Starting Your Day the Plant-Based Way — Healthy Vegan Breakfasts Made Easy

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You’ve made the leap and gone plant-based, but now breakfast is a big question mark. With bacon and eggs off the menu, what is there to eat?

Before you panic and rush to the drive-thru, remind yourself why you decided to stop eating animal foods. Bacon is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of processed meats to avoid due to its potential to cause cancer, and the risk goes up when the meat is fried. Adding eggs increases heart disease risk by as much as 40 percent and makes you 29 percent more likely to develop diabetes. Slap it all on a refined white bun, and you have a recipe for chronic health problems with a side of digestive distress.

A balanced breakfast combines complex carbs, fresh fruits or veggies, clean proteins and healthy fats to deliver the nutrients you need for energy and breakfast satisfaction on a plant-based diet. What does it all look like when you put it into practice? This guide walks you through a typical whole food breakfast so that you can make healthy, delicious choices every morning.

Get Creative with Carbs

After a whole night without food, your body needs nourishment. Unlike proteins and fats, carbohydrates are efficient energy sources and are the body’s preferred fuel. Any plant-based breakfast should include a healthy helping of “carbs.” Your body breaks carbs down and uses the resulting glucose to create energy. Leftover glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and turned back into glucose when more energy is required.

  • Serving size:½ cup cooked grains, 1 slice bread, ½ English muffin, 1 small bagel
  • Focus on: Whole, intact grains or breads made from sprouted grains
  • Avoid: Refined grains, refined sweeteners, added salt, chemical or artificial additives

healthy plant-based fruit bowl breakfastVary Your Veggies (and Fruits)

Savory food isn’t just for dinner! Filling your plate with veggies at breakfast is a great way to get on the right track for the rest of the day. Fruit satisfies your natural sweet tooth without the inevitable sugar rush you get from boxed cereal or pancakes drenched in maple syrup.

Eating fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables for breakfast (or any meal) gives your body an infusion of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in their natural states. When consumed whole and unprocessed, these foods form a complete package in which all the nutrients work together in ways that aren’t possible with the synthetic forms found in “enriched” products. Mixing veggies and fruits with grains at breakfast gives you additional healthy carbohydrates to power your day.

  • Serving size: ½ cup chopped or 1 medium piece of fruit,1/4 cup dried fruit, ½ cup raw or cooked crunchy/starchy veggies, 1 cup raw leafy veggies
  • Focus on: Eating a variety of colors, experimenting with different combinations, seasonal foods
  • Avoid: Processed fruit or vegetable juices, dried fruit with added oil or sugar, canned fruit in syrup, frozen vegetables with sauce or salt

Pack in Powerful Proteins

You don’t have to chug a shake made with dubious powdered ingredients to get a healthy helping of protein with your morning meal. Beans and legumes deliver the biggest protein bang for your buck on a plant-based diet without any of the hormones, chemicals or additives found in meats and commercial protein powders.

It may sound strange to eat beans at breakfast, but English, Mexican, Ethiopian and other cultures regularly include them in the morning meal. Adding beans or foods made from beans, such as tempeh, to your breakfast plate provides essential amino acids to:

  • Help muscles recover after an early workout
  • Produce enzymes to power important chemical reactions in your body
  • Make hormones
  • Maintain healthy skin and hair
  • Transport nutrients around the body

Although it’s not necessary to obsess over protein intake on a plant-based diet, a big helping of breakfast beans makes the meal heartier and more satisfying.

  • Serving size: ½ cup cooked beans, tofu or tempeh; ¼ cup dry lentils; 1 cup sprouts; 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast or ¼ cup hummus
  • Focus on: Unprocessed plant proteins, fermented or whole soy, varying protein choices
  • Avoid: Isolated soy protein, processed vegan meat analogs, processed protein powders, commercial hummus with added oil and salt

Don’t Forget Fabulous (Healthy) Fats!

Fat plays a key role in helping your body absorb certain vitamins and phytonutrients. Vitamins D, E and K are all fat-soluble, as are the carotenoids that serve as precursors to vitamin A. Inside the body, fats protect your organs, build cell membranes and insulate nerves. Your brain is also about 60 percent fat, and several key hormones require fat for production.

A serving of healthy fat makes a nice condiment for or accompaniment to your breakfast. Use your preferred whole source to make oatmeal creamier, add crunch to breakfast scrambles or boost nutrient absorption from green smoothies.

  • Serving size: 2 Tbsp nuts or seeds, 1 Tbsp nut or seed butter, ¼ of a medium avocado, 1 Tbsp coconut (use sparingly)
  • Focus on: Whole fat sources, raw nuts and seeds
  • Avoid: Processed oils, salted nuts, nut or seed butters with added oil and/or salt

Some Tasty Ideas to Jump-Start Your Morning

whole grain toast with hummus

Ready to become a plant-based breakfast champion? Fill your plate (or your bowl) with these delicious combinations:

  • Oatmeal with red lentils, spinach, nutritional yeast and hemp seeds
  • Millet and black beans with sautéed onions, bell peppers and kale, topped with salsa and avocado
  • Chopped fruit bowl with walnuts and cinnamon
  • Leftover cooked rice simmered with almond milk, dates and cinnamon, topped with walnuts
  • Sprouted bagels with sliced tomatoes, leafy greens and avocado
  • Chickpea or tofu scramble with your favorite veggies and greens, garnished with sunflower seeds
  • Sprouted whole grain toast with avocado, tomatoes and nutritional yeast
  • Large green salad with all your favorite veggies, cooked lentils and lemon-tahini dressing
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About the Author:

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She has been a member of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce since August 2017. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, play silly card games and knit socks.
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