Breakfast salads are becoming the latest health craze.
Although eating vegetables for breakfast is not typical in the Western diet, it’s quite common in diets from other parts of the world.
Breakfast salads are a great way to start your day with nutrient-dense foods. They may also boost your mood and productivity, improve your digestion, and even help you lose weight.
This article reviews breakfast salads, lists their health benefits, and shows you how to build your own.
Breakfast salads typically consist of vegetables topped with various other foods, such as eggs, cheese, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and beans.
Substituting your typical breakfast for a salad is an easy way to add more whole foods to your diet. You may also gain an array of health benefits.
May boost your mood and productivity
What you eat for breakfast can influence your mood and mental performance.
Breakfasts high in complex carbs and low in fat, such as well-balanced breakfast salads, appear to improve mood and reduce fatigue more effectively than low-carb, high-fat options like eggs, hash browns, and bacon (
The mood-boosting effect of high-carb, low-fat breakfasts may be especially true for breakfasts rich in the complex carbs found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as opposed to the simple carbs in breakfast cereals and pastries (
Breakfast foods containing complex carbs may also help elevate markers of mental performance, such as memory, attention, and information processing (
Furthermore, research shows that leafy greens may be particularly effective at maintaining brain function as you age (
In turn, these factors may boost your productivity.
There’s also evidence that leafy greens, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage may provide some antidepressant benefits. Therefore, adding them to your salads may further enhance your mood (
May enhance your digestion
Breakfast salads tend to be naturally rich in water and fiber, which can aid your digestion.
Fiber is either soluble or insoluble.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps move food through your gut, reducing the likelihood of constipation. Meals rich in fluids, as most breakfast salads are, may also help fight constipation (
On the other hand, soluble fiber feeds your beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate.
These SCFAs feed your gut cells, reduce inflammation, and may fight certain gut disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis (
Several foods contain both types of fiber. Good sources include:
- Soluble fiber: oats, beans, avocados, pears, apples, figs, bananas, sweet potatoes, hazelnuts, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds
- Insoluble fiber: whole grains, potatoes, beans, lentils, peas, most fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds
Depending on their ingredients, breakfast salads are likely rich in both types of fiber.
May help you lose weight
Notably, breakfast salads may aid weight loss.
Not only are they rich in fiber and water, but they also require extensive chewing. Each of these factors may reduce hunger and boost fullness, causing you to eat less (
Additionally, fruits and vegetables, the primary ingredients in most breakfast salads, tend to have a low calorie density. This means that they offer few calories for the volume that they take up in your stomach, which may further contribute to weight loss (
Research consistently links high fruit and vegetable intakes to weight loss or less weight gain over time. Adding a source of protein to your breakfast salad can further reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness (
Breakfast salads may be especially beneficial for weight loss when they replace high-calorie, processed breakfast foods like croissants or high-sugar breakfast cereals.
May boost your overall health and protect you from disease
Breakfast salads are an easy way to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, which contain numerous nutrients and plant compounds that benefit your health and protect you from disease (
For instance, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables common in salads may protect against mental decline, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (
Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 in 10 adults in the United States consistently eats enough fruits and vegetables each day (
Keep in mind that eating high-fat or high-sugar breakfasts frequently may increase your risk of heart disease or cause you to develop more belly fat, a risk factor for many chronic illnesses (
Thus, replacing your typical breakfast with a salad may help keep your heart healthy and ward off other chronic diseases.
Breakfast salads may aid digestion, weight loss, mood, and productivity. Plus, they’re an easy way to fill your diet with nutritious fruits and vegetables.
If you’d like to give breakfast salads a try, it’s important to ensure they’re nutritious and filling.
Here’s an easy four-step process to build a good breakfast salad.
Step 1: Pick your veggies
Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are some of the most nutritious vegetables you can find, so they make a great base for your salad (
Leafy greens include kale, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, beet greens, watercress, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, bok choy, and turnip greens.
Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, and cabbage.
