Only half of Americans eat what is proving to be the most important meal of the day. There is convincing evidence that eating breakfast enhances weight loss, improves memory and performance in school, and helps children achieve higher test scores. It’s not surprising that the types of food eaten at breakfast can influence these potential benefits. New research offers insight into what we should consume for breakfast in order to sharpen our brains and slim our bodies.
A protein-rich breakfast can reduce hunger and keep us satisfied throughout the day and into the evening, according to several studies from the University of Missouri. Some of these studies used brain scanning techniques and found that a high-protein breakfast impacts different parts of the brain than a low-protein breakfast. The reward-driven, pleasure-seeking center of the brain associated with food cravings was far less active, and the executive decision-making area of the brain was stimulated by a high-protein breakfast. These effects can give us more control over cravings and help us to make wiser food selections later in the day. This helps eliminate the desire for empty-calorie snacks at night when our resistance to indulgence is at its lowest.
Eating a high-protein breakfast can help lead to overall daily consumption of more nutrients with fewer calories, ultimately resulting in a healthier intake that promotes weight loss. Teen participants who either ate a low-protein breakfast or skipped the meal altogether had a higher daily calorie intake. Those who ate a high-protein breakfast, however, consumed an average of 400 fewer calories per day, due to their choice of fewer high-fat, high-sugar snacks in the late afternoon and evening.
According to lead researcher Dr. Heather Leidy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri, a breakfast containing about 30 grams of protein is optimal to achieve fullness and curb food cravings. Dr. Leidy pointed out, however that consumption of protein in the liquid form produced similar results to a high-carbohydrate, low-protein breakfast, in terms of fullness and food cravings. As a result, having a protein drink for breakfast is not as helpful as choosing protein-rich foods in enhancing appetite control, and controlling weight.
Most Americans eat 60% of their protein at dinner. Shifting a large part of our protein intake from the evening to the morning can help us feel more satisfied throughout the day. A higher protein breakfast keeps us better nourished, thinner, healthier, and smarter.
Some of the best high-protein foods to include in your breakfast are Greek yogurt (1 cup=20g), cottage cheese (1 cup=28g), almonds (1/4 cup=7g), peanut butter (2 Tbsp=8g), eggs (1 egg=7g), cheddar cheese (1 oz=7g), cooked quinoa (1 cup=8g), hemp seed (3 tbsp=11g), and beans or lentils (1/2 cup=9g). Quinoa, a complete protein, can be eaten as hot cereal in Peruvian style. Oatmeal can easily be made with milk to add protein and enhance the flavor. Add hulled hemp seed and nuts for additional protein. Leftovers made with chicken or fish for breakfast is an easy way to get the protein in since 3 oz of chicken has about 26 grams of protein and 3 oz of fish has about 20 grams of protein. One serving of these light and fluffy Protein-Packed Scrambled Eggs served with one slice of whole grain toast has 26 grams of protein. Try these Oatmeal Pancakes, Swiss Chard Potato Frittata, or my Protein-Packed Fruit Bowl (pictured below) for high protein breakfasts. Below are more 30-gram breakfast ideas. Do you have more high protein breakfast ideas? Please share your ideas below so we can all enjoy the benefits of high protein breakfasts. It’s time for breakfast power!
30g Protein Breakfast Ideas
1 whole grain English muffin + 1 oz cheese + 1 egg + 1 slice Canadian bacon
1 tortilla + 2 eggs + 1 oz cheese + 1/2 cup black beans + salsa + avocado
1 cup Greek Yogurt with 1/3 cup granola + fruit
1 cup cottage cheese + fruit + 1 tbsp nuts
1/2 cup oatmeal made with 3/4 cup milk + 2 tbsp almonds + 3 tbsp hulled hemp seed
2 eggs + 1 oz cheese + 2 slice whole grain toast
3 pancakes made with cottage cheese and hemp seed + 2 tbsp peanut butter + real maple syrup + 1 cup milk
1 cup quinoa cooked with 2 cups milk + blueberries + 1/2 cup almonds + cinnamon + raw honey
3 egg omelet + 1 oz cheese + vegetables
2 slices whole grain toast + 2 tbsp almond butter + 1 cup Greek yogurt
3 pancakes made with cottage cheese + 1 cup Greek yogurt + peaches
Leidy, Heather J., Laura C. Ortinau, Steve M. Douglas, and Heather A. Hoertel. “Beneficial effects of a higher- protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese,“breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97, no. 4 (2013): 677-688.
Gwin JA, Leidy HJ. “A Review of the Evidence Surrounding the Effects of Breakfast Consumption on Mechanisms of Weight Management.” Advances in Nutrition. 2018 Sep 10; 9(6): 717-725.