Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vegetables for Breakfast

One of the first things to know about me and food and chronic conditions—after the type 2 diabetes and celiac—is that I am an omnivore who goes heavy on vegetables! I love vegetables. All kinds. And I eat them three times a day. I have to limit fruit intake—and I also love fruit—because of the higher glycemic index. So fruit is a treat; vegetables are essential!

Here is where I go if I need to know where a food falls in the glycemic index: This is an Australian website and has lots of good information that, from what I know after working with dieticians, seems pretty sound.

I start my day with vegetables: yes, I eat vegetables for breakfast. The rational is this: you eat mushrooms or spinach in omelets; or peppers and onions in a frittata; or, if you are of the British persuasion, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes along with your bacon and eggs. Generally, though, when vegetables are part of breakfast, they act more like a condiment, a garnish or a flavoring agent. I found that eating protein and carbohydrates did not work very well for me for breakfast. By mid-morning I was craving more carbs, and then grazing…and we all know where that leads. And it was in my travels that I made the discovery that a full serving of vegetables, along with about two ounces of protein (two eggs, ½ cup cottage cheese, or a small serving of meat or fish) gave me a fresh start to the day.

We were staying at a very high end hotel in London (on my husband’s blessed expense account!) and there was just about everything imaginable served on the breakfast buffet. The kitchen seemed bent on providing food for every culture that came through the door. And I discovered that other people of other cultures eat vegetables for breakfast: there were pickled vegetables for the Asians; fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and very sweet onions for the Nordic contingent. There were grilled eggplant and peppers and mushrooms—to put in omelets, but I just put them on my plate. Lean protein was supplied in the form of Scottish smoked salmon and lovely ham as well as eggs. (And all this was before I knew I was celiac, so I added a couple of thin slices of toast and—salute to the French—a pain chocolate.)

When I eat my “grain” carbs varies. If we are traveling and I know I’m going to be walking—sometimes as much as five miles before I’ll be eating again—I have a serving of gluten free crackers or “safe” oatmeal with my vegetables and protein. If we are staying in a place with a kitchen--as we do increasingly, now, when we travel--I make a point of preparing enough of the carbs we have with dinner: rice, buckwheat, quinoa, potatoes or corn and saving a serving to heat up for breakfast. Sometimes my vegetables are leftovers, too, or something fresh for the morning.
I really feel we cannot eat too many vegetables! (Well, if you eat a lot of carrots, your skin might turn a bit orange—but it has to be a lot of carrots!) A serving of most diabetes-friendly, non-starchy vegetables is a half cup. Here is the American Heart Association’s guide to serving sizes:

Find it hard to imagine eating vegetables for breakfast? Here are a weeks worth of my favorite combos: boiled eggs with broccoli or asparagus; or a kind of salsa: tomatoes, cucumbers and a little chopped sweet onion on scrambled eggs. Ham and carrots; lean roast beef with celery and radishes; turkey sausage (we’ll discuss fat in a later posting!) and sautéed or roasted peppers and onions. Try chicken and green beans with a little sesame oil, rice vinegar and tamari for an Asian flavor; slices of pork roast with carmelized cauliflower, ginger and green onions.

Some of these may seem like a lot of work for the morning, but remember that I often use leftovers from dinner to give my breakfast vegetables a head start.


  1. When we went to Sweden I remember loving the fact that tomatoes and cucumbers were served at breakfast. It is truely refreshing...I'm going to have to bring them back into my breakfast rotation.

  2. Great breakfast ideas! I love veggies! Can't get enough sauteed onions with zucchini and mushrooms, and whatever else is around:) I have been known to toss an over-easy egg on the aforementioned for lunch or breakfast. Now lets see some food photos!! -Love, Cyndi

  3. When we traveled to Italy we flew SAS. The breakfast was more like a lunch. Other airlines could learn from them, everything was fresh -- no mystery eggs or soggy pastry. I've always preferred lunch as my first meal of the day - deliberately including vegetables makes a lot of sense, Katy!

  4. Shoot, now I'm thinking that I've been missing out on some great food for breakfast. When we were in Scotland, I remember enjoying the tomatoes, so maybe I'll try getting more veggies into my morning.