Is one of your New Year resolutions to lose weight? Get in the habit of eating high-protein breakfasts!
In numerous studies, starting the day with a high-protein breakfast has been linked to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. That’s because protein is filling, and it triggers the release of satiety hormones that curb appetite, so you may eat less all day long. At the same time, protein helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels so you have steady energy to face the day.
There is another benefit to eating high-protein breakfasts. People who eat a big breakfast actually burn twice as many calories compared with those who eat a large dinner. “That’s key because most people are inactive in the evening, and therefore less likely to burn off surplus calories consumed at that time,” explains nutritionist Cynthia Sass.
High-protein breakfasts are building blocks to a healthy diet, but breakfast is a struggle for most of us. Bagels, cereal, and smoothies don’t always pack a big protein punch. Not to mention, if you skip your morning meal, you’re not getting any protein at all. The ideal amount of protein at breakfast is between 20-30 grams. In addition to protein, a nutritious well-balanced breakfast should contain fiber, vitamin C, and calcium.
Calcium is important not just for building strong bones, but because calcium increases core body temperature, boosting metabolic activity. Fruits rich in vitamin C help the body oxidize fat during moderate-intensity exercise and can also banish fattening stress hormones. Fiber helps keep you regular and also keeps you feeling full longer.
Ready to start your day off right? Put down the oversized bowl and step away from the sugary cereal. It’s time to change your morning meal. Try one of these quick and easy high-protein breakfasts next time you’re tempted to reach for a breakfast-in-a-box.
1. Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a great source of long-lasting energy. People who eat warm oatmeal for breakfast feel full for longer and consume fewer calories at lunch than when they consume cold cereal. Sprinkle oatmeal with peanut butter powder or stir in 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter to add more protein. Sweeten with real maple syrup, brown sugar, or add cinnamon to taste. (Alternatively, quinoa takes a bit longer to make than oatmeal, but it has a ton more protein, plus more fiber and vitamins than oats.)
2. Overnight Oats – Overnight oatmeal is easy to make and portable. Unlike regular oatmeal, which is cooked in boiling water on the stove or zapped in the microwave, overnight oats are not cooked at all. They’re just rolled oats that are left to soak in milk. Use a half cup oats + one cup milk (regular, almond, or coconut). Tightly cover and place in the fridge overnight (or for at least 5 hours). In the morning, top it off with some yogurt, berries, or sliced bananas.
3. Eggs – Consumed in any form (poached, scrambled, etc.), eggs are a protein-rich energizing food. They don’t cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin when digested, making them a steady and sustained source of energy. Using three eggs will give you about 19 grams of protein, so fold in some cheese or ham if you want to get closer to 30 grams. In a hurry? Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs ahead of time (or buy them at the store but they’ll be twice the price). Then you can just grab three hard-boiled eggs, a piece of ham, and a few Tillamook snacking cheeses or mozzarella cheese sticks for an à la carte omelet-to-go that’s packed with protein and calcium.
4. Scrambled Tofu on Toast – Perfect for vegans, tofu can mimic eggs. Crumble a half block of extra firm tofu in a pan and scramble it like you would eggs. Add your favorite veggies, herbs, and spices for flavor. Place onto a sliced whole wheat bagel or 100-percent whole-grain toast. This gives you about 22 grams of protein. If you don’t like tofu, make it a dropped egg on toast.
5. Cottage Cheese Bowl – You can enjoy cottage cheese on its own or combine it with fruits and nuts. Dish out a half cup of low-fat cottage cheese and top with peach slices or high-fiber berries. Half a cup of 1-percent cottage cheese has 14 grams of protein and only about 80 calories. Or spread cottage cheese onto whole grain toast and you don’t even need a bowl.
6. Yogurt – Make sure you choose the right kind of yogurt, as manufacturers are known for cramming as much sugar and artificial ingredients into yogurt as they do candy bars. The healthiest yogurts are Chobani Greek yogurt, Fage Total Greek yogurt, and Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt. These are extremely good for you because they have low sugar content, low or no fat, and are packed with plenty of protein. With 15-20 grams of protein per serving, there’s a good reason the thick, creamy Greek-style yogurt is a go-to breakfast. Along with having more protein than regular yogurt, the Greek stuff provides plenty of calcium and probiotics.
