If I was asked to name my number one tip for eating healthier it would be “aim for vegetables to be the largest component of your diet.” This isn’t anything innovative on my part or earth-shattering news—literally everyone from nutrition experts (not me) to amateur nutrition enthusiasts (there’s me) will agree with this statement. In a world overrun with fad diets, cleanses, gimmicky supplements, and ridiculously structured eating habits, it is maybe the only constant, indisputable truth. Seriously…think about it. Is there a single diet or healthy eating methodology (legitimate or otherwise) that has ever told you to eat less veggies? They try to take our carbs. They try to take our fats. But they know better than to play with our vegetables.
Why? Simply put, vegetables are the most nutrient-dense but calorically-deficient food groups, meaning it is literally the only type of food where eating more actually benefits your health rather than harms it. Plus, just by eating more vegetables, you are naturally going to eat less, for lack of a better term, other crap, which means less calories, fat, and sugar with no extra effort or thought involved.
So what does eating “veggies most” look like? For me, it means trying to incorporate them into almost every meal. And while this is a fairly easy concept to implement during lunch and dinner, breakfast doesn’t always feel as straightforward. And to be fair, there’s a reason for that. Most of us weren’t slamming green smoothies before the bus came back in the day, right? Nor should we have been! But as adults, it’s now up to us to determine how we fuel our bodies, and breaking these antiquated habits and outdated mindsets is one of the most critical components to living a healthier life. Easier said than done, I know, I know, but that’s why I’m here. Now y’all know I could eat my good ‘ole oatmeal every damn day, but I currently try to schedule in three to four veggie-inclusive breakfasts each week, and at this point, I feel like I have a pretty solid repertoire of recipes I rotate through. Read on below for my go-to breakfasts that make getting your veggies in before noon easy, breezy, and yes, even enjoyable.
Eggs are probably the most obvious choice when it comes to incorporating veggies since we’ve all probably been doing so for years. Even back in college, when I’d be slamming a dining hall omelet hungover as f*ck (sorry dad), I’d always have them throw in a few onions, peppers, and tomatoes in between all the cheese, bacon, and more cheese. So it’s a no-brainer that this is the most, shall we say, approachable way to ease into your new morning veggie routine. A few guidelines to keep it light: (1) saute your veggies using a zero-calorie coconut or avocado oil cooking spray instead of oil; (2) try your best to pass on the cheese and processed meats; and (3) add flavor and protein through healthy extras like seasonings, salsa, hummus, hot sauce, beans, and Greek yogurt (which I use in place of sour cream in my breakfast burritos).
- Egg-Veggie Scramble: Toast up a slice or two of high-quality bread (see this post for my faves) and top with sauteed veggies and two scrambled eggs. Put a Mediterranean spin on it by using cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, and hummus. Feeling bad and bougie? Maybe do some arugula, mushrooms, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Or keep it classic with peppers, onions, and some hot sauce.
- Breakfast Burritos: Slather two corn or grain-free tortillas with Greek yogurt and fill with sauteed veggies, beans, and scrambled eggs. Fold together, secure with toothpicks, and top with salsa!
- Veggie Egg Cups: This is your best on-the-go option. These can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge all week. You can eat them cold or pop one in the microwave at work and toss it between a whole wheat English muffin or deli thin for a quick take on a breakfast sandwich. You can find the recipe for my favorite Southwestern version here!
2. Smoothie Bowls
So maybe you’re more of a sweet versus savory person when it comes to breakfast. Or maybe you’re just not a fan of vegetables. It’s cool, neither does the Hubs, so I’ve learned all the best ways to hide them. Let me introduce you to your new best friend…the smoothie bowl. What’s amazing about smoothies is that, if you use the right ingredients, your breakfast can contain almost exclusively vegetables but still taste sweet. My one word of advice, nutritionally speaking, when whipping up your own smoothies: “less is more.” When I first started living that smoothie lyfe a few years back, I was, shall we say, a bit “add” happy. I was tossing in fruit, veggies, and protein powder, but also chia seeds, hemp seeds, and peanut butter, and then topping everything off with granola, coconut flakes, slivered almonds, and (most likely) more peanut butter. Before I knew it, my healthy little smoothie bowl was no longer healthy or little when it came to calorie count. While a boatload of toppings can make for a great Instagram photo, it can also completely defeat the point. Be aware of serving sizes, measure your portions, and when in doubt, don’t add it.
