If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or have a hard time keeping your hunger in check in the morning, you probably already know how important protein is. But while it’s easy for most of us to get enough of the nutrient at dinner and lunch, breakfast can be a struggle. 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.
That’s a big mistake. “In numerous studies, a high-protein breakfast habit has been linked to weight management or weight loss,” says Cynthia Sass, R.D., C.S.S.D., a New York City- and Los Angeles-based performance nutritionist. “Protein is filling, and triggers the release of satiety hormones that blunt appetite.”
That means you may eat less all day long, including in the evening. “That’s key because most people are inactive in the evening, and therefore less likely to burn off surplus calories consumed at that time,” Sass explains. Protein also boosts alertness so you are productive and helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels so you have steady energy to face the day, she adds.
The ideal amount of protein at breakfast is about 30 grams, according to a review published in Advances in Nutrition. However, registered dietitians say starting with at least 20 grams is a good goal for weight loss and hunger management. Ready to start your day off right? Try one of these dietitian-approved high-protein breakfasts next time you’re tempted to reach for the cereal box.
Next time you make your favorite overnight oats, stir in a scoop of protein powder, Sass says. Combine the oats and plain or vanilla-flavored protein powder (unless chocolate goes with your other flavors), then add water or unsweetened nut milk. Stir until well combined. Let the oats soak in the fridge until the morning, then top with berries and pumpkin seeds.
Eggs are a no-brainer for protein. Sass suggests mixing in veggies and herbs and topping with avocado for healthy fats, which will boost the satiety factor. Using three eggs will give you about 19 grams of protein, so fold in some cheese, black beans, or meat if you want to get closer to 30 grams
Pudding with Chia Seed
Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re even a complete vegetarian protein. Still, only one tablespoon of chia seeds gets you less than 5 grams of the muscle-building nutrient, so amp up your morning chia with soy milk and crushed almonds to get closer to 15 grams. To boost protein (and thickness!) even further, stir in your favorite protein powder.
By itself, oatmeal isn’t high in protein. But you can easily increase that amount. “Make it with one cup of nonfat or low-fat milk, 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, and chia seeds,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet. Add some berries or a banana on top if you crave something sweet in the morning.
Perfect for vegans and meat-eaters alike, tofu can mimic eggs. “Crumble a block of tofu in a pan and scramble it like you would eggs, adding your favorite veggies, herbs, and spices for flavor,” says Ginger Hultin, R.D., a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Half of the recipe gives you about 22 grams of protein. Extra-firm tofu tends to work best, and if you have time to press it first, go for it. Your scramble will still be yummy if you don’t press it, though.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
With 20-plus grams of protein per cup, there’s good reason this thick, creamy yogurt is a go-to breakfast. “Yogurt parfaits are hands-down one of my favorite high-protein breakfasts,” Rounder says. She tops plain, full-fat Greek yogurt with whatever toppings she’s in the mood for—usually a combination of walnuts (for added protein and healthy fat), berries (for fiber), a few spoonfuls of granola (for crunch), and a drizzle of honey (extra sweetness!).
It’s not a traditional morning meal for most Americans, but a salad is great any time of day and helps you get in those veggies first thing in the morning. “Stir an EVOO-balsamic dressing into canned wild salmon. Place the salmon over a bed of greens along with a scoop of lentils and a sprinkle of chopped nuts,” Sass suggests. Plus, it’s easy to prep the night before if you want to take it on the go.
Non-Dairy Yogurt Parfait
Greek yogurt enjoyed its time in the spotlight, and now there are many plant-based yogurts that have a good amount of protein. For instance, there’s Kite Hill’s almond milk “Greek” yogurt with 11 grams of protein and Silk’s plain soy milk yogurt alternative with 10 grams of protein. “Aim for an unsweetened variety so you can mix in your own fruit,” Hultin says. “Then maximize protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids by adding in flax, chia, or hemp seeds.”
Salmon Avocado Toast
If you’re not in the mood for eggs, try 4 ounces of smoked salmon, or lox, which has about 20 grams of protein. “Top 100% whole-grain bread with tofu-scallion cream cheese, lox, avocado, and diced red onion and tomato,” Gans suggests.
Cottage Cheese Toast
Switch up your morning slice by topping whole-grain bread with a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese instead of your go-to cream cheese or avocado. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a drizzle of honey, and a handful of nuts for extra crunch and protein. This combo is super versatile, so if you prefer savory toast, you can top with veggies and nuts instead.
These tasty breakfasts are packed with nutrients and will keep you full all morning. But how start your day, what are you eating on the breakfast? Tell your usually menu in the morning.