If you're starting your day with a sugary muffin or a bagel and cream cheese and wondering why you feel like taking a nap by 10:00, you're in the right place. Starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast can be a powerful way to help manage energy, keep you satisfied until lunch, and even manage mood swings. Protein is one of the three macronutrients that make up the majority of our diets, along with carbohydrates and fat, and it serves some pretty important functions.
Protein can be found in every cell of your body," says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN and founder of Real Nutrition. "Eating protein helps to maintain these cells, helps muscle and tissue repair and growth, and aids digestion and hormone balance." Eating protein can also help you feel full for longer and balance blood sugar levels, which means when you start your day with a high-protein breakfast you can say goodbye to that midmorning energy crash that has you reaching for a second (or third) cup of coffee. Shapiro recommends starting out with a goal of consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (keeping in mind that one kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds). This number isn't one-size-fits-all, however, and could go up or down based on your activity level, your health, and your nutritional goals. (If you're including protein at every meal, feeling satiated after eating, and have stable energy levels to fuel your daily activities, you probably don't need to be calculating your daily protein intake unless you're trying to reach specific health or fitness targets.) Read more here on how much protein you should be getting.
Starting your day with a dose of protein can also set you up for success mentally. According to Shapiro, avoiding that blood sugar crash (and the constant snacking that usually comes along with it) will help you not only feel nourished and full for longer, but help you stay clear-minded and energetic. So no matter if you're fueling up for a workday, a morning at the park with your kids, or a workout, you can't go wrong eating a high-protein breakfast.
High-Protein Breakfast Ideas
Eggs are a beloved breakfast food in general, and an excellent healthy choice when trying to get in an extra dose of protein in the morning. "Eggs are rich in choline and vitamin D and are complete proteins," says Shapiro. "One egg contains 7 grams of protein, so if you make an omelet with two eggs and lots of veggies, you'll have 14 grams of protein paired with fiber, vitamins, and minerals—a great way to start your day."
Another reason Shapiro is such a fan of eggs? They're an easy breakfast option to get almost anywhere, restaurants, delis, roadside diners—they're pretty much always on the menu.
Greek Yogurt With Chia Seeds and Raspberries
If you're more of a sweet than savory breakfast kind of person, this one's for you. "Greek yogurt provides 14 grams of protein per serving, which will help to keep you satisfied. Pair it with chia seeds (healthy fat and 5 grams of plant-based protein) and the fiber from antioxidant-rich raspberries," explains Shapiro. It's also easy to pull this one together quickly (without any pots and pans to clean).
Peanut Butter and Banana Sprouted Toast
This healthier twist on peanut butter and jelly keeps the classic flavors, but ups the nutrition value. "Sprouted toast provides 5 grams of protein from the grains and seeds," says Shapiro. Pair that with heart-healthy fat and lean protein from the peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter you have on hand), and you'll stay full and satisfied all morning. "The fresh fruit adds fiber and natural sweetness without excessive sugar," she adds.
If you build a balanced blend and skip sugary add-ins, a protein shake can keep you energized until lunch. Shapiro recommends using a protein powder that contains 15 to 21 grams of protein per serving (her personal favorites are plant-based options like Truvani or Sakara Life, or whey-based options like Tera's Whey). In addition to protein powder, add fruits, veggies (leafy greens are always a great way to go), and a fat like chia seeds, avocado, or nut butter. Portable, delicious, satisfying, and packed with protein and nutrients—what more could you ask for in a breakfast?
If you're not familiar with chia seeds beyond the sprouting version in old-school Chia Pets, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The tiny black seeds contain a multitude of health benefits, including fiber, healthy fat, magnesium, and, of course, protein. When combined with liquid, chia seeds form a gel-like pudding that's rich and satisfying without being heavy. Shapiro suggests 3 tablespoons of chia whisked with ½ cup of almond milk, 1 scoop of collagen peptides (optional—Shapiro adds for extra protein), ½ teaspoon of maple syrup, and a pinch of sea salt. Stir and let sit for 2 hours in the fridge. "This meal is rich in protein, about 15 grams from both the chia and the collagen powder,'' says Shapiro. "It also tastes great, is full of omega-3 fatty acids for skin and brain health, and will keep you full for hours thanks to the fiber and protein paired together. Top it with crushed nuts or seeds for an added boost."