Ah, the humble vegetable. All too often it assumes a subsidiary role on the plate, cowering in one corner while meat and potatoes take the limelight. Even rarer still do we see it in any form at all before lunchtime strikes (and no, no matter how many times you say it, bacon does not count as a vegetable).
The truth is, in our warp-speed society, breakfast has come to take the form of anything we can shove in a bowl or a toaster and consume in two seconds flat with minimal effort other than taking the milk out of the fridge. Now I’m not saying that Cheerios should not be seen as an independent food group in itself (I would be the first to front this campaign), but I do think that the time has come to introduce a little variety into the morning routine.
I don’t think I need to go into the reasons why vegetables are good for you. If you are at all confused as to why cauliflower beats cake or beetroot beats brownies, I suggest you go read a book or two and return at a later date. For the convinced, however, our green friends need little introduction. But why eat them for breakfast, you ask? Because I say you should, that’s why (there’s also the small point that many of us don’t actually get our essential 5 a day on a regular basis and, even so, an extra leaf or two won’t hurt, will it?).
I do understand that a chunk of broccoli at 6 in the morning may not seem like the most appealing thing, which is why I present you with these ingenious options that make stomaching our spinach a breeze. And don’t worry, each can be made in minutes (or prepared beforehand), making them perfect for busy mornings or to grab and go. You’re welcome.
1) The Green Smoothie
I promise you this isn’t nearly as alarming as it looks. Green smoothies have really caught on recently, partly due to their amazing health benefits and/or more people wanting to pretend they’re drinking slime. Personally, I love them for their versatility and the fact that they’re so quick to prepare. If you’re really short for time they’re great for shoving in a flask and grabbing on your way out the door.
The possibilities for these really are endless, there are so many flavour combinations to try out. I’ve given a basic recipe, but feel free to sub in different fruits, greens, liquids and extras (i.e. nut butter, seeds, cocoa powder, spices) to find what you like best. And before you ask: no, you can’t taste the spinach.
Basic Green Smoothie:
- ½ frozen banana, chopped before freezing (note: try to use frozen fruit instead of ice to make it cold, you don’t want to water it down!)
- 1 small banana, chopped
- 1 big handful spinach
- 120ml (1/2 cup) milk of choice (I use almond, but use whatever you like)
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 handful oats
- dash of cinnamon
Just blend and enjoy! This should keep you full for hours. If you have more time, try eating (drinking?) it from a bowl and sprinkling granola/more fruit on top.
Detox Green Smoothie:
This one is great for starting the week on a healthy note and getting the metabolism going, or when you may have overindulged just a tad at the weekend. Enjoy it for breakfast or as a healthy snack between meals. If you’re feeling fancy, you can even put it in a wine glass like me (see above). The straw is
- 70-80g frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 small banana, chopped
- 1 big handful spinach
- 60g chopped cucumber
- 120ml (1/2 cup) water (or coconut water)
- a few fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- dash of cinnamon
- 1 tsp maple syrup/other liquid sweetener (optional)
Again, just shove it in a blender and there you go.
2) Carrot Cake Porridge
If, like me, you are a big fan of both porridge and carrot cake, this is for you. Granted, it doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing, but we’re trying to be healthy here. What do you take me for, some kind of healthifying cake wizard?
I have to admit, my love of putting vegetables in porridge has nothing to do with the health benefits and everything to do with the fact that it increases the volume of the porridge. I mean, vitamins are great and all, but who doesn’t want even more porridge?!
- 1 small carrot, grated
- 45g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
- ½ banana, mashed
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp salt
- dash of vanilla extract
- 240ml (1 cup) water and/or milk of choice (total volume)
- 1 tbsp honey/other sweetener of choice
optional: - small handful chopped walnuts
- small handful raisins
Mix together the carrot, oats, banana, spices and salt in a small saucepan.
Add the water/milk, vanilla extract and sweetener and heat on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the oats have absorbed most of the liquid and it has reached your desired consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat, pour the porridge into a bowl and top with walnuts, raisins, a splash more milk, and a sprinkling of brown sugar if you’re in the mood.
3) Zucchini Banana Bread
Alas, we come to my third and final suggestion: zucchini (fine, courgette - I do apologise for my Americanisms) banana bread. Obviously this is one to prepare the day before (unless you happen to enjoy a spot of early morning baking), but it means that in the morning you don’t even have to worry about putting anything in a bowl – you can just grab a slice and be off on your merry way. Of course, I always take far too long over breakfast in the morning so I would warm it up and top it with Greek yoghurt, chopped banana and a drizzle of honey, but you can choose your own adventure, as they say.
This may not be the healthiest choice out of the three, but if you’re going to eat a vegetable this is a great way to do it. If you’re wondering, you can’t taste the courgette at all, but it adds moisture like nothing else. It also makes the traditional banana loaf just a tiny bit healthier (along with the fact that this recipe is vegan and not extreme in its sugar content). It’s basically the equivalent of eating a salad for breakfast. Sort of.
Zucchini Banana Bread (adapted very slightly from http://www.theppk.com/2013/07/zucchini-banana-bread/):
- 1 large ripe banana, mashed
- 120ml (1/2 cup) rapeseed oil (or sunflower oil, as you like)
- 135g (3/4 cup) light brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 small courgette, mashed
- 225g spelt flour (or plain if you wish)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- small pinch salt
- handful chopped walnuts
- handful raisins
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees and grease an 8’x4’ loaf tin.
Sift the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix in the grated courgette.
Stir the flour mix in gently, until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin and sprinkle the top with the demerara sugar. Bake for 50-55 minutes until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, before transferring to a wire rack and leaving it to cool completely. Unless you are like me, in which case just hack off half and eat it while it’s hot. Enjoy!