Dear Misery Loves Cookery,
For health reasons I am trying to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Having eaten eggs for breakfast for most of my 60+ years I am finding it difficult to find something to eat that has both protein and flavor. I have tried tofu and it is okay, but I don’t want it every day. Do you have any easy, flavorful vegan breakfast recipes with a good amount of protein?
Thanks for your question, Breakfast Vegan. While I am not a vegetarian, myself, I do enjoy cooking vegetarian and vegan meals, and have also had to make radical dietary changes for my health. I hope that I can be of some help to you.
I’m sure you’ve done some research into vegan cooking at this point—you’ve likely purchased some cookbooks, searched the web, and asked friends and others in your social circle for recommendations. I’m not sure how far along you are in this nutrition transformation, so I’m just going to speak to you as if this is relatively new; feel free to skip anything that is redundant to your own discovery.
Changing your diet can be very hard.
Yeah, I said it.
I know that a lot of the cookbooks out there will tell you how you won’t miss animal products at all; your skin will glow, your energy will improve, and you’ll love that tofu scramble with vegetables more than you ever, ever loved your morning eggs.
Ummm….okay. Sure. Maybe?
You have to be open to the positive changes that occur with adopting a diet which is healthy for you and addresses your individual medical concerns. You have to be open to the idea that, yes, someday in the future, you may not really miss those eggs, and you will really enjoy the foods you make yourself on a daily basis. You have to be open to discovery, and new tastes, and new methods of preparing foods. You are conducting a great experiment, and it is absolutely smart to approach the experiment with joy and curiosity.
At the same time, you are also experiencing a real loss right now. Sixty-years of eggs, my friend. Sixty years. That is a very long time to be in relationship with anything! Our food—with its flavors, textures, smells, and the routines which develop around it—can be an extremely powerful relationship partner.
Have you grieved the loss of this staple from your diet? Have you acknowledged that it feels crummy to wake up and not know what you are going to make, to not have that easy routine to start your day? Have you held your own, personal wake for your old habits, your old choices, your delicious eggy breakfasts? Have you honored the fact that they nourished you and provided you with convenience and comfort for many years?
If you are forcing yourself to say, “I don’t miss eggs at all!” as you eat something tasty, how can you truly love what you are eating? On the flip side, if every morning you expect drudgery and dissatisfaction on your plate, you are making the choice not to move on to the yummy, yummy new dishes now in your future. Neither of these is a good option.
I think we do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss or discredit our negative feelings. I would never recommend wallowing in them, either—you have made a choice, and now you are going to move forward, so having a positive attitude is a plus. Recognizing isn’t wallowing, however; while it may not seem intuitive, taking a small moment to acknowledge that there is real loss here for you may be the easiest way for you to actively start enjoying some new dishes.
If you are able to say, “I wish I could eat an egg at least a few times a week, and I miss the comfort of my old breakfast,” and declare “I love this vegan scramble,” those two ideas now have a non-compete clause in your brain. They can both be true, one does not cancel out the other.
Set your own pace as you try new things, and be kind with yourself. Some people, upon becoming vegan (or making any major dietary change), adapt quickly. They feel great, and they don’t miss what they don’t have. They feel an abundance of choices, not deprivation. Others need time to grow with it, and to let go of the habits and foods they once enjoyed. You don’t have to be convinced to love your new vegan lifestyle overnight; they don’t have to be convinced that they need to grieve any omnivore losses.
I have no doubt that you will find a breakfast routine that makes you happy and full, and that you will not spend your life missing a plate of eggs every morning. Again, be in the moment, acknowledge how you feel, and appreciate all the things you enjoy as you enjoy them, and you will get there sooner than you think.
Now, on to breakfast choices!
Practically speaking, I hear what you are saying about tofu. There is a “working with tofu” learning curve, for sure. With many options for sale (e.g., silken, firm, etc.) and many ways to prepare it (e.g., marinated, grilled, scrambled, whipped, etc.), you may have to try it many, many, many times before you get the right combo. Again, this won’t be as easy as throwing an egg in the pan at first. Once you nail down a preparation you like, however, it won’t be any harder to make than your old breakfast, either. Be patient with yourself.
The Kitchn has some great ideas for tofu usage, and you’ll find many more with the simple search, “buying tofu.”
As for introducing other ways to make your breakfast delicious, here are few quick tips:
1) Start playing with spice. You may not have ever put spices like cumin, coriander, or marjoram in your morning scramble before, but consider your spice cabinet to be your playground as you explore new sources of protein. Hot sauces, if you can tolerate them, will also add lots of zip.
2) Try savory oatmeal with some (unflavored) protein powder. Oatmeal is often served smooth with sweets thrown on top, like a breakfast dessert; I prefer Scottish or steel-cut oats with a risotto-like texture, then I add savory items. Did you roast some vegetables the night before for dinner? Save a few leftovers and throw them in. Nuts? Perfect. Some flax seed? Even better. Vegetable-based protein powders are available at many stores, and could add the protein boost you are requesting.
3) Eat lunch or dinner for breakfast. If you are already breaking your habits, why not go all the way? There is zero reason a protein-packed lunch favorite couldn’t be served up for breakfast. If we can celebrate brunch and serve waffles until 3 pm, we can certainly eat lovely salads in the morning. Some of my vegan friends make a blended salad—a head of romaine lettuce or the like, loads of veggies, avocado, seeds, etc., all blended into a drink—and have that as their breakfast smoothie. Again, if you are worried about protein, a protein powder could be added, but it is likely unnecessary. Here’s an example to get you started.
If you enjoy watching videos, check out Vegan Cooking with Love. There are a bevy of delicious choices here for you to try, and the demos make learning the new dishes even easier. The vegan pancakes look wonderful! She also offers some tips for going out to brunch, which I love—sometimes the hardest part of changing our diet is figuring out what to do when we are outside our own kitchens.
Finally, I’d like to recommend one of my favorite vegan cookbooks, which also featured as one of my favorite Christmas presents from last year: Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck. (Amazon affiliate link) If you don’t like cursing, this may not be the right book for you, but I find the irreverent, in-your-face tone hilarious, and the recipes are really delicious. Born out of their original website, Thug Kitchen breakfast options featured within their book include quinoa oatmeal, mixed veggie and tofu chilaquiles, and to-go breakfast bars, to name a few. I recommend this highly for the laughs and the eats—they may both help you as you make this big transition.
Best of luck, and let me know how you like the recipes.
(Amazon affiliate link)