By Ali Lopez
Now that the weather has FINALLY warmed up, I am starting to crave new, lighter foods. But not just for lunch and dinner. I have found a great way to shake up my breakfast routine but still get a whole lot of good nutrition and good taste! And best of all, it’s quick and easy.
What? Salad for breakfast? Stay with me here. Sure, bacon and eggs, oatmeal and pancakes have their place, but so does a big bowl of healthy greens, healthy fats and yummy flavors. Maybe you woke up and are feeling a little sluggish and a bowl of oatmeal seems pretty blah and heavy. So maybe you think about a smoothie. Sure, that’s great. But I have found my breakfast salad is a great way to feel nourished and energized first thing in the morning.
And I’m not talking about a boring spring mix with a tomato and a cucumber. I’m talking about exciting combinations full of healthy fats, protein and a ton of veggies. In other words, brain food.
But building a breakfast salad is a little different than other salads. Here are a few steps to getting it right:
Start with the base:
I like to start with a bed of mixed greens, arugula, spinach, romaine, microgreens, and go from there. Add some fresh herbs like parsley, dill and basil. And because no one wants to wash greens first thing in the morning, prep them in advance if you can. And change up your greens every once in awhile. By mixing and matching, you’ll end up with a more nutrient-dense plate.
Then think about your add-ins:
Add your favorite colorful veggies (red pepper, shredded carrots, broccoli, purple cabbage). Or use leftover roasted or grilled veggies from the night before. Roasted sweet potatoes and beets or grilled zucchini are so yummy on a salad. And don’t forget grains! You can add some leftover cooked quinoa or brown rice to salad, boosting nutrition and flavor. Fruits are also a great addition; sliced strawberries, peaches, blueberries or even dried fruits like cherries add a sweetness and nutrition to your morning bowl of goodness! And instead of toast on the side, throw in some crunchy croutons made from good whole grain bread.
Don’t forget about protein:
Eggs are perfect for a breakfast salad. Poached, soft boiled, hard boiled, fried or even scrambled and mixed into the salad are all great easy options. But don’t stop there. Maybe you have some leftover rotisserie chicken, salmon or cooked black beans to toss in. Or maybe add some cheese. Goat cheese, feta or cottage cheese are great in a morning salad. Or maybe a dollop of full fat or Greek yogurt.
Next add some healthy fats:
Avocado, nuts and seeds are all great additions to the breakfast salad. These things not only taste delicious, but they help wake up your brain and keep you full until lunchtime.
How about dressing?
I like to keep my dressing pretty simple and light for my breakfast salads. A simple drizzle of some really good extra virgin olive oil, and maybe a squeeze of lemon or a splash of apple cider or balsamic vinegar. But if you like a creamier dressing, you can mix some yogurt with a little lemon juice and honey. Or make my favorite tahini dressing from Ali’s Power Bowl (get the recipe here » )
The final step is enjoying your salad!
Breakfast salads can be dressed, packed into a trendy mason jar or reusable container, and taken to work. But there’s something really satisfying and nourishing about sitting down and eating your breakfast salad at home. Try to do it one day next week.
Try this breakfast spinach salad (serves 2)
3 cups of spinach
1/2 ripe avocado
A few cherry tomatoes or leftover diced cooked sweet potato
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons goat cheese
2 poached or fried eggs
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash of maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
(If you have leftover corn, black beans or any veggies feel free to add them in.)
Divide spinach, avocado, tomato, seeds between two plates. Crumble goat cheese on top. Place a hot poached or fried egg on top of each salad. Whisk together apple cider vinegar, oil and maple syrup. Drizzle dressing, sea salt and pepper over salads.
Or this breakfast green grain salad (serves 2)
3 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup leftover cooked quinoa or brown rice
1/2 cup of blueberries, dried cherries, sliced strawberries or peaches
1/4 cup walnuts or almonds
1 carrot, shredded
2 poached or fried eggs (or hard boiled)
1/4 cup full fat yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
(Feel free to add any other leftover veggies you may have)
Divide greens, quinoa, fruit, carrots and nuts between two plates. Place a hot poached or fried egg on top of each salad. Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice and maple syrup. Drizzle dressing, sea salt and pepper over salads.
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at michiganrunnergirl [at] gmail [dot] com
Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here » She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »
Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »