If you're avoiding sugars, ditch that morning muffin and opt for a savory breakfast instead. Here are eight ideas for where to start.
Sugar is the dietary demon du jour, and while there’s no need to shun sugar altogether, the truth is many people would benefit from cutting back. It’s not uncommon to take an informal inventory of your sugar intake only to find that it’s seeped into all the nooks and crannies of your food day. Other than cutting out sugary drinks — if you still partake of them — where’s a good place to start? I suggest breakfast.
Let’s face it, American breakfasts tend to be sweet. Heavily sweetened yogurt, sugar-sweetened cold cereal, coffee-shop scones or muffins, syrup-drenched waffles and pancakes, toast with a heavy layer of jam. Rather than get your day off to a good start, a sugary breakfast may spike and crash your blood sugar, leaving you tired and possibly cranky. It also sets you up for sugar cravings as your body tries to recover from the crash, only to spike and crash again — and again.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars — not the natural sugar found in whole foods like fruit, dairy, grains and some vegetables — to 25 grams per day (about six teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (about nine teaspoons) for men, a level more or less on par with other expert recommendations. Why not save your sugar “allotment” for a favorite dessert instead of using it up in the morning? When you build your breakfast around whole — not refined — grains, fruit and vegetables, you’re getting a good start on meeting your fiber needs for the day. Pair those fiber-rich whole plant foods with protein and healthy fat, and you are setting the savory stage for an energetic and nutritious day. Here are some of my favorite ideas for savory breakfasts.
Turkish breakfast. My favorite savory breakfast is inspired by the breakfast spread at the hotel we stayed at during a trip to Istanbul a little over a year ago. My at-home version is sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, hummus, olives (preferably from Big John’s PFI), feta cheese, a quartered hard-boiled egg and fresh parsley. Sometimes some crusty bread on the side. It’s delicious and never fails to satisfy.
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Scrambled eggs with vegetables. This one should be easy for even novice cooks. If you need to save time in the morning, prep and sauté extra chopped onions, bell peppers and other firmer vegetables, since those take longer to cook than the eggs. You can also sauté greens ahead of time, although baby spinach and kale will cook up quickly in the morning. I like to chop extra roasted vegetables and add them to the pan just to warm up before adding the eggs. Top with a sprinkle of cheese if you like, and serve with (or on) a slice of whole grain toast, or wrapped in whole-grain tortilla (corn or wheat).
Faux Huevos Rancheros. I admit that I have never made traditional huevos rancheros, but I love Mexican flavors, and they pair so well with eggs. Simply top heated black or pinto beans (cooked from dried, or drained and rinsed from a can) with an over-easy egg, salsa, sliced avocado, cheddar or cojita cheese, fresh cilantro (if you have it), a squeeze of lime and a squirt of hot sauce (optional). When I have the time, I’ll sauté some onions and bell peppers and mix them with the beans.
Scrambled tofu. You can use firm or extra-firm tofu to make a scramble that could fool even an egg lover (I know, because I’ve done it). Pair with sautéed or roasted vegetables, or mix with the faux-huevos rancheros accompaniments. A web search for “scrambled tofu” will get you started.
Breakfast bowl. Bowl food is uber-popular right now, and not just for lunch and dinner. Breakfast versions often contain whole grains, vegetables and six-minute eggs. I like to save some cooked farro from the night before — although any whole grain would work — and add it to a bowl with leftover roast broccoli or cauliflower (or dark leafy greens sautéed in olive oil with sliced or chopped shallots), then top with half a sliced avocado, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and one of those six-minute eggs. To make the eggs, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add eggs straight from the refrigerator, simmer for six minutes, then use a slotted spoon to scoop out the eggs and slip them right into a bowl of ice water. Let the eggs cool completely, six minutes or more. Drain and peel. Season with a squeeze of lemon, a little salt and pepper, and, if you like spicy, some of your favorite hot sauce.
Shakshuka. If you’ve never had shakshuka, it’s a classic breakfast dish popular in North Africa and the Middle East. In Israel, it’s also frequently served for dinner. In traditional versions of the recipe, eggs are poached in a sauce of crushed tomatoes, hot peppers, olive oil, garlic, paprika and salt. As with many recipes, there are variations aplenty, and some cuisines add salty cheese, artichoke hearts or beans. Do a web search for “shakshuka” and lots of recipe options will pop up. Choose one that appeals to you, and give it a whirl. Another option is to search for “eggs in purgatory” to find recipes for the Italian version of this dish.
Avocado toast. There’s nothing wrong with whole-grain toast with unsweetened nut butter (peanut, almond and so on), but riding the avocado-toast trend can be a satisfying variation. Simply top whole-grain toast with mashed or sliced ripe avocado and add an egg — either hard-boiled and sliced or pan-cooked — for a protein boost.
Yogurt, fruit and nuts. Need something with a touch of sweet? Eschew pre-sweetened yogurt and top plain Greek yogurt (more protein) with fresh (or frozen when out of season) berries and a small handful of the nuts of your choice.