I was recently talking with a friend of mine about what we feed our kids for breakfast. We both did pretty much the expected: toast or mini-bagels from Trader Joe’s, cereal, oatmeal on occasion (although we both agreed that the messier something’s potential, the less often we serve it). Maybe a granola bar here and there.
She mentioned a friend of hers that eats a Korean-style breakfast, which turns out to be rice, vegetables, and kimchi. (Kimchi is fermented, pickled vegetables which are said to be highly nutritious.) It really got me thinking: if breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and who won’t agree with that – why do we waste it on nutritionally devoid foods? Muffins, toast, bagels, cereal, pancakes, none of these has much nutritional value. Even cereals that are marketed as “healthy” are highly processed and sweetened. (Manipulating grains to create things like bran flakes or shredded oat squares destroys much of the wholesomeness of the grain; ever wonder why these cereals are typically enriched with vitamins in the same way white flour is?)
And sure, maybe we plant-eaters aren’t indulging in the obvious no-no’s of fast food breakfast sandwiches stuffed with sausage, eggs and cheese, but still, the breakfast options that are available to us could definitely use an upgrade.
Why would the most important meal of the day not include vegetables? We only get three major opportunities a day to fulfill our bodies’ nutritional requirements. Throwing away one of these opportunities is huge, and puts us at a great disadvantage. We end up playing catch-up for the rest of the day.
Thus inspired, I’m trying to think of breakfast more like another lunch. I’m not going overboard; maybe someday I’ll be a more evolved health nut and kimchi will be included, but for now I’ll stick to vegetables and whole grains. My little boy is still too young to know or care if I’m not serving typical “breakfast foods,” so I figure it’s a good way to start him on good habits.
Lately one of my breakfast favorites is a bowl of steamed broccoli and quinoa (or brown rice), with a splash of soy sauce. I make a big bowl and my son and I share it. We eat out of the same bowl, each with our own spoon. I love this because he really likes it, and I almost think he likes it so much because we share the bowl, which makes it more fun for him. I always get a kick out of it when he asks excitedly for “brocky keen-wa” in the morning.
It’s super easy to make: I throw a good amount of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets, into a small pot. Add just 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Cover the pot and put it over high heat. That little bit of water will steam the broccoli. After a couple of minutes, when the florets are softer and bright green, turn of the heat. The water will have evaporated (or you can pour off the excess). Add to the pot some cooked quinoa. Sprinkle on a little soy sauce, and stir it up. Pour it all out into a bowl and enjoy!
An even quicker and easier option, because it uses no pot, is to pile into a bowl some frozen peas, defrost them in the microwave, and then mix in brown rice or quinoa. Again a splash of soy sauce completes it. Other additions that work well in this are cooked lentils and some sunflower seeds for a little crunch.
Both of these dishes are packed with protein, whole grains, and veggies. What better way to kick off your day?
Needless to say, it really helps to have everything ready to go in the morning. If you already have the broccoli washed and cut into bite-sized florets sitting in a container in the fridge, and another container in the fridge of cooked quinoa or brown rice, you’re much more likely to do it. Mornings are rushed and everyone is hungry, and it’s no fun to start from scratch at a time like that. In fact, take it one step further and steam the broccoli and make the whole thing the night before, plastic wrap it and leave it in the fridge, and there’s absolutely no prep in the morning.
Now, do I eat like this every morning? Ha ha ha! Ahem, no. Breakfast junk food is just too convenient and quick. However, I figure if I work this into my week just a couple of times, I’m ahead of the game.
And one last thought: I realize that I’m giving short shrift to oatmeal, which is the one traditional breakfast food that breaks the mold and is a very healthy start to the day. It’s my husband’s usual choice. Although it doesn’t typically pair with vegetables, of course, there are millions of terrific things you can add to it to punch up the nutritional value. But that’s for another post!