Beyond the breakfast benefits I mentioned last week, which included improvements in focus and thinking, promoting an active lifestyle, and helping increase your feelings of fullness, if you're looking to offset weight gain that tends to creep up after age 35, or if your clothes are snug and you'd like to slim down, filling your breakfast with high protein foods could help. Here's the deal: When you sleep, your body starts to break down muscle. Don't worry! This is a completely normal process. However, if you aren't supplying your muscles with high protein breakfast foods, your body can't begin the repair and rebuild phase. Over time, skimping on protein at breakfast will lead to a decline in muscle, which lowers your metabolism and causes weight gain. Every expert I spoke with believed that no matter what your goals (weight loss, healthy aging, bulking up), the first meal of the day has to be packed with high protein foods.
Beyond that, protein gives you a slight metabolic edge, burning up to 20 calories more each day. You might be thinking, "who cares?" but here's the thing: Each year, we tend to put on 1-2 pounds, and burning even just a tiny amount each day helps offset this weight creep. I recommend women aim for at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast. Men may need more to support their build. The foods and recipes below will give you some ideas to fuel your lifestyle. One final word: Don't go overboard here. Your body reaches a threshold (about 35 grams) beyond which, the protein doesn't stimulate muscle growth or appetite control. If you eat more than you need (protein or otherwise), it will get deposited as fat, and no one wants that!
Plain Greek yogurt is on my short-list of protein-rich breakfast foods. 1 cup provides more than 20 grams of protein, making it easy to reach your AM protein requirement. Use it in smoothies or smoothie bowls, or just toss it with your favorite fruit and a small spoonful of nuts or seeds for more crunch and flavor.
Protein-packed breakfast: ¾ c. plain Greek yogurt (nonfat or 2%) + 1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries + 1 tbsp chopped or slivered almonds. Protein score: 20 g
Cottage cheese is often overlooked, but it’s another food that packs plenty of protein.
Protein-packed breakfast: Split 1 banana and top with ¾ c. lowfat cottage cheese. Sprinkle with cinnamon and 1 Tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds. Protein score: 26
Eggs are an easy and versatile source of protein, with each egg clocking in just over 6 g. Omelets and scrambles whip up quickly on busy mornings, and pair well with a number of different veggies, from zucchini to spinach to tomatoes. Since you probably already know how to get a scramble going, this high-protein open-faced breakfast sandwich shows you another way to go in the morning.
Protein-packed breakfast: Top 1 slice whole grain bread with 1/3 avocado, smashed, 1 leaf lettuce, 1 thick tomato slice, 1 oz. lox, and 1 poached egg. Protein score: 28 g
Oatmeal is a lower-protein breakfast food, so to punch it up with more protein, consider adding a quality protein powder and hemp seeds (which also add healthy omega-3 fats). I love the protein powders from Naked Nutrition because they don’t use artificial ingredients (sweeteners, colors, flavors, etc) that you often see in these types of products. For vegans and those who are dairy-free, I suggest Naked Pea; for people who eat dairy, Naked Whey gets my thumbs up. If you’re looking for a lightly sweetened protein powder, my vote goes to their Less Naked Line.
Protein-packed breakfast: Mix ½ c. plain, dry oats with 1 scoop protein powder. Add 1 c. boiling water to the mixture and let stand a couple of minutes until the oats have plumped. (Add more/less water to desired oatmeal consistency.) When the oatmeal is ready, add some cinnamon, along with ½ apple, chopped, and top with 1 ½ Tbsp. hemp seeds. Protein score: 20 g