Dinner is usually prime time for protein, as we fill our plates with meats, beans, fish, and dairy products. But if you’re going to reach your protein target for the day (which, for the record, is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for sedentary adults) you may want to get a head start at breakfast.
Not only does protein at breakfast keep you full until lunch and promote recovery from a morning workout, but eating more of it early in the day may also come with some other surprising benefits. One study on young women found that those who ate a high-protein breakfast were less likely to snack late in the evening. Other research on young people with overweight and obesity revealed that adding extra protein at their first meal of the day prevented body fat gain.
Maybe it’s time to rethink breakfast’s protein potential! Still, most of us aren’t about to grill up a steak or chicken breast first thing. So which foods make for a convenient, high-protein breakfast? These 7 are a great start. Read on, and for more, don’t miss 28 High-Protein Breakfasts That Keep You Full.
Protein per 1 large egg: 6 grams
The centerpiece of many a breakfast burrito and morning omelet, eggs are one of the most obvious choices for adding protein at breakfast. They’re inexpensive, easy to cook in ways that won’t bore you, and boast a savory taste that goes well with just about anything.
Then there’s the fact that each little white orb comes with 6 grams of protein! By scrambling or poaching just two eggs, you’ll take in 25% of the Daily Value of 50 grams. As an animal product, eggs also are classified as a “complete” protein, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids your body must get from food.
Worried about eggs’ cholesterol? Research about eggs’ impact on heart health is ever-evolving. If you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about how often to eat them, and try pairing them with high-fiber, nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, whole wheat toast, or fresh fruit.
Protein per 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1% fat: 14 grams
All dairy contains protein, but not all cheeses are equal when it comes to this macro.
Because of cottage cheese’s high ratio of casein to whey, it happens to be a protein powerhouse. Some cottage cheese brands have about 10 grams per serving, but try Organic Valley’s low-fat variety, which packs 15 grams—and just 100 calories—per ½ cup!
At breakfast time, the mini-curds require minimal effort to prepare. Spread cottage cheese atop a bagel or toast (everything bagel seasoning makes a tasty topper) or mix in your favorite berries for a quick meal that’s high in both protein and fiber.
Protein per 7-oz container Greek yogurt: 20 grams
Another dairy pick, Greek yogurt earns its protein prestige. Case in point: a small 5-ounce container of Fage’s 2% plain Greek yogurt comes with a sizable 15 grams. Like cottage cheese, the Greek version of this dairy product gets its epic protein content from higher levels of casein than traditional yogurt. And while some folks shy away from dairy foods for fear of fat, research shows that, due to their satiation factor, milk proteins could aid weight loss and improve overall metabolic health.
Need some inspo for going Greek at breakfast? Try freezing Greek yogurt with maple syrup and dried fruit for a tasty “bark,” add some to overnight oats.
Protein per 3-oz serving smoked salmon: 16 grams
When you reach for salmon at any meal, you probably know you’re making a good choice. These fatty fish are loaded with brain-boosting omega-3s, immune-supporting vitamin D, and of course, protein.
Then again, after rolling out of bed on a busy weekday, you’re may not be thinking of pan-searing a salmon filet. For breakfast, try smoked salmon instead. A 3-ounce serving provides 16 grams of protein—just 1 gram less than the 17 you’d get from the same serving of regular salmon. Pre-cooked slices can easily top bagels, mix into an egg scramble, or make a unique breakfast sandwich you won’t find at most drive-thrus.
Protein per 1/4 cup oats: 6 grams
Most of us (justifiably) associate protein with animal products like meats and dairy—but certain grains contain respectable amounts, too. You can count oatmeal as a solid protein source. Ounce for ounce, steel-cut oats are typically the highest-protein pick, with about 6 grams per quarter-cup.
Besides boasting plenty of protein of their own, oats can be a vehicle for even more of this macro from tasty mix-ins. Consider a protein upgrade of nuts like almonds or walnuts, a swirl of Greek yogurt, or even a scoop of protein powder. Or, for even more convenience, grab pre-made overnight oatmeal like Mush’s vanilla almond crunch, which has almonds already mixed in.
Protein per 2 tbsp peanut butter/almond butter: 7 grams
The possibilities for nut butter at breakfast are just about endless. In addition to the usual schmear of peanut butter on toast, you can plop a spoonful of nut butter into oatmeal, smoothies, muffins, or snack balls. When you do so, you’ll ratchet up your protein intake. Two tablespoons of both peanut butter and almond butter contain about 7 grams of protein.
An intriguing study in the British Journal of Nutrition Even found that, in women with obesity, eating peanut butter at breakfast helped control blood sugar and appetite throughout the day. As you pick your perfect nutty spread, just check labels to make sure you’re not getting added sugars and fats. A quality peanut butter needs just two ingredients: peanuts and salt.
Protein per 1 cup quinoa, cooked: 8 grams
Quinoa at breakfast? Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! We predict this super-nutritious grain could become a new breakfast trend since it’s high in protein (8 grams per cup), fiber, folate, copper, iron, and zinc. (Plus, its mild, nutty taste is perfect for a palate-pleasing start to the day.)
If you’ve made a big batch for dinner, save extra quinoa for the next morning sprinkling atop a yogurt parfait or even an omelet. Or consider making a quick quinoa porridge from scratch, cooking the grains on the stovetop with milk and cinnamon until they resemble oatmeal.