recipe to try: Roasted Sweet Potato with Maple Syrup and Pecans
Directions: Prick 1 medium sweet potato all over with a fork and light oil the skin. Roast in a 400°F oven until tender, about 45 minutes. Slice the sweet potato down the middle, season with salt and top with butter, maple syrup and chopped, toasted pecans.
7. Wrap your bacon around a vegetable
Recipe to try: Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus with a Poached Egg
Directions: Wrap 1-2 slices of bacon around 5 asparagus spears and roast in a 400°F oven until the asparagus is tender and the bacon is crispy, 25-30 minutes. Top with a poached egg.
9. Go savory with your Greek yogurt
Recipe to try: Smoky Vegetable Sauté with Greek Yogurt
Directions: Sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes. Add 1½ cups chopped vegetables (Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, mushrooms or whatever you have on hand—leftovers are great too!) and season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes, depending on the vegetables. Serve with Greek yogurt.
10. Rethink your oatmeal
Recipe to try: Savory Spinach and Onion Oats
Directions: Sauté 1/4 cup chopped onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add 1/2 cup rolled oats and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup chopped baby spinach, 1/4 cup water, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the oats are soft and the spinach is warm, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.