A Taste of the Savory Breakfast Movement

Q&A with Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDN, CHE

In this month’s Q&A, we chat with Sanna Delmonico, a registered dietitian and nutrition faculty member at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California. We asked Sanna to share her insights about the savory breakfast movement and how beans can be included in a healthy, delicious breakfast routine.

 BB (Bean Bulletin): Hi Sanna, thanks so much for chatting with us. First off, can you tell us a little about your background? Why did you become a dietitian, and what led to your career at The Culinary Institute of America?

Sanna: Well, I’ve been a dietitian for more than 20 years, and the reason I became a dietitian is kind of a funny one—lactose intolerance. When I started college I was a film major and really just took a nutrition course to fulfill my science credit. When I learned about lactose intolerance, I became totally fascinated by it. Beyond just the condition, it intrigued me from an anthropologic perspective—how cultures and cuisines formed around this ability or inability to digest lactose. It really got me hooked on nutrition science. I decided to major in dietetics and after college, I debated going on to culinary school, but I decided dietitians had better hours than chefs. I went for my masters and have really spent my whole career focused on food —food culture, culinary arts, flavor, and healthy, delicious dietary patterns. Prior to joining the CIA, I worked for 12 years in children’s nutrition, self-publishing a monthly newsletter for parents with recipes and nutrition information. I started teaching nutrition at a junior college and really loved it, so I was so happy to find a position at the CIA. I love students and meeting them at this really important time in their life.

BB: That is a great story! As you’re likely very aware, the savory breakfast movement is continuing to grow in popularity. Why are people looking for more savory options for breakfast?

Sanna: I think it has a lot to do with the fact that most places around the world eat a savory breakfast, and we (the U.S.) are one of the few places that gear toward sweet things at breakfast. In countries like Japan, the Middle East, and China to name a few, it’s not normal to eat a sweet breakfast. There is a growing interest in international cuisine and I think that’s driving the savory breakfast trend.

BB: What are the potential nutrition and health benefits of a savory breakfast?

Sanna: Some of the key opportunities with a savory breakfast are that it’s a great way to eat more vegetables, beans, whole grains, plain yogurt (good for probiotics), and to cut back on added sugar.

BB: What are some culinary strategies to create delicious, savory breakfasts? Also, what items would you recommend people have on hand (pantry, refrigerator, spice cabinet) to create savory, satisfying breakfasts?

Sanna: Bowls have become super popular! All the fast casual restaurants are doing them (think Chipotle), and I think breakfast bowls are a great, simple way to create delicious, savory breakfasts. Also, bowls are a great way to use up leftover ingredients like extra cooked grains, beans, and vegetables. The most important thing is to have the ingredients on hand and prepped so the bowls are easy to create in the morning. Think of ingredients like cooked beans, cooked grains like farro or brown rice, roasted or sautéed vegetables, and savory stuff like tomato sauce and Sriracha.

Also think about breakfast sandwiches, burritos or salads for breakfast. Basically, if you put an egg on something, it’s breakfast!  These are all great ways to enjoy a savory, healthy breakfast, and also easy ways to add beans to a breakfast routine.

For ingredients to keep on hand to create savory breakfasts, I recommend eggs, beans, whole grains, cooked vegetables, good toasting bread, plain yogurt, nuts, herbs like mint and parsley, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and savory sauces.

BB: Those all sound delicious! For those who are still committed to a sweet breakfast, what are some simple swaps or small steps to start creating and enjoying savory breakfasts?

Sanna: The first thing that comes to mind is toast because so many already enjoy sweet toast, so encourage them to think about something savory. Maybe switch from jam to hummus or a bean puree. This is very common in the Middle East. When I was traveling in Spain one of the best things I ate for breakfast was tomato toast. It was toasted bread drizzled with olive oil, grated tomato and coarse salt. This would be really good with a white bean puree.

I also think savory yogurt is really coming into its own. Chobani has come out with a variety of more savory flavors, incorporating herbs and spices. Keeping plain yogurt on hand is great because you can make a sweet or savory parfait, depending on what you have a taste for.

Also, I think savory French toast or bread pudding is quite delicious. A savory bread pudding that uses black beans, cheddar cheese and tomatoes—yum!

BB: That sounds so good. You’ve already shared a few ideas, but how do beans fit into savory breakfasts? Also, why should people think about enjoying beans with their breakfast from a health perspective?

Sanna: I think beans are a perfect addition to the savory breakfast. If you have beans pre-cooked or canned, they are ready to go and become an easy, healthy addition to a breakfast routine.

It’s also important to remember that beans go really great with eggs, so if you’re making scrambled eggs, add beans. Breakfast burrito—add beans. Breakfast bowl —add beans. Combine some cooked brown rice, black beans, a fried egg, tomatoes and salsa, and you have a really delicious, awesome, fast and healthy breakfast!

From a health perspective, I think it’s important that people think about eating beans for breakfast because it’s a key way to meet your recommendation for beans (3 cups per week) and not have to start at noon. Knocking vegetables out early in the morning sets you on a path to success!

 BB: Those are fantastic tips. All right, the final and most important question: What is your favorite breakfast bean recipe?

Sanna: I really love chilaquiles. If you use good thick tortilla chips, tomatillo salsa, fried eggs, and earthy, delicious black beans, it is an amazing combination. Also, if you have all the ingredients made in advance, it’s a super easy recipe, too. Click here to check out Sanna’s Chilaquiles with Black Beans recipe.

BB: Sanna, thank you so much for all these wonderful ideas to enjoy simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans for breakfast!

 Note: The Bean Institute also has a Chilaquiles recipe for schools! Check it out here.