The Best Breakfast Might Just Be a Healthy Breakfast Salad

Spinach salad with avocado, onion, and roasted squash
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It's no surprise to most that typical American breakfast foods from cereal and bagels to pancakes and bacon just aren't that healthy. We're all told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we know that we should make good, healthy choices, but when most Americans choose to consume more than their morning cup of coffee, they opt for unhealthy convenience items or indulgent brunches.

The Healthy Breakfast Struggle

Even when people opt for the more traditionally healthy or breakfast "diet" foods like oatmeal or fresh grapefruit, most can't get through even half of the serving without spoonfuls of sugar (or equally sweet alternatives like maple syrup). Others opt for fresh fruit and veggie smoothies, which can be a great option when they aren't loaded with unnecessary added sugars or fruit juices. But for some, that homemade chunky green smoothie simply doesn't go down easy enough.

So how do you get a healthy, balanced breakfast every morning without spooning on the added sugars or getting bored out of your mind? I propose the healthy breakfast salad.

The Truth About Breakfast Salads 

Yes, I know. Salad for breakfast may sound strange -- but stay with me. If every morning you ate a salad for breakfast, you'd begin your day with at least three servings of vegetables, which is a fantastic start to a healthy day.

Not only that, you'd be avoiding that heavy, sleepy mid-morning feeling from the typical carb overload or, on the contrary, the grumbling stomach and mood swings of a hungry monster who skipped breakfast.

I started eating breakfast salads because there was simply no way I could work in my minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

My lunch is usually rushed and dinner can be, too. Until recently, breakfast had been a lost opportunity for getting in some superfoods.

One great thing that I've noticed since starting my day with a healthy breakfast salad is that when I start my day with fresh fruits and vegetables, I am very unlikely to "go backward" and eat junk later in the day. My breakfast salad somehow starts and keeps me on track. Not only that, but the water in fresh produce hydrates your body better than most other traditional breakfast options, which is important after a whole night without hydration.

The only downside to my morning breakfast salad routine is it doesn't keep me full. Your body breaks down fresh produce faster than say, the complex carbs in that toaster strudel. I personally can make it about three hours on a breakfast salad before getting hungry again, which is the perfect time to reach for a healthy snack. Just a handful of nuts usually does it for me and I can then to make it to lunch.

How to Make a Breakfast Salad

We're already breaking all the rules by eating salad for breakfast, so why stop there? Though our food culture tells us otherwise, there really aren't any fresh, healthy whole foods that are inherently better for one meal over another.

If you have a favorite salad that is full of fruits and vegetables, go ahead and whip up a batch for breakfast. But if you need a little more inspiration, here my favorite healthy breakfast salad recipe.

Best Breakfast Salad Recipe

This recipe is simple, and only requires a few ingredients, which can help during those hectic mornings when you spill coffee on your shirt or the kids need more attention than usual. All you'll need are the following:

  • Romaine hearts (from a bag, let's keep this easy)
  • ¼ to ½ red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (you can prep these the night before and store in the refrigerator)
  • Hard boiled egg, cut into eighths
  • a handful of raw or roasted almonds, chopped
  • a small serving of sweet dressing like poppy seed or honey mustard

Throw these ingredients into a big bowl and chow down. The real key to a healthy breakfast salad is balance. Adding a hard or soft boiled egg not only ups the "breakfast factor," but it adds healthy protein. Throwing in some nuts like almonds not only ups your nutrient count but also adds in some heart-healthy fats. Try adding avocado if you're not a nut fan. Go ahead and use a sweet dressing if you'd like (I do), but be sure to only use a little as the added sugars are some of what you're trying to avoid.

To keep things interesting, you can vary this recipe to your heart's content: add berries or other fruit for sweetness, substitute romaine for other leafy greens, or add crunch with other fresh veggies like carrots or broccoli stems. Lastly, if you've made an effort to cook more meals at home, don't forget about your leftovers! You can incorporate last night's grilled chicken or roasted vegetables into this morning's breakfast.