A Proper Breakfast (and an ochazuke recipe)

Thank you all for your kind feedback regarding the new series I’ve started here at Healthy Green Kitchen: One Simple Change. In case you missed my announcement last Friday, here’s the deal: in 2012, I’m going to do a post every Friday about a simple change you can make in your life to improve your health and well-being. My recommendations will be all-natural and holistic, focused and do-able… the types of changes I used to ask my naturopathic medicine patients to make in their lives.

Please know that my goal here is not to practice medicine on my blog; it’s just that I’ve always wanted to have a way here to discuss health topics that aren’t necessarily connected to food and recipes, and this seems to be a good way to do that. It’s my sincere hope that at the end of the year, as a result of this series, we’ll all have learned something (or a bunch of things), and we’ll all be healthier. I hope you come along for the ride.

This week want to talk about the importance of eating breakfast. I am not talking about eating a donut…I am talking about eating a proper breakfast.

One Simple Change: Eat a Proper Breakfast | Healthy Green Kitchen

What does this mean, exactly? Well to me, a proper breakfast is one that you eat within 45 minutes- 1 hour of waking up. In addition, a proper breakfast is composed of whole foods, and should preferably include some protein.

Why eat a proper breakfast? Well, what you’ve always heard about breakfast being the most important meal of the day really is true. A proper breakfast is vital for optimizing your metabolism and keeping your blood sugar balanced. If you don’t eat a proper breakfast, you are likely to suffer bouts of low blood sugar later in the day, as well as strong sugar cravings, and even habitual binge eating. Note that if you exercise in the morning on an empty stomach, it is ok to wait a little longer to eat.

Some people who skip breakfast do so because they truly aren’t hungry, but it’s really not a good habit to drink coffee and have nothing else before lunch. It’s really important to eat a balanced meal, even if it’s a small one. What about grabbing a bagel or having a bowl of cereal? Well, I really don’t advice those because eating a meal made up solely of carbohydrates in the morning isn’t a good plan, either.

sardine ochazuke

I’ve featured variations on the dish you see above- ochazuke- on my blog not once, not twice, but three times before. That’s because I personally struggle with eating a proper breakfast everyday (it’s not that I eat donuts; rather, I fall into the camp of those who don’t always wake up hungry, so therefore sometimes I skip it). Ochazuke is where I turn whenever I need to get back in the habit of eating a proper breakfast on a regular basis.

At it’s most basic, ochazuke is a combination of leftover rice and green tea. I was first introduced to it when I lived with a family in Japan more than twenty years ago. It’s usually made with white sushi rice and it can be topped with just about anything: typical Japanese inclusions are cooked fish, strips of toasted nori seaweed, and bites of pickled vegetables.

Brown rice is more nutritious than white, so whenever I’ve got some leftover brown rice from the previous night’s dinner, I make ochazuke. Instead of nori, I generally use wakame seaweed (or sometimes I use both): amazing for you because it’s full of detoxifying minerals. If you don’t have (or don’t want to use the seaweed), you could use some shredded kale (or another dark leafy green). I love the flavor and the anti-oxidant boost of the green tea in ochazuke: give it a try! And for the protein in the ochazuke you see here, I used sardines.

brown rice ochazuke

Now I know what you are thinking. Sardines? For breakfast? Is she freaking kidding?

No. I am not.

Why not eat sardines for breakfast? They’re so terrific for you! They’re high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and well as calcium and vitamin D. And they’re inexpensive and sustainable to boot: I love me my sardines. Whoever said breakfast has to be sweet anyway? I almost always eat savory breakfasts like this because this is what works for me. This is the type of breakfast that sustains my mind and body for hours before lunch.

I am not saying I never eat a bagel. Sometimes I do: I’ll eat half a whole grain one piled high with wild smoked salmon and greens. And I bake muffins and other treats sometimes, but I eat just small amounts of them with hard-boiled or scrambled eggs and maybe some fruit. And some days I’ll eat my homemade granola…I sprinkle it into a bowl of organic, plain yogurt. And some mornings, I’ll have a smoothie to which I’ve added some yogurt or egg for protein. See the pattern here? I always make sure to eat some protein and I try to minimize carbs/sweets in the morning.

Another breakfast I eat a lot is leftovers from the night before. I happily eat leftover soups and salads in the morning…why the heck not? In fact, chances are pretty good that I’ve eaten any and every recipe I’ve ever posted for breakfast at some point.

If you absolutely positively don’t/won’t eat sardines, you could try this with cooked eggs, tempeh, or another type of cooked fish, like wild salmon.

