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The benefits of getting enough protein in your diet are well known—you’ll feel fuller longer and you may even lose weight. You’ve likely heard that having a breakfast with protein is helpful for keeping you full and stabilizing blood sugar. But maybe you’re not sure if your current breakfast is cutting it. For a food or beverage to be considered “high protein” it should contain 20% protein. For example, if a breakfast contains 400 calories, that would mean it would need to serve up 20g of protein to put it in the high protein category. Breakfasts like these may seem hard to come by, but you can easily find them once you know what to look for.
The quintessential breakfast food, eggs not only contribute protein to your meal, they also provide essential nutrients, including choline for brain health and vitamin D for immunity. One medium egg contains 6g of protein in just 60 calories. And don’t skip the yolk! Nearly half of the protein in an egg is found in the yolk, as well as a bevy of nutrients, including vitamin B12 and immune supporting zinc. Eggs are endlessly versatile and can be scrambled, boiled, poached, fried, baked, and more. Even better, eggs provide the most budget-friendly form of animal protein.
Probably the easiest way to make sure you’re getting close to 20g of protein at breakfast is to get two eggs on your plate. Omelets are a great way to make sure you’re not only getting the benefits of protein, but also packing in the veggies and fiber you need. This Veggie Omelet with Cheese, Spinach and Cauliflower provides 20g of protein, as well as about 2g of fiber.
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN
Ever since Greek yogurt hit the market in the early 2000s, it’s become a protein-seekers go-to pick. You can dress Greek yogurt up with fresh fruit, granola and a little honey or add it to smoothies for a boosted morning shake. One 5.3-ounce cup of Greek yogurt will net you 11g of protein, plus at least 100mg of bone-building calcium. Add an ounce of almonds to it and you’ll get an additional 6g, which gets you close to that 20g goal. If you want to reach the top of that protein ladder, top your Greek yogurt bowl with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.
Greek yogurt isn’t the only pick in the dairy aisle with protein cred. Cottage cheese is tops when it comes to the amount of protein it delivers per serving. A half cup of cottage cheese boasts 15 to 16g of protein in a wee 90 calories. Top it with an ounce of toasted walnuts and you’ll get an additional 4g, which gets you what you need to start your day right. Add fresh berries for more fiber and important nutrients. You can also use cottage cheese as an ingredient to boost the protein in breakfast faves like pancakes and waffles.
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
While bacon does make everything better, it’s actually not a great source of protein, gracing your breakfast plate with just 6g of protein per two slices. You’ll do a little better if you opt for two classic breakfast sausage patties, which deliver 10g in two patties. Or you can opt for a plant-based option, like the ones from Beyond or Impossible, which will net you 11 and 12g respectively, for two patties. You can round out those patties with an egg or a yogurt to hit your 20g mark.
Is it possible that a New York deli favorite could be a protein powerhouse? Indeed, a sesame bagel with a schmear of cream cheese and 2 ounces of smoked salmon “lox” clocks in at 25g of protein. If you want to trim some of the calories, you could always wrap your salmon up in a tortilla, but I can’t guarantee it will be as satisfying.
Many of us are reducing the amount of animal protein in our diet for both our health and the health of our planet. And one of the smartest ways to get plenty of plant protein and cut down on water usage is by cooking with pulses (beans, lentils and chickpeas), which require minimal water to grow. One of the benefits of pulses is that they provide a substantial amount of protein, along with a hefty dose of fiber, all in a purse-friendly package. And when you buy them canned, the prep is minimal, making them a superstar pantry staple!
A Breakfast burrito is about as easy to whip up as scrambled eggs. Throw a cup of black beans into a burrito with 2 tablespoons of shredded Mexican blend cheese, dress it up with salsa and you’ve got yourself a 20g protein breakfast in minutes. And don’t forget about hummus! It’s excellent on toast and can help amp up your protein intake, with ¼ cup serving shelling out 4g of protein.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY
Other plant-protein powerhouses include nuts and seeds. While almonds are tops for tree nuts at 6g per 1-ounce serving, peanuts (a legume) clock in at a little over 7g per serving. Swirling a tablespoon of nut butter into a bowl of oats, or slathering it on a slice of toast is a great way to add a protein boost to any breakfast. For a breakfast that nets you 24 to 26g, you’ll want to spread 1 tablespoon of nut butter over 2 slices of higher protein bread (like Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed bread or Ezekiel Bread). Who says toast isn’t a good breakfast option?
Blend up a rich, delicious breakfast with Natalie Morales’ Easy Protein-Packed Breakfast Smoothie. It combines the protein power of peanut butter, flax seeds, and protein powder for an extra awesome start to your day.
Powdered protein is ubiquitous these days. No doubt your Instagram feed is flush with ads for various plant-based or whey-based protein powders. Once you find one you like, they’re a super convenient way to level up your morning protein.
For folks like me who eat their breakfast post workout, the Workout Recovery Smoothie, with 25g of protein, is a super choice. That protein will help repair any microtears that may have occurred during your sweat session. You can also use protein powder to add a boost to oatmeal, muffins, overnight oats and pancakes.
Mitch Mandel / Smoothies & Juices
You’ve got loads of options for a hearty, protein-rich breakfast. Here’s to making the most important meal of the day your most filling as well!