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Salad For Breakfast

Cereal isn't the option in the morning.
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For the past few weeks I've been eating salads for breakfast. I eat huge bowls of mixed greens sprinkled with dried fruits, toasted nuts, and whatever else happens to be on hand. If there is half an avocado in the fridge I'll cut it up and toss it in, same with roasted vegetables, chickpeas, goat cheese, carrots...you get the idea. I eat until I am no longer hungry. It has nothing to do with a diet, nor is it some devious plan my wife concocted to get me to lose weight. At least, I hope not.

I'm eating salads because I dislike most breakfast foods. Sure, I have a soft spot for perfect pancakes and Eggs Benedict, but I'm talking about what most people eat on a daily basis: boxed cereal and pop tarts, the kind of food I'd never dream of eating for dinner, but somehow seems necessary in the morning when I need to hurry up and get to work. Most mornings for the past 15 years of my life have consisted of me just opening a box of cereal.

That changed when I read a book, oddly enough, about ultra-marathoners called Born To Run. The book tries to explain why some people can run incredibly long distances and not get hurt (like, oh, 100 miles), while others (like myself) can't run more than a mile without getting shin splints. The author Christopher McDougall spends most of his time explaining how we should run differently than we were taught (on the balls of your feet, not the heel). But what I really latched on to was that these incredible athletes do all of this activity on a mostly vegetarian diet.

His main subjects, the Tarahumara in Mexico, eat pinole (a flour from crushed toasted maize) and chia (think chiapet), which the author attempts to purchase, before realizing he'd probably get tired of the diet quickly. He consults a nutrionist. She asks, "Have you ever had salad for breakfast?"

It's not the most dramatic part of the book, and the author quickly speeds on to detail his theory on running and the evolution of man. But the breakfast line always stuck with me even as I began to run for the first time in 5 years. It's such a simple thing to add more vegetables to the day. I mean, I already dislike my breakfast routine, so why not give it a shot?

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It takes some planning. I'm blurry-eyed and nearly incoherent in the morning until I drink coffee, and the idea of washing and chopping vegetables would probably leave me with a missing finger. So I do most of the work the night before. My wife and I wash whatever lettuce we are going to use (sometimes romaine, mostly a mix), spin it dry, and then tear it up into 1-inch pieces. The lettuce is placed in a plastic bag with a paper towel, and then stashed in the fridge. Then we'll peel and chop whatever other vegetables we have around and place them in containers. Last night we happened to have some red bell peppers and a can of chickpeas ready to go.

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In the morning I'll pick out the bag of lettuce and toss a bunch in a large bowl with whatever vegetables we have that day. Then comes the endless combinations of extras I could add. Today I decided to add some goat cheese and some leftover pear slices. Other days I add some nuts (either almonds, pumpkin seeds, or cashews) or dried fruits (prunes, craisins, or raisins).

For a dressing we use the basic homemade salad dressing that Blake wrote about a while ago. It's brilliant. It's a simple combination of Canola oil, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard that is blended until creamy. It can keep in a jar in the fridge for weeks on end. It's like having your own salad dressing bottle ready to go without the excess sugar. It's tart, but not that acidic, so it helps to add a squeeze of lemon juice right onto the salad.

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It doesn't make me want to jump out there and run for 100 miles, but I do feel better about starting my day with as many vegetables as I want to eat. And since I can eat nearly as much as I want, I don't get hungry in the mid-morning. It's been a plus. Also on the bright side, I'm up to 3 miles, which is a start.

Has anyone else experimented with salads in the morning?