Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tips for a vegan breakfast on the go

In Australia, I rarely ate breakfast at home during the working week. This was largely due to a preference for early work starts, and my gym being located adjacent to one of my two workplaces. As I prefer early exercise too, it made sense to go directly from gym to desk.

Incaberry oat breakfast bars

If you'd asked me 6 months ago, I would have said that breakfast at work was no harder than breakfast at home. It is only now that I can eat breakfast at home during the working week, thanks to different work routines in my new job, that I realise my old breakfasts weren't always that great. Smoothies, buckwheat porridge, cooked porridge, pancakes, vegan French toast...none of those featured on my Australian workdays. It is more limiting to have breakfast out of the house, and if I did it again now, I would try harder to ensure my work-based breakfasts were more enjoyable. That includes the way I eat breakfast, not just the content.

In writing this post, I wanted share some of the breakfasts that I did enjoy at work, and also what I would do differently if I returned to breakfast at work now. I know a lot of people are short on time in the morning, so many of the points will also apply to eating breakfast on the go. There is a good body of research linking breakfast consumption with health, so figuring out ways to make it manageable and enjoyable seems worthwhile.

Apple, zucchini and sultana loaf

First, the foods I used to enjoy and would recommend. Some of these are obvious, but thinking outside the square also helps here - breakfast doesn't have to consist of traditional breakfast foods. I tended to get stuck in routines that meant my breakfast was the same each day, so remembering to vary your options can also make life more interesting. (In saying that, I am married to someone who never varies his breakfast routine, so if that works for you - by all means embrace it!)

Easy portable breakfast ideas include:
  • Cereal, stored at work or brought from home, with non-dairy milk of choice, again stored at work or brought from home. This is a pretty obvious one, and topped with fruit it is an easy option. Homemade cereals, like my recent apple and strawberry muesli, give an alternative to commercial varieties. 
  • Overnight oats (oats soaked in yogurt), pre-packed in a single serve container and topped with fruit.
  • A breakfast wrap. This could be savoury, such as hummus, kale and chopped pepper, or sweet, with nut butter and banana or chopped apple. If you make it the night before, there's no preparation time in the morning.
  • Fruit-based, minimally sweetened breads and muffins, preferably with some vegetables in the mix. Some examples on Bite-Sized Thoughts include apple, zucchini and sultana loaf, pumpkin, apple and cranberry muffins, and carrot, apple and sultana muffins. If you bake a loaf or batch of muffins on the weekend, you will be set for breakfast during the week.
  • Fruit-based, minimally sweetened biscuits (cookies) and bars. Commercial breakfast bars are often expensive and perhaps not ideal in terms of ingredients, but making your own allows you to put in what you want, and customise flavours to your preferences. Examples on Bite-Sized Thoughts include energy-packed pumpkin cookies and Incaberry oat breakfast bars.
  • Soup. Who says you can't have soup for breakfast? Creamy, slightly sweet soups - like pumpkin or pureed carrot - work well in the morning. Obviously you will need access to a microwave for this (unless you want cold soup...).
  • Pre-cooked sweet potato topped with nut butter and berries. Seriously good, either hot (if you have a microwave for re-heating) or cold.
  • Toast, crumpets and English muffins. These will require a toaster, but it's easy to take a loaf of bread or packet of crumpets to work at the start of the week, along with your topping / spread of choice.
  • Non-dairy yogurt, yogurt drinks or prepared smoothies. 
  • If all else fails...fresh fruit (or dried) and/or nuts.
Raspberry topped mashed sweet potato

What about options I'd explore now, if I was to return to work-based breakfasts? 
  • Smoothies using a small, work-based blender. I would seriously consider taking a NutriBullet or similarly small blender to work, so long as there was somewhere safe to store it. Alternatively, making a smoothie at home and drinking it on the go (e.g., on the train) could be an option for some people.
  • Porridge. I don't know why I never tried this, as it's quite easy to make porridge in the microwave (obviously your workplace does need to have a microwave!). If you can leave oats and non-dairy milk at work, it's easy to take in toppings of choice, such as chopped fruit, dried fruit, or even grated carrot. I find microwaving oats for one minute on medium power, stirring, microwaving for another minute on medium power, stirring, and microwaving for a further 30 - 60 seconds with toppings usually does the trick if you're making porridge without a stove.
  • Fruity quinoa. If you cook quinoa with dried fruit, it becomes a perfect breakfast either hot (if you have a microwave for re-heating) or cold. Angela's mandarin and maple spiced quinoa with cranberries, apricots and almonds, on Oh She Glows, is just one example.
  • Dinner leftovers. Why not? Tofu stir fry for breakfast will certainly set you up for the day.