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So what do you eat for breakfast? Or do you skip it? Are you “in” to this week’s simple change?

ochazuke with brown rice

Previous Ochazuke Recipes:
New Year’s Resolution Ochazuke
Black Rice Ochazuke with Crispy Salmon Skin
Ochazuke with Caramelized Shallots and Fried Egg

The archives of all of my Healthy Breakfast Recipes can be found here.

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Brown Rice Ochazuke with Wakame Seaweed and Sardines


  • * 1/2-3/4 cup cooked short-grain brown rice
  • * 2-4 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed rehydrated for a few minutes in 1 1/2 cups of very hot green tea sencha, hojicha or genmaicha are best; matcha is not generally used for ochazuke, but I've used it when I don't have the others
  • *1/2 tin sardines
  • *1/2-1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • *pinch of red pepper flakes or a drizzle of Sriracha or other hot sauce- optional


  • 1. Place cooked brown rice in serving bowl. Pour the green tea (along with the rehydrated wakame) over the brown rice. Allow to steep for a minute.
  • 2. Top the rice/green tea/seaweed with the sardines. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and add red pepper flakes (or optional hot sauce) before serving.

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35 thoughts on “A Proper Breakfast (and an ochazuke recipe)”

  1. I thought it was just me that had sardines for breakfast! I’ll have to try the green tea idea.My usual breakfast is hot rice with egg yolk, scallions, seaweed and fish (tinned sardines, smoked makerel or kippers). Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Hi Winnie,
    Great blog, love it! What is your opinion on the new studies on intermittent fasting and all the health benefits of extendng the “fast” to 16 hours. Studies say lose weight and feel great? Thanks Frank!

    • Hi Frank,
      Thanks for you comment! I am intrigued by the idea of intermittent fasting but I think you have to be in excellent health already to derive the benefits. I’ve seen that it’s best to exercise intensely before breaking the fast, but that doesn’t sound too appealing!

  3. Hello Winnie :-)

    And I thought I was the only one eating sardines at ANY time of day ;-)
    I came across your site because I was researching healthy breakfasts with brown rice and sea vegetables – and I am glad I did. We seem to share the same food philosophy & Tastes – Love your recipes.

    All my best,

  4. Hiya!
    So its winter again , and I just tried your recipe, and well… the textures are great , and taste is good but I got a whole wakame leaves dried and didnt shred it enough so it was a bit like eating some little creature squeeking between my teeth, so next time will deffenitely cut it into strips. I feel fantastic and full of energy for a workout(unlike after having a bowl of cereal) . thank you lovely!

  5. Hi, I’ve been reading some of your One Simple Change series and I’m getting overwhelmed! There’s so much good information but how do you keep track of it all @[email protected]’ I want to incorporate the changes but I don’t know where to start!


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  7. I agree more…..but I think ochzuke with tofu is also great for breakfast. Lately I just cannot stand the smell of fish and meat. So yes, even miso soup with wakame and brown rice with some tofu – – what do you think?

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  9. Oh my gosh, I love this recipe! I am a fan of savory breakfasts, and when we hosted a Thai exchange student for a year she had me eating soy sauce and rice with my eggs for breakfast. I also enjoy sardines, so I know I’ll be making this for breakfast tomorrow morning! Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love your idea around this series and look forward to reading your postings through the year. I’m not likely to start my day with meat or fish, but I admit I’ve gotten very lazy about having breakfast. Yesterday I didn’t stop long enough to eat anything until about 3pm, when I sat down to some yogurt. Which was followed up by a stop at Starbuck’s for a slice of gingerbread with my non-fat, decaf latte on my way into the City to meet with a chef. Sigh. So this morning I started my day with my typical fruit and yogurt…thanks for the motivation, Winnie.

  11. As much as I love my bagels (and you know I do!) I think a breakfast like this would be a wonderful and healthy change. Sorry I’ve been a bit absent lately. I’m try to get into the swing of a new work schedule. Please know that you and your blog are some of my favorite parts of the week. I hope you are having a delicious day!

  12. I think this series is a great idea. Changing one habit at a time is much wiser than to try to do a complete 180 on your habits at the beginning (or any other time) of the year.
    This simple advice is so spot on. I never used to eat breakfast and for the longest time, I was fine. Then I started to feel really tired at work everyday sometime in the morning, to the point where I would have trouble functioning. When I started eating breakfast, the fatigue disappeared. Now I have to be careful what ineat for breakfast. If I only eat carbs, I get sluggish.
    Most mornings, I eat homemade muesli (large oats, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds) with yogurt and some fruit and it keeps me full and energized until lunch.

  13. I do eat breakfast but it’s usually just toast as I am not used to eating much in the mornings. I know I need to be eating something more nutritious and substantial like this!

