Fuel your day with vegetables for breakfast

Often described as the 'most important meal of the day,' breakfast plays a crucial role in setting the tone for the hours ahead. It provides an opportunity to kickstart our metabolism with a nutrient-packed meal, ensuring sustained energy and staving off hunger until lunchtime.

In today's fast-paced world, many commercially produced breakfast foods such as cereals, bread and pastries are tempting but often fall short on nutritional value. Loaded with added sugars and lacking essential nutrients, these options can turn breakfast into the most sugar-laden meal of the day. Research shows the long-term health risks associated with a high-sugar diet, and in the short term it can lead to a mid-morning energy slump. It is crucial to choose a breakfast low in added sugars to optimise your health and wellbeing.

Healthy habits start at a young age

When it comes to children, the challenge of encouraging a diet low in added sugars and rich in nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables is all too familiar for parents and caregivers. We are researching new ways to create healthy eating habits in young children. One promising way of doing this is to include vegetables at breakfast, which not only increases vegetable intake each day, but can also be a good way to reduce the amount of added sugar eaten during the morning meal and keep hunger at bay.

Two of our recent studies have shown promise in this area. In one study, our research team at Loughborough University prepared approximately 30,000 carrot and cucumber sticks over five weeks and delivered them to local nurseries for young children to enjoy each morning alongside typical breakfast foods at nursery. The results were encouraging, with children eating some of the carrot and cucumber sticks most of the times they were offered them at breakfast.

In a follow up study, 18 parents were interviewed to understand their views on offering children vegetables for breakfast. Overall, we found that parents were willing to try this approach, despite obstacles such as what is seen as ‘normal’ breakfast food and their children's dislike of vegetables. These encouraging results show the potential for improving children's health through vegetable-rich breakfasts.

Any food can be a breakfast food

Including vegetables at breakfast time is beneficial for adults too. Although we have ideas of ‘breakfast foods,’ any item can be eaten in the morning - the idea of including vegetables during breakfast just seems unusual because they aren’t normally eaten at this time. Considering how nutritious vegetables are (rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories), they offer a double benefit of promoting health and supporting weight maintenance, making them an ideal addition to breakfast.

Eating vegetables at breakfast can be as simple as adding them to an omelette, blending them into a morning smoothie, or grating them into a bowl of porridge.

You can follow these steps to get a boost of added goodness to your breakfast:

  • Blend raw kale twice a week
  • Put it in a storage box, and keep it in the fridge
  • Every morning sprinkle a tablespoon onto your breakfast: whether that’s yoghurt, berries and nuts, or scrambled egg on toast.

These versatile options make it easy to make breakfast more nutritious without sacrificing taste or convenience.

By making new breakfast habits with vegetables playing a starring role we pave the way for improved health for both adults and children. Whether it’s helping preschoolers develop a taste for veggies or encouraging adults to experiment with adding vegetables into their own breakfasts, the benefits are undeniable. A healthy start to the day begins with mindful choices at breakfast, setting the stage for a lifetime of wellbeing.

Dr Chris McLeod, Lecturer in the Centre for Lifestyle Behaviour and Medicine, Loughborough University

For more information about healthy food habits, visit the Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour’s website or email climb@lboro.ac.uk.