You can top these greens and cruciferous vegetables with extra veggies of your choice. Try picking from a variety of colors, as this will increase your vitamin and mineral intakes. Bell peppers, tomatoes, and carrots are good examples.
Step 2: Add a source of protein
Adding a source of protein to your breakfast salad is instrumental in reducing hunger and maintaining fullness, as well as supporting healthy bones and preserving your muscle mass (
Animal-based sources of protein include seafood, eggs, meat, and dairy products like cheese. Plant sources include tofu, tempeh, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and certain whole grains, such as quinoa.
Step 3: Choose some complex carbs
Carbs are your body’s preferred source of fuel. Adding some to your breakfast salad is a good idea, as this can help you stay energized until your next meal.
Carbs can be split into sugars, starches, and fibers. Bear in mind that sugars are considered simple carbs and are often linked to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, especially when processed (
On the other hand, starches and fibers are complex. They’re more slowly digested, which can promote healthy blood sugar levels (
It’s best to favor complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, legumes, or starchy vegetables over simple carbs like processed grains, crackers, or croutons.
Some healthy carbs include sweet potatoes, apples, black beans, and butternut squash.
Step 4: Add a healthy fat
Adding fats to your breakfast salad can help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (
The best sources of fat come from whole plant foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds. These are richer in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds than refined fats like vegetable oils.
As such, homemade dressings using plant oils, such as olive, avocado, or flaxseed oils, are a good alternative to store-bought varieties, which often harbor added salt or sugar.
A healthy breakfast salad should combine multiple veggies, a source of protein, complex carbs, and a touch of healthy fats.
To build the most nutritious breakfast salad possible, try to include as many whole and minimally processed foods as possible while avoiding overly processed ones.
It’s best to minimize or steer clear of the following ingredients:
- Fried foods, fatty meats, and sodium-rich meat replacements. These will add an unnecessary amount of fat and salt to your meal.
- Most store-bought salad dressings. These tend to be loaded with sugar and salt while low in vitamins and minerals.
- Candied or oil-roasted nuts. These are often glazed in sugar or contain unnecessary fat, so it’s best to pick raw or dry-roasted nuts instead.
- Refined grains. This includes white pasta, croutons, or crackers, which tend to be devoid of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Sweetened, dried fruit. Dried fruit can be a healthy alternative to fresh fruit. However, it’s best to avoid sweetened varieties, as these pack unnecessary amounts of added sugar.
Instead, try selecting some of the foods mentioned in the previous chapter.
Avoid fatty meats, fried foods, and other overly processed ingredients when building your breakfast salad.
Breakfast salads are easy to make, transportable, and incredibly versatile. Here are a few ideas to get you inspired.
- Spinach-berry salad: spinach base, topped with homemade granola, walnuts, tangerines, coconut flakes, and blueberry vinaigrette
- Mexican salad: shredded romaine lettuce topped with sweet potato, black beans, corn, red peppers, salsa, and avocado-based dressing
- Smoky sesame salad: arugula topped with smoked salmon or tempeh, quinoa, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and a dash of lemon juice
- Poached-egg salad: kale topped with a poached egg, cranberries, pecans, cherry tomatoes, and whole-grain pita chips
- Scrambled-tofu salad: mixed greens topped with butternut squash, apples, radishes, onions, and scrambled tofu
You can reduce your preparation time by using pre-washed greens, pre-cut veggies, and leftovers.
Breakfast salads are also easy to take on the go. Just make sure to pack the dressing separately to prevent your salad from becoming soggy.
Breakfast salads are versatile and easy to make. You can try out the salad combinations described above or choose your favorite ingredients.
Salads can be a healthy alternative to your standard breakfast.
Those garnished with nutritious toppings may offer several benefits, including improved digestion, disease protection, and weight loss.
Fill your bowl with fresh fruits and vegetables, and be sure to include a source of complex carbs, protein, and healthy fat.
If you’re interested in shaking up your breakfast routine, a salad makes for a great morning meal.