- Vegetables: The trick here is to use veggies that don’t have a flavor or texture that will impact or overpower your blend. My numero uno I put in literally every smoothie? Spinach. Not only is it one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, but it is nearly undetectable. In order to combat my addition addiction referenced above, I implemented a rule that at least half—and often times it’s more—of my blender needs to be filled with this leafy green goodness. Another fave secret ingredient? Frozen cauliflower. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually scoffed at this idea for so long. Thank goodness I have since seen the light. I don’t know what it is about frozen cauliflower, but adding about a half cup of the stuff will give your smoothies the most amazingly smooth, silky texture. Plus, there’s a reason we’re seeing cauliflower used for everything these days, from pizza crusts to rice to cauli-“wings.” It’s bland taste can be easily hidden by the stronger flavors it’s paired with. You can’t argue with that logic!
- Fruit: Look, it is morning, so we gotta let fruit have its time to shine. Personally, I like to add in half a fresh banana to my blend to help get a creamier consistency and then use the other half on top. From there, another half cup of your favorite frozen fruit and you’re golden!
- Extras: Finally, I highly recommend finding a protein powder you like and adding it to every blend. Not only will this do even more to help hide any “vegetable” taste and add the sweetness factor you’re craving, it’s a downright necessity if you actually want to stay full for more than five minutes. Some other great options to help in the taste and/or protein department? Nut butters, Greek yogurt, acai powder, cacao powder, peppermint extract, and honey all make great additions.
3. Baked Goods/ONOs
Yup, you read that right. I know it might sound crazy, but baking with a few vegetables in particular—zucchini, carrots, and butternut squash—is not only healthy, it’s downright delicious. Carrots and butternut squash both have a lovely sweetness that pairs so well with those warm, cozy baking spices we all adore such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Zucchini, on the other hand, is the “cauliflower” of baking. Its taste is virtually undetectable, yet it’s high water content lends an incredible amount of moisture. While using veggies for baking takes a little extra prep work, it’s super easy—think maybe a little grating and lots of just pressing the button on your food processor—so don’t let that stop you. Trust me when I say it’s worth it, as I’ve done some of my best baking work when a veggie was involved. Case in point? My Morning Glory Protein Muffins that I’ll be posting next week (check the pic below for a little sneak peak!). Guys, this is an Em original that’s husband approved, protein packed, vegetable filled, and FREAKING delicious. I know I say it every time, but you are not going to want to miss these! Chomping at the bit to bake with the good stuff before then? Check out the links below for some inspo!
- Gimme Some Oven‘s Healthy Butternut Squash Muffins (here)
- Minimalist Baker‘s Vegan Carrot Coconut Pancakes (here)
- Cookie and Kate‘s Healthy Zucchini Bread (here)
- Flora and Vino‘s Zucchini Tahini Breakfast Cookies (here) and Double Chocolate Double Greens Zucchini Muffins (here)
- The Breakfast Drama Queen‘s Butternut Squash and Banana Oatmeal (here)
- Meal Prepping In Heels‘ [hey, that’s me!] Carrot Cake ONOs (here) and Morning Glory Protein Muffins (will be up next week!)
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See? There are so many great ways to incorporate vegetables into your diet in the morning. Sometimes it just takes a little thinking outside the box. As always, start small. Try including veggies in the AM just twice weekly for a bit and see how it goes. Killing it? Bump it up one or two more. Before you know it, you’ll be getting veggies in before lunch time on the reg!