Think about what you ate for breakfast this morning. Was your plate filled with colorful veggies? Most likely your answer would be no. You're not alone. The percentage of Americans who eat the recommended daily servings of vegetables is shockingly low and continues to decline. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 26.3% of adults in the United States eat vegetables three or more times per day. Oh, and that serving of vegetables can include a tiny piece of lettuce served on a hamburger. It's an embarrassment that a wilted sliver of iceberg lettuce counts in that statistic.
However, hope is not lost. One way to ensure that you're meeting the recommended 2 1/2 cups a day is by adding a variety of veggies to your breakfast. Start each day off right by adding a fun twist to your most important meal.
1. Veggies & Eggs
Vegetables and eggs go together like peas in a pod (Hey, throw some peas into that omelet!). Because eggs are a typical inclusion of the all-American breakfast meal, bulk up your plate but not your waistline by adding in some colorful vegetables. Make an omelet with some chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, onions, tomatoes or zucchini. If you're too busy to chop up vegetables, simply top your eggs with some chunky salsa and sliced avocado. The possibilities are endless. You can make the baked egg dish, frittata, and include cauliflower, broccoli or other hearty veggies. Make a big batch and slice it into individual portions to dole out later when you need a quick breakfast option. The addition of veggies will provide fiber, which slows digestion and help keep you full for longer.
2. Top That Tasty Tortilla
Take your basic whole-wheat or corn tortillas and bombard them with flavor and nutrients by filling them with lean protein and flavorful vegetables. Assemble a Southwestern-inspired veggie quesadilla by spreading on some fat-free refried beans, adding chopped tomatoes, onions and bell peppers and topping with reduced-fat cheddar cheese (shredded). Make it melty by microwaving it for about 30 seconds or grilling it in the skillet until it's gooey. Another idea is to top a whole-grain tortilla with eggs that you scrambled up with your favorite vegetables. Or, try this protein- and veggie-packed wrap: spread on some low-fat cottage cheese or hummus and add cabbage, chopped bell peppers, shredded carrots, or any other colorful veggie.
3. Substitute in Supper Staples
Who says breakfast has to consist of typical breakfast foods? Ignore the notion that breakfast should be comprised of cereal and milk or limited to eggs, toast and bacon. Throw together a quick, veggie-packed sandwich or wrap by adding slices of cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, jicama or cabbage. Vegetable soup with reduced-fat cheese or a salad topped with roasted turkey, chicken, tuna or cooked beans makes for a healthy, well-balanced breakfast that will keep you full all morning.
4. Great Greens
Quickly saute up some greens (collards, kale, spinach, etc.) and you've got a veggie-packed start to your busy day. Top your sauteed greens with a poached egg, a little vinegar and oil dressing, and some finely shredded Parmesan cheese for a tasty, nutrient-rich breakfast. Add cooked quinoa and scrambled tofu to your greens for a fast, filling meal. Add some baked sweet potato chunks, asparagus or beets and chicken or turkey sausage to your greens for a hunger-killing hash.
5. Sensational Veggie-Packed Smoothies
People love smoothies for breakfast, but veggies aren't typically a go-to smoothie staple. However, adding some spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, cooked carrots or butternut squash will help you reach your daily vegetable goal. I promise, if you blend it with some fruit, it'll taste delicious.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.