Greens are tremendously important in a balanced vegan diet. Really, if you have to remember just one thing, it’s to eat your greens: Kale, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and the list goes on. Leafy greens and green veggies are the key to getting the nutrients you need.
It is now hard to believe, but in the past decades of iceberg lettuce in ranch dressing, many people believed that green vegetables were lacking nutrients. At a time when green beans and beets came out of cans, it was hard to imagine that a few leaves of kale could be so nutritious. In fact, green veggies are true powerhouses, containing a myriad of nutritions from folate (digestion and cardiovascular health) to antioxidants, which protect your cells and brain from aging.
Over the last few months, and especially last year when I started training more seriously for different races, my diet has changed quite a bit. My body has been craving more high-carb and high-starch food and I have considerably increased the amount of oats, squashes, sweet potatoes, and rice in my diet. It’s been wonderful because these foods are high-energy and their complex carbs digest slowly, which means you don’t get a sugar rush. Instead, they keep you fueled for hours.
While I love my high-carb diet, I also have noticed that I have been slacking a little bit when it comes to my consumption of greens. To be honest, green smoothies are sometimes a bit boring to me and I also don’t love to drink my calories. While I find green smoothies and juices overall tasty, they don’t keep me very satisfied because I really think I am missing the act of chewing. My brain doesn’t register drinking food in the same way as chewing it and I think that’s the case for a lot of people.
So I decided to do a little self-experiment. I love these little experiments and habit changes, because they’re a great way to keep myself on my toes and I very much appreciate the feeling of novelty. In addition, I love testing a hypothesis and in this case, I was looking for a way to 1) get more greens and green veggies into my diet and 2) feel even better while tackling my workouts and life overall.
I hence decided to switch up my breakfast routine and started making steamed veggies for breakfast. I realized that it was easy for me to add broccoli or kale to a salad for lunch or a buddha bowl for dinner. What wasn’t easy, was eating them first thing in the morning. I had trained my palate to crave a sweet breakfast, such as a bowl of oatmeal with berries and dates or a big fruit platter in summer. What would happen if the first thing that I ate in the morning instead was a bowl of steamed leafy green and green veggies?
The results were mind blowing, to say the list. The first 2 days it felt kind of funny chopping up broccoli and dinosaur kale and having them as my first food of the day. It’s funny that drinking a green juice or smoothie is very similar but so much more “normal” in my mind. I decided to have breakfast a little later and honestly, I usually do a workout first thing in the morning anyway and I don’t like eating before. I generally am not hungry in the morning either so I decided to have my green around 10 am or so. So my new habit became: wake up – drink lemon water – have some coffee – do my workout – come home and shower – respond to a batch of emails for about 2 hours and then have my greens followed by more food if I was hungry. I definitely was craving a bowl of oatmeal the first days and ended up having it for lunch just shortly afterwards.
But then day 3 came and I literally was craving the sweet taste of broccoli and kale for breakfast. I swear, I felt like my body really wanted and needed it. I also felt super energized and ready to focus after I ate it. More importantly, I felt good on a mental level too because I knew, I had already gotten my greens in for the day. All greens consumed thereafter would be bonus greens and I continued adding them to my lunch and dinner.
While I love this new habit of eating broccoli and kale first thing in the morning, I also feel like if I continue doing this I need to 1) eat A LOT of it and 2) complement it with something else. So I decided to move towards a savory bowl of oatmeal with miso and added kale and broccoli to it. In that way, I have the best of both worlds: I get my greens in first thing but I also eat my complex carbs that keep me full and energized. I like it more than a smoothie or juice, because it actually keeps me full and is mentally satisfying too.
I don’t believe there is anything wrong with eating a sweet breakfast but since I transitioned to a savory breakfast and greens, I have had less cravings for sweet foods. I used to often feel like snacking on dates or a bowl of fruit in the afternoon, and that has changed. I am more satisfied with less sweet foods. It totally makes sense, as I am retraining my palate and my mind and it’s been a perfect change for the colder season because I feel truly nourished and energized. I will definitely stick to this new habit, at least through out the winter and it motivates me to come up with other savory breakfast recipes that include green veggies and some good complex carbs.
Also by Isabelle: How To Eat Enough For Your Vegan, Active Lifestyle
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Alexa Pizzarello; Molly Lansdowne