  14. I almost always eat breakfast. Usually I have a fruit and bread or toast with either cheese, peanut butter or egg. I eat sardines but not because I like the taste; it is easy protein. Don’t know if I could eat them in the morning.

  15. This looks so delicious. I’ve been struggling with breakfast. I love me some toast and butter, but it makes me logy and thick in the head. I need to try rice and greens and SARDINES. I love little fishies and what a great way to eat them. Thank you Winnie.

  16. I love this idea, it’s so *moderate*, which I love. One simple change can make such a difference in daily life! I can’t wait to see more!

  17. Mm, I love sardines! I like them for lunch with crunchy bread and avocado, but I don’t know how it never occurred to me to have them for breakfast! And with rice and seaweed, this sounds like a home run!

  18. If my husband were to read this he’d say….*See, I told you so and now that Winnie is telling you will you start doing it?* He always eats a proper breakfast and is always after me to do the same. I find it very hard to eat within even an hour of waking up. I am drinking a bottle of water within 10 minutes of rising as recommended in your first post in this series (which I’m loving by the way). I know that I really should have breakfast every day and this past week, because of an antibiotic I’m on, I have to eat it. Hopefully I can resolve to keep doing so but fish, especially sardines are out of the question :)!

  19. I think this is great, and a savory meal in the morning alone is a nice change. Usually in the mornings I have a bowl of yogurt, granola and fruit, though I love the idea of greens and rice.

  20. I love this series Winnie. I can’t start my day without 2 eggs, some toast and a fruit. My habit, lol. Now, if only I could get back into the routine of exercise. I’m usually more active during my pregnancies but man, I’ve been slacking. Beautiful pictures and I’m going to have to try this recipe. I do love sardines!

  21. I’m a serious breakfast devotee. I forget breakfast maybe twice a year… Occasionally, though, I will just have a bit of fruit prior to brunch plans. Another note is that even serious exercisers may find that they feel best if they eat a little prior to a work out. A couple of dried apricots or crackers and a few almonds, for example, is one thing to grab on the way out for a morning run (like the nervuos cook!).

    I don’t do sardines but when I have smoked trout around… also a huge fan of bean/lentil soups. Serious stick to your ribs food!

  22. A proper breakfast is so important, and something I struggle with myself. I do try to eat something though and I do better on the weekends. I remember when I went to Thailand a few years ago and realized that they don’t have “breakfast foods” like cereal, bagels, waffles, etc. They just eat food for breakfast – usually we would have some rice, chicken, cucumbers, dragonfruit, etc. (nothing too spicy unlike the rest of the day). I thought it was so great and I enjoyed that.

  23. I love the idea of the weekly simple change: I can’t wait to see everything to bring up.

    Also, three cheers for breakfast! It truly is the most important meal of the day, and has (since I started on my own journey to improved health and nutrition) long been the meal around which I do the most planning and anticipating. I love breakfast. So. Much.

    Eating as soon as you wake up is hard if you don’t turn it into a habit, but it is a super great way to get your metabolism kick-started. Every morning the first thing I do is drink 12oz of water, and eat a handful of nuts and half a banana before heading out for a run. It fuels me enough to work out and feel energized, and then I know a proper breakfast is waiting for me at the other end. Talk about a dangling carrot!

  24. What a smart post, Winnie. I love the idea of one simple change, and while I drink a lot of water, last week after I read your post, I started drinking water in the mornings before drinking coffee. You’re making a difference. I look forward to Fridays at Winnie’s blog in 2012.

  25. Well I won’t eat sardines (sorry!) but I SO agree with a proper breakfast. As a teacher, I can totally tell who’s had anything to eat and ever further, who’s had a decent breakfast (don’t I sound like the Nutella commercial?).

    LOVING this series. So real and do-able!

  26. Eating breakfast is something I almost never do. It’s a horrible habit to get into. I’m with you on savory too. While I enjoy a sweet breakfast it NEVER keeps me full! To stay full I need savory. Eggs and some sort of breakfast meat. I’m also a big fan of leftovers for breakfast. My favorite. Leftover over spaghetti with meat sauce….haha :)

    • You need to eat breakfast every day, girl!!! Try it. Once I am in the regular habit, I can’t imagine skipping…

  27. I love the idea for this series, Winnie. If we all made one change each week, we would be well on our way to good health within a couple of months. This breakfast dish is so intriguing to me. I am actually a sardine lover, so I can indeed imagine enjoying a bowl of this.

    • Thanks for your support Dara! Pretty sure I’m out on a limb telling people to eat sardines for breakfast so I am happy to hear you love them, too ;)