Fill Up Early: 15 Ways to Get Protein at Breakfast
Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on December 02, 2022
Want to start your day off right? Add some protein to your morning meal. Research shows that getting plenty of this nutrient first thing helps you stay full and satisfied longer. It may even help you eat less throughout the day.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Thicker than the regular kind, Greek yogurt packs in more protein: One cup delivers 23 grams. It’s also high in bone-building calcium and potassium. For a filling breakfast, layer the creamy stuff with fruit and a high-fiber cereal. Tip: Before serving, stir in that liquid sitting on top of the yogurt. That’s whey, and there’s protein in it.
Chia Seed Pudding
Remember Chia Pets -- clay sculptures with the green sprouts? Turns out, the seeds of those plants are loaded with nutrition. One ounce -- around 2 tablespoons -- serves up 5 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. When soaked in liquid, chia seeds turn into a thick pudding: Stir 2 tablespoons chia seeds with half a cup of milk, and put it in the fridge overnight. Have it in the morning with fruit and honey.
Not all cereals are created equal. Many are made with only grains, so they don’t have much protein. But some have nuts and seeds, and others have soy protein baked into their flakes or puffs. Look for ones with at least 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving. This combo will help fend off hunger throughout the morning.
With 6 grams of protein each, eggs are a smart way to start the day. For an easy one-dish breakfast, whip up a frittata: Beat eggs with salt and pepper. Mix in fillings, like sauteed veggies and cheese. Pour it in an oven-safe skillet, and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Then put it in a 350-degree oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Yes, fish for breakfast. Smoked salmon is a morning staple in Scandinavian countries, and for good reason: A 3-ounce serving has almost 16 grams of protein, plus heart-healthy omega-3 fats. You can add it to omelets and frittatas, or have it the traditional way: Make an open-face sandwich with a piece of rye bread, smoked salmon, and cream cheese. Sprinkle with dill or chopped scallions.
Nut Butter Waffle
Skip the maple syrup and spread your favorite nut butter (peanut or almond) on a whole-wheat waffle or toast. It’s high in protein (7 grams in 2 tablespoons), healthy fats, and vitamins. In fact, research shows that eating nuts regularly can boost your heart health and help with weight loss. You can also stir a spoonful into a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie.
Canadian Bacon-and-Egg Sandwich
Craving bacon? Cook up the Canadian kind. Made from lean cuts of pork, a two-slice serving has 12 grams of protein and less than 2 grams of fat. Serve it on a whole-wheat English muffin with an egg. You’ll stay full: Research shows that people who had eggs in the morning ate 22% fewer calories at lunch than those who had a bagel.
Cottage Cheese With Fruit
There’s a reason cottage cheese is thought of as a slim-down staple: A half-cup delivers 12 grams of protein. It’s a source of leucine, an amino acid that’s an important building block for muscles. Choose a low-fat, no-sodium-added version, and pair it with fruit, or add it to your morning smoothie or oatmeal.
Black Bean Scramble
Upgrade plain scrambled eggs by mixing in sauteed peppers, black beans, and a little cheddar cheese. The beans add a protein boost -- 7 grams per half-cup -- and they’re high in disease-fighting antioxidants and fiber. As a bonus, you’ll get immunity-boosting vitamin C from the peppers.
Poultry Sausage With Eggs and Toast
Like other meat products, pork sausage is a source of protein. But it’s often high in saturated fat, the kind that can raise your cholesterol. Look for leaner versions made from chicken and turkey. Serve it with eggs, whole-wheat toast, and fruit, or add it to your omelet or quiche.
This whole grain is actually a tiny seed, and it’s packed with protein. One cup delivers 8 grams. For breakfast, serve quinoa as a delicious oatmeal-like porridge, and add your favorite toppings, like cinnamon, fresh fruit, and nuts.
Sip servings of fruit and protein in your morning smoothie. Start with fruit, such as banana or berries; a cup of milk; and a few ice cubes. For extra protein, add some Greek yogurt or whey protein powder. You can toss in a spoonful of cocoa powder to make it a chocolate treat.
Greek Yogurt Pancake
Greek yogurt can bring protein and a tangy flavor to pancakes. To make them, mix it in with an egg and skim milk. Then add it to your pancake mix. Top your stack with more yogurt and fruit.
Overnight Oats with Nuts
No time to simmer oatmeal on the stove? No problem. You can make a no-cook version in seconds. Mix equal parts oatmeal with milk. Pop it in the fridge, and the oats will soften overnight. In the morning, top it with cinnamon or, for extra protein, nuts or ground flaxseed. You can warm it up in the microwave or enjoy it cold.
The morning is the perfect time to polish off some protein-rich leftovers. Dice last night’s chicken, steak, or pork, and add it to a scrambled egg. Put the filling in a whole-wheat tortilla, along with salsa and a few avocado slices for a quick breakfast. In a rush? Wrap the burrito in aluminum foil for an on-the-go meal.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Nancy Restuccia, registered dietitian and bariatric dietitian, Columbia University Medical Center.
Caroline Passerrello, registered dietitian nutritionist; spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Sara Haas, registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary dietitian; spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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