While some breakfasts are still hard to manage out of the house, especially if your work has minimal kitchen equipment, I think how you eat breakfast also deserves consideration. In Australia, I would use the first 15 to 30 minutes in my office to get organised for the day - figure out urgent tasks and perhaps tick a few of them off my list. Then, I'd take time to catch up on personal emails and blog comments while having breakfast and a hot drink. As I got to work early, I could take up to 30 minutes for that and still be 'starting work' before 9am. At the time, I thought this was a relaxing approach and one that gave me time to myself in the mornings. With hindsight, it still felt like I was at work, and like I was snatching time from what I 'should' have been doing. It also meant that I sat at a desk for a very long time each day.

It may be that eating at a desk is unavoidable, if you don't have access to a staff room or other neutral place to eat. However, I would make more of an effort now to pursue such options, or eat outside if the weather was nice (as it often was in Australia!). Using proper crockery (keeping a bowl at work if needed) would also make a difference I think, rather than having breakfast out of a Tupperware container or similar. Mason jars make an attractive alternative to plastic for things that require advance packaging.

An easy portable breakfast - carrot and apple soaked oats

One of the biggest things I might consider these days is leaving the computer aside and reaching for a newspaper or book instead. I do often eat breakfast with my laptop at home, but I now realise that feels quite different to eating in front of a work PC. Reading instead of browsing may mean you lose some blog reading time, but I think it would make for a less work-like breakfast and a better start to the day overall.

These are, of course, my own thoughts from my own experiences, and you may find eating at your desk works fine, and you're happy with cereal from a container. I would love to hear what does work for you.

This post is part of my participation in the 2014 Vegan Month of Food. This week I am focusing on breakfasts.

Previous 2014 Vegan MoFo posts:
#1 - Vegan French toast
#2 - Apple and strawberry muesli


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I am always looking for vegan breakfast ideas.

  2. Fantastic post Kari. Since I've been living the student life for the past....ummmm 5 years now (!) I've been lucky enough to be able to eat breakfast at home most of the time. Classes have never started early but there have been occasions when I've been running late all the same and had to pour a smoothie into a mason jar to take on the bus! Much better to plan in advance.
    Love the sound of your incaberry bars. Will go check out the recipe now.

    1. I reminded myself to try the incaberry bars again - I really liked them at the time!

      I bet your bus passengers were jealous of your mason jar smoothie, given the delicious concoctions you whip up :-)

  3. great post. I have always needed breakfast before I leave the house. If I go for brunch I sometimes even have fruit at home. But I like the idea of breakfast on the go. You suggestion of soup made me do a double take. But a tofu scramble is something I like to eat for both dinner and breakfast. I also sometimes give sylvia cold pancakes for lunch and think that pikelets would work well for breakfast as they don't need to be hot (I put them in the freezer and gently warm them in the morning in the microwave)

    1. I was going to list pikelets actually, but at the last minute left them off for reasons I can't recall (possibly as they are a bit Australian-centric). Personally I am happy to eat them at any time of day :D

      Now that I'm back into breakfast at home I do realise what a shift it would be for people who have never eaten it out, to suddenly be faced with doing so. Mornings are so rushed it is sometimes hard to figure out the best routine!

    2. It is not so much a matter of working out routine for me as a need to eat before I feel ready to even walk out the door - though in our house we love the hobbit habit of eating second breakfasts which I am happy to eat on the run :-)

    3. Ah, I see. Mr Bite is like that too - he can't grasp the point of breakfast out as he wouldn't go out without eating breakfast!

  4. I like your portable brekky ideas - they'd be good at home too.

  5. I'm a fan of portable brekkies, too! They make my life easy in the morning, plus I get to take them anywhere I go :)

    Gourmet Getaways

    1. Making life easy in the morning is definitely a good thing.

  6. A lot of great ideas here for breakfast Kari. Actually I have 2 in your list: smoothies and eating cereals which I think convenient for me to do since I have also early work shift.

  7. My hubby is a 'same breakfast' person too! I go through phases - I'll eat the same thing for a week then change! Still regularly having buckwheat in my rotation! I'm so so addicted to it lol


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