Who knew adding veggies to your breakfast bowl could be such a shocking (SHOCKING!) idea? Apparently the concept is confronting and unusual and unexpected, yet — as someone who adds veggies to porridge more days than not — I find the reaction to the idea as shocking and unexpected as the idea itself. It is however all a matter of packaging (isn’t everything?).
I recently shot some photos and videos for the #mybrekkiebowl campaign, and as part of the press release I was quoted regarding how adding vegetables to breakfast bowls has become a trend. It wasn’t ground breaking to me, simply a commentary on the campaign’s research findings based on what I do on nearly a daily basis, and what I’ve seen others embrace over the past few years.
The reaction to the comment however has been quite interesting to watch. Apparently it’s an idea that’s totally out of the comfort zone of most breakfast eaters. Who knew.
Veggies for breakfast aren’t a new concept by any means. For decades the western world has been enjoying avocado on toast or sautéed spinach, roasted tomato and herbed mushrooms with their eggs, and not batting an eye. And the eastern world? Well you’d be hard-pressed to find many sweet breakfasts across Asia, with morning meals involving noodle soups or rice, fish and greens more often than not.
We’ve also been baking veggies into desserts for longer than anyone can recall. There are carrot cakes and pumpkin pies, zucchini breads and beetroot chocolate cupcakes, even chocolate cauliflower buttercream, gracing dessert tables no matter where you turn. So why is the concept of veggies in a breakfast bowl so shocking (SHOCKING!)?
In recent times a macro bowl of all things savoury is as apt to show up in the morning as it is for lunch or dinner, however if you’re a more traditional quick-bowl-of-something morning eater, adding veg to those cereals and smoothies seems to be a step too far. Perhaps our heads are so overloaded with quinoa and acai (not that there’s anything wrong with that) the simple act of adding leftover roast veg to breakfast makes our brains blink and flash does-not-compute-does-not-compute.
But it really isn’t that hard. When you break it down to a botanical level, “a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from a flowering plant, whereas vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems¹.” Many items we identify as vegetables at a culinary level (hello tomato and zucchini) are actually fruits by the nature of their being. Adding veg to your breakfast bowl is, for the most part, a mental block more than a taste driven one.
So what’s the solution? Well there are a multitude of vegetables, and dozens of ways to use them, that make it stunningly easy to get an extra serve of veg into the start of your day. Veg are also a brilliant way to add visual appeal to your breakfast bowl without completely overloading yourself with too much fruit-sugar first thing in the morning.
Mixing veggies with porridge, tossing through museli or blending into smoothies are the general methods I use, but there’s nothing stopping you from eating a bowl of flakes with beetroot milk or carrot spirals, or trying any of the other dozen plus ideas below — at least one is bound to resonate.
- One of the easiest ways to ease into the veggies on your brekkie bowl trend — start by pureeing or slicing roasted pumpkin, then stirring through or dolloping on top of porridge, muesli or flakes.
- Make the puree into a chai pumpkin latte (hot or cold) and pour over any cereal or grain you wish for a very fancy milk substitute.
- Grate raw pumpkin into porridge as it cooks, or simply sprinkle over top.
- If all else fails bake it into your favourite breakfast food, like Pumpkin Pancakes or Pumpkin Granola.
- Only old beets, or beets with dirt on them, taste like dirt — so stop using that as an excuse. Look for fresh baby beets, they tend to be sweeter, then scrub them well.
- Puree or wedges of roasted beetroot work the same way as pumpkin, with the added benefit of giving a wonderfully lurid pink to your breakfast in the process. Case in point, Pink Princess Porridge.
- Fresh grated beetroot is quick and easy to stir through porridge or muesli, or go one step further and blend into a gorgeous smoothie bowl then top with a handful of granola.
- Grated or spiralized carrot can be mixed, as-is, with any brekkie bowl base.
- To soften the carrot, add it to porridge as it cooks or blanch quickly in hot water.
- Roasted or steamed carrot puree is also a great addition to porridge, or swirled through yoghurt and topped with muesli.
- Step one, grate or spiralize, step two, add to things. Easy.
- If you have issues with the texture of raw zucchini add it, with a good helping of cinnamon and ginger, to porridge as it cooks. Or blanch the spirals in boiling water for 30 seconds before using.
- See beetroot, zucchini and carrot, same same.
- I’m not a fan of raw sweet potato so I always cook it first — dice or slice and roast, wrap in foil and bake, steam then mash — it’s all good.
- Slice, chop or mash, simples. Every time I share a photo of avocado on porridge someone new questions my intentions, it’s lovely and buttery and I’ll eat it on pretty much anything. Also, it makes really pretty roses.
- Avocado is also one of the base ingredients in pretty much any smoothie or smoothie bowl I make, it adds a richness without dairy or extra sugar from banana. If you want to ease into things puree it into a chocolate version first.
- Don’t look at me that way, cucumber sits firmly in the crunchy and slightly sweet veggie camp, and not too far from a crisp apple or nashi pear if you ask me.
- Find one with thin skin (or peel if you must) and make sure it’s super fresh, soft cucumbers are sad. Cucs are better on cold bowls than hot though — seriously, don’t cook cucumbers.
- If you can’t manage sliced cucumber on a breakfast bowl just yet this is another one that’s perfect for those smoothies.
- Even with its natural sweetness spinach sits firmly in the smoothie camp for me, or in the coloured milk camp if that’s your thing.
- Blend spinach leaves with liquid until very smooth and bright green, then add other ingredients for a smoothie or try to convince your kid that Shrek-milk is the best thing ever.
- Make up a batch of cauli rice and stir through oats or muesli with some cinnamon and ginger. Yep, really, if cauliflower can be made into lemon cheesecake, chocolate buttercream and cinnamon coffee cake it can make friends with your breakfast bowl.
- Adding mushrooms is a truly savoury step but it’s worth a mention. Sautée mushies in a bit of olive oil with a pinch of thyme, salt and pepper and use to top a savoury porridge bowl.
Of course if there is a vegetable you can’t stand, regardless of how it’s served, don’t add it to your breakfast, you probably won’t like it there either. Start with things you enjoy!
Now you can simply roast a bit of extra veg for dinner, then throw it into your breakfast the next morning, but for a more complete solution I’ve shared the recipe combos for the veg-loaded bowls I’ve been teasing you with through this entire piece. Perhaps a Rainbow Pumpkin & Beetroot Oatmeal Bowl is your thing, or maybe the Green Smoothie, Sweet Potato & Granola Bowl, or even a Carrot & Zucchini Muesli Bowl. Any way you go, make sure to pat yourself on the back and be smug in the knowledge that you’ve started the day with an extra serve of veg!