So it's not that I've been loading up on muffins or doughnuts, it's just that I haven't been eating much of anything in the AM. As a result, I'm starving when lunchtime rolls around. I wondered if forcing myself to eat something decent earlier in the day would help me eat less later. At the same time, I realised that I wasn't always eating as many vegies as I'd like to throughout the day. Sure, I was eating some, but I'm an overachiever—and the recommended guidelines now say that nine servings is best. Starting early seemed like a smart way to meet my goal.
Ashley Koff, RDN, agreed with my theory. "Ideally, you should have a nonstarchy vegetable at each meal, but having them at breakfast ensures that you're getting at least some in that day," she says. It made perfect sense to me. I tend to eat salads for lunch and protein and vegies for dinner, but I felt like eating vegies at breakfast would be a good insurance policy for those days when I might have, say, tacos for dinner instead of a chicken and vegie stir-fry.
With all this in mind, I challenged myself: I’d eat a real breakfast every day for a month, and I’d be sure to work in at least one vegetable.
The first day was a bit hard, simply because I don’t normally wake up hungry, and I doubt that even regular breakfast eaters crave vegetables first thing in the morning. I’m also on the run a lot, and if I’m taking something to go it’s much easier to grab a banana or an apple than a stalk of broccoli. But I do love eggs, so that morning I woke up earlier than usual and made a broccoli omelette. The next day I opted for a mushroom omelette, followed by an asparagus omelette the day after that. Pretty much anything in an omelette is yummy, so this proved to be easy enough.
Soon I was doing multiple vegies in my omelette: asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, and, of course, cheese. I was assuming my cholesterol was OK and my doctor wouldn’t mind if I was averaging over a dozen eggs a week.
I wanted to vary up the eggs, but I was already trying to eat low-carb and I don’t have a blender (juices were out), so I stuck with the omelettes day after day. Surprisingly, because I varied the vegies I put in them, I never got bored. I did, however, start adding some spice: salsa, hot sauce, or even a little chilli powder.
The only time my hot breakfast became a problem was when I was in a rush. Not that making an omelette takes all that much time, but it takes enough. And making an omelette to go, I soon realised, is a bit messy. For those days when I knew I was taking an early train, I made hard-boiled eggs the night before and paired it with carrot sticks (the ones that are individually packaged) so it would be easy to grab on my way out the door.
The Results Are In
Starting the day with a vegie omelette—or even a hard-boiled egg and carrots—really did keep me full for a while. I wasn’t starving by 10 AM, like I was before I started this experiment. I felt fine until at least noon, and when it got to lunchtime I noticed I was eating a bit less. "Vegies add bulk, but not kilojoules, so you’re adding fibre and feeling satiated longer," says Koff.
The other good part about eating vegies? I was super regular. Anyone having issues with constipation or irregularity will definitely benefit from a morning full of vegies, says Diane Henderiks, RDN, a chef and culinary nutritionist. "They add roughage, which aids gut health."
Once I started eating vegies for breakfast, I started doing other healthy things, like limiting myself to two cups of coffee and adding weights to my morning workout. It wasn’t so much that the vegies made me do these other things, but I felt healthier overall, which motivated me to stay on a healthy path throughout the day.
At the end of the month I was pretty proud of myself, but it turns out I could have done even better. Henderiks says it’s important to vary the colour of vegies on your plate. I mainly opted for green, since I love asparagus, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. While eating lots of green vegetables is hardly the worst thing you could do, Henderiks says there are benefits to branching out. Cauliflower, she points out, decreases your risk of cancer and is good for bone health.
But overall the experiment was a success, as I’m now a committed vegie breakfast eater. I feel better, I have more energy, and I start my morning with a little edge: No matter what else happens throughout the day, I’ve already had two of my nine servings of the good stuff.