Eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage and ham—these are the foods that traditionally dominate the hot breakfast line at many noncommercial operations. Vegetables may show up as filling ingredients at an omelet station or something green to blend into smoothies, but they’re not traditionally big players on the breakfast menu. Nevertheless, half of consumers aged 18 to 34 now want the ability to substitute animal proteins with plant-based alternatives, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite. While many chefs have responded by moving more vegetables to the center of the plate at lunch and dinner, breakfast seems to be the last frontier. These six operators are pioneering a change toward plant-forward morning meals.
1. Build a breakfast bowl
Matthew Cervay, executive chef at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, added a variety of breakfast bowls that incorporate beans, legumes and greens to offer a healthier option in the breakfast daypart, he says. Leaner proteins, such as turkey and salmon, are available for diners who wish to “beef up” their breakfast bowls.
2. Change up the grains
Oatmeal bars are a popular way to push nonmeat options at breakfast, but why not vary the idea by swapping in other grains for oats and adding vegetable toppings? Aran Essig, executive chef at University of Northern Colorado, is cooking up amaranth and cracked wheat for a hot cereal bar, and putting out toppings such as vegetarian green chili and stir-fried vegetables along with the usual fruits and nuts.
3. Going global
At Northwestern University, District Executive Chef Chris Studtmann is going in an Asian direction by menuing soba bowls and congee for breakfast. Both are customizable with veggies such as carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, bok choy, kale, spinach, edamame and scallions, he says. Breakfast ramen is starting to trend on the restaurant side, too.
4. Spreading veggie love
Bagel fans at University of Michigan now have a nondairy option as a spread. Executive Chef Frank Turchan replaced light cream cheese with vegan hummus and added vegetable toppings such as sliced cucumbers and tomatoes to breakfast stations after he and his team went through training on plant-based diets with the Humane Society.
5. Power up a muffin
With many recipes, the only way to tell a carrot muffin contains carrots is by its orange color. Brent Trudeau, executive chef for Cypress Fairbanks ISD in Houston, gets K-12 students to eat more veggies by packing a lot more carrots into the carrot-spice muffins he recently introduced. The healthy muffins are a hit with students who sit down for school breakfast or opt for grab-and-go.
6. Pick a pickle
With veg-centric Indian food on the rise, Executive Chef Carrie Anderson is trying out the cuisine for breakfast at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She pairs an Indian bread—chapati—with jam, pickled vegetables and chutneys. Anderson has also added a greater array of cooked vegetables to the breakfast line.