7. Yogurt Berry Parfait – Take a cup of plain Greek yogurt and mix in 2 teaspoons of granola (for crunch) plus a half cup of blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries (for fiber and fruity flavor). Top with your favorite nuts for added protein and healthy fat. (Almonds, pistachios, and cashews are pretty low in fat compared to other nuts.)
8. Breakfast Roll-ups – Take a whole wheat tortilla, add two slices of ham or turkey, a slice of your favorite cheese, and spread on a layer of plain yogurt or cream cheese. Roll it up for a quick breakfast to go that packs twice the protein of a hard-boiled egg. Or spread a whole wheat tortilla with natural peanut butter and all-fruit jam.
9. Breakfast Burrito – Start with a whole wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Add ham, ground beef, or Chorizo sausage. You can also add hashed brown potatoes, salsa, or anything else you like. Then fold it up into a burrito shape. You can even make your own High Protein Freezer Burritos ahead of time and keep them frozen until ready to eat.
10. Peanut Butter and Banana – Next time you’re rushing out the door, slap some peanut or almond butter on a piece of whole grain bread and grab a banana. Bananas have almost no fat, a ton of fiber, natural sugars, and a good amount of vitamin C and B-6, which makes them an energy superfood. Eat them slightly green, though. Green bananas are better at boosting satiety and resisting digestion so the body has to work harder to digest the food, which promotes fat oxidation and reduces abdominal fat. Also, the more ripe a banana is, the more sugar it contains— and that’s sugar your body doesn’t need. You can also spread nut butter on the banana to increase your protein intake.
- Protein Coffee – Adding protein powder to coffee is a great way to aid weight loss, especially if you are using a high protein/low carb diet. Stir a scoop of vanilla or chocolate-flavored protein powder into your coffee for a morning boost of caffeine and a healthy dose of protein all in one shot. Put it in your travel mug and hit the road. You will get the dual benefit of coffee’s appetite suppressing, antioxidant and stimulating properties, as well as the nutritional value of protein.
- Protein Smoothies and Shakes – A scoop of protein powder can be mixed with plain water or added to smoothies and shakes. Blend 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 cup orange juice, and 1 cup ice until smooth for a high-protein Creamsicle! Generally, a scoop of protein powder provides about 20 grams of protein, which is sure to keep you full until your next meal. (We recommend Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder.)
- Chunky Monkey – If protein powder is just not your thing, chocolate milk is a great source of high-quality protein, healthy fat, and hydration. (It’s a top post-workout drink!) Make a Chunky Monkey shake by blending 1 medium banana, 1 cup chocolate milk, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter with 1 cup ice until smooth.
What About Breakfast Bars?
Thinking of using protein bars as the basis for your high-protein breakfasts? Bars for breakfast can steer your day the wrong direction. These grab-and-go options claim to be great sources of protein and fiber. But many times they are loaded with chemicals and hidden sugars. You’d be shocked to see how many ingredients can be shoved into these tiny meal supplements. However, some brands use natural ingredients without added sugar. When you’re picking out breakfast bars, check the ingredients list for things you can pronounce, with small amounts of sugar, and higher amounts of protein and fiber. Here are some good choices:
- RXBAR simply contains egg whites for protein, dates to bind, and nuts for texture. That’s it! Each bar has 12 grams of protein.
- KIND Bars are also known for using simple ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit and oats.
- ThinkThin is loaded with 20 grams of hunger-fighting protein and no added sugars.
- Larabars are another popular protein bar made with minimal ingredients.
Feel free to choose a high-protein food at snack time, too. High protein snacks can help fuel weight loss efforts by boosting metabolism, reducing hunger pangs, and preventing overeating at lunch or dinner just like high-protein breakfasts do. The extra protein is also beneficial pre- or post-workout if you’re looking to pack on some extra muscle or trim down. In general, the total amount of protein in your daily diet (not just at breakfast) should amount to 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.