I’m not positive how I became convinced that “breakfast salads” were trending, but I think it was because I watched a coworker eat them on many occasions and decided it was a thing. She may be a (beloved) contrarian and have a general disdain for food, but she’s also hip to wellness trends, and so I privately put them on my trend-watch.
My intrigue tripled over the summer when Vogue.com published a story entitled, “Why Salad for Breakfast Is Suddenly the Best Part of Waking Up.” It piqued my interest not only because my current favorite part of waking up is nothing, but also because it confirmed my suspicions that breakfast salads were more than just an unusual quirk.
I wouldn’t know until I dipped a toe into it myself, of that I was certain. My eagerness to test-drive this morning dietary adventure stemmed from my general helplessness around deciding what to eat for breakfast. I used to eat oatmeal every day, but when I read that oatmeal is likely to put you on “an energy yo-yo all morning” and cause you to “overeat later and drink too much coffee to stave off the crash,” per Parsely Health’s Robin Berzin, I freaked, because that’s a nightmare. I’ve been side-eyeing the four unopened containers of Quaker Oats in my cupboard ever since. Wary of my breakfast whims, I reached out to Dr. Berzin to see what she thought about my salad-for-breakfast plan before I went all in.
“I love salad for breakfast,” she said. “Somewhere along the line, we got brainwashed into thinking breakfast should be sweet, not savory. A salad with healthy fats and protein is a great, nutrient-dense way to start the day.”
Say no more, Dr. Berzin. I’m on it.
I challenged myself to eat salad for breakfast every day for an entire work week and chronicle how I felt about it. The first morning, I indulged in the easiest and most obvious vehicle for this endeavor: Sweetgreen. The Nolita location of Sweetgreen opens at 10:30 a.m., which I realized is essentially a full-on endorsement of the breakfast salad lifestyle.
I got the same salad I get for lunch all the time. It has kale, sweet potato, cabbage, carrots, corn, almonds, chickpeas and spicy cashew vinaigrette. It was delicious and filling, which I already knew it would be. I expected my body to be kind of weirded out at the prospect of eating a bucket of kale at 10:45 a.m., but it was totally fine.
Most importantly, I appreciated the fact that I wasn’t FAMISHED by 11:30 a.m., which is when I usually start to get hunger pangs after one of my “typical” workday breakfasts (currently either a plain greek yogurt topped with Dang toasted coconut chips, or an RXBAR). The Sweetgreen salad kept me satisfied for hours, and by the time I actually did get hungry and eat lunch, I wasn’t inclined to wolf it down in 60 seconds like I usually am.
The second day I didn’t wake up super hungry and therefore didn’t really feel like eating a huge-ass Sweetgreen salad, so I picked up a small, pre-packaged salad from Dean & Deluca instead. It had kale, brussel sprouts, raw almonds, meyer lemon and sieved egg. I had to Google “sieved egg” because I’d never heard of it before, but it sounded like a fancy and breakfast-y salad topping nonetheless. Apparently “sieving” is a method of straining out the “loose” egg whites so that you’re left with the more compact (and I guess superior?) egg whites. So interesting. You learn something new every day when you’re eating salads for breakfast.
Day three was kind of weird because I had to go to an off-site shoot location first thing in the morning, so I panicked and made a smoothie because I had frozen bananas and peanut butter handy. Before you accuse me of deviating from my breakfast salad pledge, please know that I also included a large handful of kale and purposefully didn’t blend it thoroughly; that way I could still chew on the kale pieces like I would in an actual salad. Gross, right? That’s what dedication tastes like.
On day four, I woke up early to go to yoga, after which I had a bit of free time before I needed to be at the office. I capitalized on the opportunity by attempting to make my own salad using ingredients I had ambitiously purchased at Whole Foods the evening prior. The resulting breakfast accidentally turned out to be a take on a classic panzanella salad: romaine lettuce, green beans, mozzarella, bread chunks and tomatoes. I’m trying really hard to convince my tongue that I like tomatoes, but it’s a work in progress. I ate two out of the eight bites of tomato and added more mozzarella halfway through.
By day five, I was feeling like a cocky and luxurious breakfast salad-eating professional. I’d been around the block, as they say. Four times. I decided I deserved a treat on my last day of the challenge, so I made myself the best salad ever: kale chips.
My kale chip recipe is so bomb. I made it up the night of Emmy’s and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of an accomplishment (except maybe when I kept an indoor plant alive for a month). All you do is take a big bunch of kale, pull the leaves off the stems, mix it up in a bowl with a pinch of paprika, sea salt, garlic powder and a few healthy glugs of olive oil and bake in the oven at 300 degrees until crispy.
I think I could eat salad for breakfast every day if that salad was a bowl of kale chips, although it didn’t fill me up that much. I was hungry an hour later and ate a Kind Bar, but it had kale and spinach in it so I considered it a salad, too.
Overall, I had a lovely time eating salad for breakfast five days in a row. It was wonderful to check the “vegetables” box first thing in the morning, as opposed to my frequent habit of realizing at dinnertime that all I’d eaten that day are blond foods (oatmeal, white bread, cookies, chips, etc.) Eating salad for breakfast was like exercising before work: an attempt to start my day on the right foot. I never thought I’d say this, but I might actually continue.
I ate a waffle.
Photography: Louisiana Mei Gelpi
Creative Direction: Emily Zirimis