I love this Plant Based News video of leading plant-based MDs talking about what they eat for breakfast. Is it time to enhance your breakfast routine? Looking for ways to take it to the next level? This could mean starting to eat breakfast instead of skipping it (and all the wonderful ways it can nourish our bodies), or a new type of breakfast altogether (goodbye processed muffins!) or simply adding one or more amazingly nutritious foods to our existing breakfasts. So let’s delve into the three most common breakfasts eaten by the plant-based experts and the reasons they eat them!
Oats were the most commonly eaten breakfast by the experts, including Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. Not terribly surprising or exciting, right? The thing is, they all amped up their oats with a host of super-nutritious additions:
– Berries were a clear favourite. Why? As a group, they average nearly ten times more antioxidants than other fruits and vegetables. The bright colours give them away! Antioxidants are important because they can help protect us against chronic oxidative stress-related diseases such as cancer, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. For antioxidant blockbusters beyond berries, check out The Antioxidant Food Table by uploading it using this link.
– Seeds high in omega-3 fatty acids are another popular add-in among the experts who eat oatmeal. Examples are ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Our bodies cannot make omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids and so we must get them from our food. It’s quite easy to get enough omega-6, but omega-3 can be more challenging. These fatty acids are important because we convert them into another fatty acids that are critical building blocks for the brain, nervous system, and cell membranes.
– Nuts are another clear winner per the experts. We certainly hear mixed messages about nuts, but the evidence shows they offer excellent health benefits that are maximized in a moderate intake of one to two ounces per day. They’re nutrient dense, with lots of vitamins and minerals, high in antioxidants and healthy fats. The healthiest nut? See here to find out!
Make large flake, old fashioned or steel cuts oats your base (instead of quick cooking or minute oats). I cook mine with water, then sometimes add a splash of unsweetened plant-based milk, like soy, almond or oat. The natural sweetness of the fruit you add may be just right for you, but if you want to make it sweeter, try raisins, chopped dates, date syrup or date sugar.
A great alternative to hot oats is overnight oats. The oats are soaked instead of cooked, and eaten cold. They’re great when we’re short on time in the morning or when the weather is warm. And we can still include berries, seeds and nuts. Here’s my favourite overnight oats recipe to get you started.
- Green Smoothie
A green smoothie was the second most popular among the breakfasts enjoyed by plant-based health professionals. The green smoothie samples I serve up at my booth are always a big hit with woman, men and children alike. Experiment with ingredients and proportions until you find your favourite.
– To start, dark-green, leafy vegetables are about as healthy as food gets. They offer the most nutrition per calorie as far as unprocessed food goes. Popular greens include spinach, kale, arugula and mesclun mix. Kale and arugula also land in the cruciferous veggie category and as such, have extra health benefits due to the sulforaphane they contain. If you can enjoy the taste of kale in your smoothie, go for it! If not, spinach has a mild flavor. Use fresh or frozen greens and include as much as possible!
– Bananas are a common ingredient in green smoothies due to the way they enhance the drink’s texture and flavour. They’re also a rich source of prebiotics. I often peel and freeze ripe bananas and toss them into the blender frozen.
– A third popular ingredient is vitamin C-rich pineapple or mango.
– You can stop there and blend these up with water, coconut water, unsweetened almond milk or another plant-based milk. Or you can embellish with other healthful ingredients like ground flaxseeds or hemp seeds.
Here’s the recipe I use for 2 servings: 2 handfuls spinach (or frozen equivalent), 1 banana, 1 cup chopped pineapple, 1 cup water, ice (optional).
One expert, Pam Popper, PhD, ND, eats for breakfast a green smoothie, as well as toast made from Ezekiel Bread with fat-free hummus on it (another tops hers with avocado). OK, let’s stop right here. What’s Ezekiel Bread and why is it good for us?
– First off, we can find Ezekiel bread in health food store freezers and freezers in the “natural food” section of non-discount grocery stores. The products are made in the likeness of biblical verse Ezekiel 4:9, “Take also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils and millet, and spelt and put them in one vessel…” When assessing your bread options, compare them to the key attributes of Ezekiel bread, our gold standard:
- Whole grains and no flour
- Combination of grains and legumes
- No refined sugars
- No preservatives or shortenings
– I tried it recently and really enjoyed it! The only catch is that it’s expensive at about $8 CDN per loaf. So I checked out Costco’s myriad of bread options and found that Silver Hills 20 Grain Train has quite a similar ingredient list (although not quite as good) and is about half the price.
– And back to those toast toppings…avocado is a stellar choice, or simply your favourite nut butter (preferably with no added salt or sugar) maybe with some sliced bananas to get in a morning serving of fruit!
Writing this article has inspired me to take steps to elevate my own breakfast routine…I hope it’ll do the same for you. It’s amazing how sometimes small changes can have a big impact. And from my perspective, change in the direction of a healthier lifestyle is always well worth the effort! All the best on your journey.
Image credit: Caroline Attwood | Unsplash