Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
The food is vibrant, inviting, and lovingly presented, like it was prepared by a kindly innkeeper’s wife from a children’s book using freshly picked berries, and homegrown herbs she dried out herself. Sure, this fairy tale character is also armed with thousands of online followers and a long lens camera, but that doesn’t make the narrative any less fantastical — getting a halfway decent meal down my gullet each morning is challenge enough without making it social media-worthy, too. Most days I’m more likely to spot a unicorn.
I asked some of the internet’s healthiest eaters to pull back the curtain on their enviable AM routines and, hopefully, fortify my own in the process. Their verdict? All it takes is properly managed time.
When you’ve got 0 minutes: Embrace the Boy Scout motto (i.e.: Be Prepared)
"I guarantee you 99 percent of the ‘perfect’ breakfasts bloggers post online have been at least partially prepped in advance," says Suja juice co-founder and Blawnde blogger Annie Lawless. "They go to the store over the weekend. They chopped everything. It’s a lot of planning." This, however, does not necessarily mean choosing between a Sunday afternoon nap and nourishing AM meals throughout the work week. "One of the easiest solutions is chia pudding: Just mix chia seeds with some coconut milk and spices, like cinnamon or turmeric, maybe add some almond butter and berries, and let it soak in the fridge overnight." The seeds need several hours to absorb the liquid and thicken, so by the time you wake up, the blend should be ready to eat.
Naturally Ella’s Erin Alderson prefers to use the same method with oats: "It's one of those things that only takes five minutes to put together at night — fruit, oats, milk — and it’s ready to take with you in the morning to enjoy on the train, or at your desk." When she’s so booked there isn’t time to physically sit down with a bowl and spoon, she’ll opt for a homemade raw Lara bar instead. "I make a big batch ahead of time to throw in my purse. It’s not involved at all: You just pulse dates, nuts, and dried fruit in a food processor, press the mixture in a pan, and let it set in the fridge. It’s important you use a powerful food processor, though, so the motor doesn’t burn up."
Instagram Bonus: Switch your tupperware for a mason jar (it’s just as easy to throw in a bag on the go, but infinitely more appealing in a picture), and stack the ingredients with care. Jordan Younger — aka, "The Balanced Blonde" — swears by this method: "I’m always making something I call ‘Jars of Yumminess’: oats layered in a mason jars with different types of fruit and natural powders. They look like superfood rainbows!"
As for salvaging a rushed granola bar situation on camera, put it in an intriguing context on the go — laying on a counter with other bits and bobs (magazines, lipstick, your half full cup of coffee), held at arm’s length in a sunny park, half eaten on your lap with a crossword puzzle — and aim for the brightest possible conditions. Overhead lighting, Lawless advises, is "the best way to avoid awkward shadows."
If you’ve got 5 minutes: Streamline your smoothie game
Although it doesn’t take very long to throw some produce in a blender and whizz it together, there are ways to accelerate the process even more. "Try pre-packaging smoothie pods on Sunday in little Ziploc packs," Lily Kunin of Clean Food Dirty City suggests. "During the work week, you just dump one in the blender, and add your liquid of choice." If you want the freedom to switch up flavors on a daily basis, however, Lawless has another idea: "I put all my ingredients in the blender jar before going to bed: my fruit, my green, my oils, my nut butters, my proteins. Then I can pop it on the motor in the morning while I get ready."
Instagram Bonus: Kunin gets her best shots by combining foods of like colors and displaying in a clear container (mason jars, again, are an ideal option here). "So, for instance, you could do blueberries, frozen acai, and beets for a vibrant purple. If you start adding different shades, the hue will get murky." If time allows, Katie Higgins from Chocolate Covered Katie is all about making a quick smoothie bowl dressed with fresh fruit and nuts at your desk. "But don't just throw your toppings around everywhere! Arrange them in lines, circles, or patterns."
If you’ve got 20 to 30 minutes: Let’s have a toast!
The goal here is to split the time in two: the first half to cooking and documenting your handiwork, the second to laid back munching while you catch up on news. Alderson recommends keeping a formula in mind. "I balance 1/4 protein, 1/4 grain, and 1/2 produce. So any toast with nut butter and fruit is a fantastic go-to." And, let’s not forget about avocado toast! To make hers more special, Lawless sprinkles it with a bit of cayenne pepper ("it revs your metabolism up") and, if she’s not too rushed, a fried egg. But really, so long as both your bread and accoutrements are both fresh and nutrient-dense, it fine to switch up the specifics.
Anddd another angle of the g-free toast 6 ways because I'm feeling fiesty today and why not? PS we are having a lot of fun with #tbbtribe newsletter every SUNDAY- the link is in today's bloggy post, along w/ these #TOASTS if you want to join the partay. (Really, it is a party.) #tbbkitchen #tbbmademedoit
Instagram Bonus: While it’s likely your garnishes are enough to carry a photograph, a beautiful place setting seals the deal. Younger is a pro at this: "I find good lighting, whip out my trusty marble slab, grab a few flowers to arrange on the side, stick the food on a colorful plate with cute silverware, and voilà! Sometimes I’ll add a candle, a book I'm reading, a tarot card, or a piece of jewelry, too. Food alone looks boring to me on Instagram these days!"
If you’ve got all morning: Get some side action
Now that we’re in leisurely brunch territory, why not go for a full spread? To give yourself more face time with guests (or your coffee and Kindle), Kunin is a big advocate of making the extra courses a night or two beforehand and focusing on your main dish in the moment. "I love doing baked eggs with roasted sweet potatoes and black beans because you can already have the sweet potatoes roasted. Day of, you warm them up with the beans while your eggs cook." Anderson uses a frittata or omelet as her centerpiece: "It's quick and easy to throw together — minimal cooking time, and once you have a handle on the right egg-to-milk ratio, you can throw in any combination of vegetables, grains, or cheese — but looks impressive on a plate. To dress it up more, I’ll throw some extra filling on top before serving."
If you’re a vegan, like Higgins, it’s easy enough to sub in an egg-free entree. "Sunday brunches for me are about lots of different dishes that pair together well," she tells me. "I’ll do dairy-free pancakes or donuts with something savory I cooked the night before, like roasted vegetable or a stir-fry, and a fresh fruit salad."
Instagram Bonus: You aren’t the least bit rushed, so take full advantage. That means carefully arranging your table for the ultimate aerial shot — rustic dish ware, cloth napkins, condiments galore — and not apologizing for it. Ain’t no shame in showing off your hard work.
If all of the above falls through and you still end up at Starbucks
"We’ve all been there!," Tone It Up co-founders and trainers Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn exclaim over email. "Our emergency order is three shots of espresso over ice with a splash of dairy-free milk. Then grab the fresh fruit salad or hot oatmeal bowl — but substitute all the sugar on the side for cinnamon." About 75 percent of the bloggers I spoke with referenced the java chain’s "Protein Pack" as well. "I have totally bought it for just the almonds and hard boiled egg inside," admits Lawless. "It’s better than nothing!"
Instagram Bonus: You got creative with your order, now apply the same ingenuity to your phone’s camera. Is there anything in your handbag to spruce up the snap? A ray of flattering sunlight you can catch from a nearby window? Stretch your limited resources to full potential, and if you still come up short, don’t underestimate the power of a pithy hashtag. #SleptIn #MissedBreakfast #WorthIt
Hey, sometimes it is.