A Doctor-Approved Breakfast I Thought I’d Hate, But Kind of Loved
09.25.17

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.

Maybe.

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.

Monday

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

I ate a waffle.

Photography: Louisiana Mei Gelpi
Creative Direction: Emily Zirimis

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  • Veronica Wilkins

    “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.” Harling, YOU INSPIRE ME.

    • Harling Ross

      I TRY

  • Abby

    My city has what I firmly believe is the world’s best breakfast salad: warm lentils, bacon, poached eggs, a hash brown, and an abundance of spinach and kale. I don’t even like lentils but this salad is my very favorite thing!

    • Harling Ross

      that sounds amazing

    • Amelia Diamond

      excuse me where is your city? (i hate lentils but the bacon got me)

      • Abby

        The Hungry Pigeon in Philadelphia!

    • Caroline Christianson

      I live in Philly and am definitely checking this out on Saturday!!! Thanks for the tip!! Xx

  • Adrianna

    I first got the idea to eat salad/green vegetables from the book Born to Run. I love a bagel as much as the next person, but I’m hungry an hour later. It’s also a good way to get your daily portion of vegetables in – how much are you really paying attention to what you’re eating for breakfast?

    I recommend eating steamed broccoli and/or asparagus. More filling than leaves.

    • Allegra

      Broccoli at breakfast is so good!!

  • Hayley

    There was this lovely French restaurant my father and I went to when I was growing up, and they always served a side salad with their breakfast omelettes, eggs, etc. I always thought it was a unique (and delicious) spin on breakfast.

  • As someone who loves salad so much she sometimes gets up in the middle of the night to eat argula out of the bag with a balsamic vinaigrette chaser, I can’t believe I’d never thought of eating salad for breakfast. I’m gonna try it.

    • Amelia Diamond

      am i an animal for hating salad

      • Not at all. But have you tried slathering the salad in something really sexy and unhealthy? Always works for me!

      • gracesface

        try bagged salads!! i can easily wolf down a whole bag….not that I really should. and i love the packaged salads at trader joe’s.

  • Megatronium

    Arugula with poached eggs on top is my go-to breakie when I have a bit of time before work/weekend chillin. Poached eggs elevate everything imo

    • Amelia Diamond

      agree

  • Meemaw

    As a vegetarian, I approve this message. But kale chips taste like cigarette butts. No offense. 😀

    • Harling Ross

      what!!!!! disagree

      • Meemaw

        As a side note, I would like to thank Man Repeller for posting all of my comments in reply to your content, both positive and negative. You don’t appear to censor or have hissy fits, for which I am appreciative.

  • Ugh, tomatoes – I feel your pain.

    • Harling Ross

      THANK YOU

  • dietcokehead

    OK SO I see a lot of love for eggs on salad in the comments and fully agree, but may I recommend (sorry, I started going like half-vegan recently!) scrambling up some silken tofu with turmeric and curry powder and topping off a salad with that instead? Honestly I’m a rabid meat and cheese eater (with fork in mac and cheese in between typing words right now), but it’s soooooooo good. Try avocado, radishes, tomatoes and maybe a little vegan ranch to dress it up.

    • Harling Ross

      that sounds delish

  • nell

    Personally I don’t think I’d be down for that much salad at 7 am but I do love just about any greens+eggs based breakfast. Bonus is that by volume you eat so much more greens when they’re cooked! Key to making this a satiating breakfast is not to be shy with the butter or coconut oil… if you’re starving an hour after eating breakfast, there’s a good chance you should be eating a little more fat in the morning! (This might also be your problem with oatmeal — try stirring in a tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter and some ground flax seeds and see if you don’t get a steadier energy.)

    • gracesface

      i’ve gone back to eating cereal for breakfast (it’s so easy!!) and use Vit D milk for that very reason. I find that eggs just make me feel sick no matter how I prepare them first thing. Unless they are in a breakfast taco though, then I love em.

  • Basil

    I’m mostly on board with your Saturday breakfast.
    “Breakfast foods” (like pastries, waffles, pancakes) are some of the best things in the world, so it would take a lot to convince me to switch to “lunch” / “dinner” food instead

  • Bek

    Yay! I love breakfast salads/kale chips for breakfast.
    So happy this is a trend so I feel less weird.
    Also love breakfast soups. Can you please try that next??

    • Harling Ross

      what are bfast soups???? can’t wait to find out

      • Claire Willett

        When I was in Vietnam we ate soup for breakfast most mornings! A lot of pho variations and a sour pineapple one that was particularly bracing. Not sure if the Vietnamese places around chinatown offer their phos in the morning; been meaning to check!

  • AJ

    I’m a big fan of breakfast salads and glad to hear it’s trending! Adding fruit to the salad can make it feel more “traditionally” breakfasty. Lately I’ve been really into salad with sliced peaches and julienned beets and carrots. Or arugula with jicama and pineapple and watermelon. I could talk about breakfast salads for a while.

  • Ciccollina

    I staunchly believe that Australia is the pioneer of all wonderful breakfast food trends. Brekkie salads have been a thing in Aus for years (usually prepared with kale, seeds, eggs, avo and often some type of falafel) and we invented avocado on toast (genius I know). For a country so young and so skint on unique culture, I think this is amongst our proudest achievements!

  • Megan

    Once in a semantics class we had a discussion about whether breakfast cereal is salad. Individual pieces of food together in a bowl, with a liquid poured on top – it’s like totally a salad. Please can that count?? The thought of eating something savoury-but-healthy for breakfast (besides avos/eggs) is so weird….

  • I’m definitely trying this but it sucks because I live in the south. Everyone down here seems to be anti-green eating.

  • Juli

    I like to make a pot of farrow or other ancient grain and a stir fry of veggies ( depending on season, kale, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, spinich, squash–you get the pic) on Monday, and reheat all week with feta on top after heating and a poached or fried egg a top all that. Delicious and satiating for hours!