Eggs, ham, pork sausage, sausage patties, biscuits and gravy, bacon, milk, coffee with cream, cheese grits … all of these things seem to be the staple of the typical breakfast in America and abroad. Yet, for vegetarians, breakfast isn’t so easy. What happens when your eating lifestyle doesn’t include meat or what if it doesn’t even include dairy products? Does it mean you’re simply left out of the breakfast club? Not at all! Vegetarians and vegans, like everyone else, must eat breakfast. It’s a meal that many people skip because they say they don’t have time to fix or make it or they think it’s okay to make-up for it by eating donuts at work or a hefty lunch. Not so fast.
Breakfast is your first chance to refuel for the day. Imagine yourself preparing to run a marathon without having spent a day or week running and preparing yourself for the run. How do you think you’d do? Not very well, and the same happens when you choose to skip breakfast. Despite what people think, eating throughout the day – and eating healthy things – is how you lose weight, not by skipping meals or starving yourself. So breakfast is necessary if you want to perform well in school or at work, be sharp mentally, able to deal with problem and if you’re wanting to keep your metabolism churning throughout the day.
What’s a vegetarian or vegan to do if meat and dairy are not a part of their lives? Well, you re-think breakfast and eating in general. Each meal of the day, including breakfast, isn’t necessarily about eating for the sake of indulging and pleasing yourself. Meals are meant to provide you with the necessary minerals, vitamins and nutrients you need to be healthy during the day and beyond. Once you accept this mindset, you begin to see meals like breakfast differently. Suddenly the fat-laden meats, sugary syrups and processed pop tarts aren’t all that appetizing. What are they really doing for you beyond expanding your waist and making you feel sluggish and a bit sick? Not much. So here’s how to tackle breakfast the healthy vegetarian (and vegan) way so that you’ll feel satisfied and will keep your weight and waisline in check at the same time:
1. Go green. Stop thinking that you can only have leafy-green vegetables at dinner. Do you want to load up on much needed vitamins that will improve the way your body works and help you shed unwanted fat? Then treat yourself to a bowl of collards, kale or mustard greens in the morning for breakfast. These vegetables will give you a big dose of vitamin C without all of the sugar that comes with drinking orange juice. They also provide your body with needed nutrients and minerals like iron (without the saturated fat that comes with eating meat), various vitamin Bs, copper, calcium (yes, without having to chug milk). Leafy greens should be part of your breakfast if you’re really aiming to feel and look like a champ.
2. Think outside the box. Boxed breakfast foods are not necessarily good for you. Think of all the boxed “foods” you can buy for breakfast: cereals loaded with sugar, waffles, pancake mixes that contains chemicals you can’t pronounce, pop tarts. Do any of these things really do much for you? No. As with any food item, the boxed ones come with more than you need or want: chemicals, by-products, things with no nutritional value whatsoever. So as a general rule, if it comes in a box – skip it. Get back to the basics – fresh produce. Again, leafy-green vegetables would be a good choice but so would things like beans (black or pinto, dry or canned – but wash and rinse if they’re canned), other vegetables like squash and the big one – fruit! Bananas have potassium, oranges and kiwis have vitamin c. You get the point? Whole foods closest to their natural forms will be the best for you.
3. Get toasted. Have you heard of sprouted bread? If not, look into it. They don’t contain highly processed flours and have more vitamins and nutrients than even wheat bread because the sprouted breads are made from seeds as they first begin to sprout (you’ll also see or read this type of bread as being ‘live’ do to this). Eating sprouted bread will give you some much needed fiber which is good for your digestive track. Toast it up or spread natural peanut butter or some vegan/healthy buttery spread on it.
4. The water works. People are seriously dehydrated most of the time. Sometimes you mistake hunger for actually being thirsty. The moment you wake up, change this by drinking water. For most people, they get up and need their coffee to wake up or their orange juice, milk or other type of juice. First of all, are you really drinking juice or sugar-flavored water? Check the label. If it doesn’t read “100% juice”, you’re drinking a tonic of water, flavors, food coloring, sugar and chemicals with an aroma of fruit. Not good at all. If you eat healthy – beans, greens, fiber – water is the key that brings everything together. People often talk about going on cleanses to rid their body of toxins and starving themselves for weeks. This isn’t necessary. Just drink water! It’ll naturally flush your system, keep your muscles pumped up (yes guys, meaning if you’re working out and want to look ripped but often don’t, you’re probably dehydrated and need more water) and make you feel more satisfied.
5. The spreads and fillers. Let’s face it, sometimes you go off course and have hashbrowns and need your ketchup – or you have pancakes and need your toppings. Fine, but look into natural substitutes. If you like coffee, So’ Delicious makes a coffee creamer made of coconut milk! No, it doesn’t taste or even smell like coconut. You’ll be consuming healthy fats, won’t be going off the vegan course and you’ll never know the difference. Look into maple syrup for your waffles and pancakes or even into making your own toppings by using fruit. Condiments and spreads are gut busters that we often overlook. If you’re worried about keeping fit and your gut in check, make sure you aren’t consuming sugar-packed condiments.
6. Have your cake and eat it too. So, perhaps none of the above sounds appealing to you. You know you’ll never be able to eat vegetables for breakfast and it all seems a bit extreme. You have a family, a significant other, have breakfast with friends and you don’t want to be the odd person out not having what looks normal. Well, did you know there are vegetarian versions of your meats in stores? Morningstar Farms makes everything from sausage links to bacon strips that are, get this, purely vegetarian! Yes, they taste a bit different at first (because they aren’t packed with fat and hormones that gives the original its flavor) but after a week, the non-vegetarian versions of these foods won’t even taste the same. It may be a good starting point for those wary of going full vegetarian.
My last tip – start the morning off with water and a daily vitamin. Let’s face it – do any of us get the full 100% recommended daily value of any of the various vitamins and nutrients? No. A simple daily vitamin can help fill in the gaps from your diet and you should take it early in the day so that it can be absorbed and used by your body. Do you work out in the mornings? A good time to take a multivitamin is actually after you’ve worked out: your muscles will be more likely to absorb it better and pass along its contents to the rest of your body.
Bottom line – just because your vegetarian doesn’t mean breakfast isn’t for you! You have tons of options, more so than those who are fixated on the usual and expected. Start your day off by nourishing your body with foods that will benefit it and make it stronger, not with foods full of fat, antibodies, pollutants and hormones that are used to feed and prime meat for slaughter and consumption.
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