What is a 'breakfast salad'?
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I started hearing about ‘breakfast salads’ in the middle of winter. I follow lots of American wellness types on social media and there was a spate of them all talking about their breakfast salads: how front-loading your day with nutrients, and focusing on protein rather than carbs, helps you feel more focused and energised.
‘Ooh, that’s a good idea,’ I thought, as I watched a sunny Californian tucking into a plate of crunchy green leaves. ‘Maybe I’ll do a newsletter on that in the spring, when it’s less cold and dark and people might actually be up for a breakfast salad.’
But now that we’re in spring, do I feel like a breakfast salad? No. No, I do not.
It seems the thing that appealed to me about their posts was not actually the salad, it was the lifestyle. And the weather. The idea of a salad on a rainy Walthamstow morning is less appealing.
However, these sun-drenched LA influencers are on to something. The classic breakfast options of cereal or toast are not doing us any favours in terms of lasting energy.
And regularly starting your day with a massive glucose spike can disrupt your hormone levels, which is particularly an issue for those of us who are perimenopausal or postmenopausal. It can also lead to metabolic syndrome: a contributing factor in everything from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Gah, but what if I don’t want a bloody salad with my coffee??
Well, happily, there is a middle ground between munching your way through a mountain of leaves and a bowl of Coco Pops.
‘Breakfast cereal is ultra-processed and leaves us running on empty by 10.30am,’ says nutritionist Karen Newby, author of The Natural Menopause Method. ‘Cue blood sugar crashes and the need for caffeine and elevenses. A protein and fat-rich breakfast will help get you through your morning without needing to snack or rely on caffeine.’
Karen suggests ‘eggs, any which way’, which I know are a great breakfast, but I just don’t feel like I have time to cook in the morning. ‘Tomatoes take six minutes to grill, as you’re poaching the egg,’ she insists. Slice an avocado while it’s cooking. Easy.
Karen also recommends porridge in the colder months, and bircher when it’s warmer - both of which can be pimped with cinnamon and seeds, and a dollop of yoghurt for more protein. If all else fails, she says, a high protein and low sugar brand of muesli or granola is great with some full fat yoghurt (she uses almond, soya or coconut).
Need more ideas that are not a salad?
I sometimes have a smoothie, which packs in veg, and contains nuts and seeds for the protein/fat combination that Karen recommends. On days when I’m in a hurry, it feels like a healthy option - and honestly does keep me full until lunch. I never used to believe that a smoothie could fill me up, but I think the key is a good protein powder.
Sometimes, I just want toast. I know you do too, we’re only human. So I buy the seediest bread I can find, and slather it in almond butter for a protein hit.
And sometimes I don’t feel hungry in the morning, in which case I don’t force myself to eat just because it’s ‘breakfast time’. The science now shows that having longer gaps between eating won’t do us any harm, and can actually be beneficial. Although Karen reminds me that it’s best to ‘eat with the path of the sun’, so focus on breakfast and lunch and have less when the sun goes down.
If all else fails, I won’t completely reject the idea of a breakfast salad, as long as it contains halloumi.
Karen Newby is running a series of Natural Menopause Method Day Retreats in June. For more information, visit karennewby.com
This week I’m…
Enjoying the ‘breakfast beans of dreams’ recipe from The Kitchen Prescription by Dr Saliha Mahmood Ahmed
Loving this from Jay Shetty about the gardener mindset