You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, that statement is only as true as what’s on your plate. If your breakfast options are high-calorie, high-sugar bagels and donuts, you may notice your energy peak and then drop soon after your meal.
While fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide important nutrients and quick fuel in the morning, it’s the protein content of your meal that will help you feel fuller, longer. In addition to increasing your satiety, research shows a healthy, high-protein breakfast promotes weight management by helping you make better food choices throughout the day, as well as reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
To make your morning protein quota easy, ten registered dietians share their favorite protein-packed breakfasts with 400 calories or less, to help you keep your energy up, your taste buds happy, and your appetite at bay.
Packed with 18 grams of protein, this egg and avocado breakfast salad is sure to keep you full until lunchtime. “Studies suggest that eating a two-egg breakfast may help to enhance weight loss, boost fullness, and limit calorie intake throughout the day—and guacamole is an ideal accompaniment since eating avocados is associated with weight management and improved diet quality,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.” For a morning time-saver, Newgent says she uses a store-bought guacamole that’s preservative free. As a bonus, going with a salad instead of toast is a nutritious swap that reduces the calories of the dish.
Unlike most jumbo muffins, that are really sugar-loaded cupcakes, these delicious muffins are an excellent source of both protein and fiber for staying power. Made with almond flour and oat flour, they're also gluten-free. While many high-protein muffin recipes use a protein powder, these muffins naturally pack in 14 grams of protein, mainly from the eggs and almond flour. But the star of the recipe is really the blueberries. Not only do they add a tangy sweetness and juiciness, they're also a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
Depending on the type you choose, a yogurt can either be a high-protein breakfast or a complete sugar bomb. Flavored yogurts are loaded with hidden sugars, calories, and other unhealthy additives. Choose a plain yogurt and add fresh fruit to enhance the taste and textures. “This pomegranate and clementine Greek yogurt bowl is packed with 20 grams of protein per serving and fiber rich fruits to help you feel full any time of the day. Plus, the ingredients are readily available and with a tiny bit of advanced planning, it requires very little thought to prepare,” says Robin Plotkin, RDN, Culinary Nutritionist and Founder of Robinsbite.com. As for the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt, because of the straining process, Greek yogurt has less sugar and more protein than regular yogurt.
Unlike an omelet that’s typically made to serve just one, a large frittata can be made in advance, sliced, and served warm or at room temperature for a quick breakfast with staying power. “My favorite go-to high protein breakfast meal is a frittata made with egg whites, lean steak, and feta. It gives a powerful protein punch to kick start my day,” says Jim White RDN, ACSM EX-P, Owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. Plus, White explains that a recent Beef Wise study has shown that lean beef is just as effective as other protein choices in supporting healthy weight loss and leaner bodies. “Not only do these lean proteins help to rebuild muscle but they also satisfy me to push through my long work days,” he says.
If you prefer a meatless frittata that packs in protein, as well as kale, than this recipe is for you. “It's no secret that eating plenty of protein, especially at breakfast, leaves you feeling fuller longer. But that's not the only reason I love this protein-packed frittata. Research also shows that when cutting calories, keeping your protein intake high will actually help you preserve more muscle... meaning your ‘weight loss’ is actually ‘fat loss’ and who doesn't want that?” says Regan Jones, RDN, founding editor at HealthyAperture.com. To save time, Jones recommends freezing the mixed ingredients in a large zip-top bag until ready to prepare.
Fruit parfaits are not only perfect for snack time, they’re an excellent option for a quick and healthy breakfast. “Break free from breakfast boredom with this protein-filled breakfast parfait made with cottage cheese, walnuts, fresh fruit, and whole grain cereal. This tasty parfait provides almost 20 grams of protein in every serving and it will keep you satisfied for hours,” says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN host of "Liz's Healthy Table" radio podcast and blog. While Greek yogurt has stolen the nutritional limelight in recent years for its protein content, you might be surprised to know that cottage cheese has slightly more; nonfat cottage cheese has 24 grams of protein per cup, while Greek yogurt comes in just under 20 grams per cup.
If you’re looking for a protein-rich option that’s vegetarian or vegan, or you just want to cut back a bit on animal protein, this rich, savory scramble is sure to please. “It’s packed with protein, compliments of tofu, which can be crumbled with turmeric into a savory scramble reminiscent of eggs,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. With a hint of earthy greens and sun-dried tomatoes, this hearty scramble packs in 14 grams of protein for just 152 calories. Palmer recommends serving it with avocados and whole grain toast for a healthy balanced meal of whole grains, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.
A whole grain rich in fiber and antioxidants, oatmeal is a nutritious way to start your day. Oats have been shown to help boost digestive health, manage blood sugar levels, and support a healthy weight. And while a typical serving of oatmeal provides 4-6 grams of protein, adding higher protein ingredients can help bump up the satiety factor even more. “This super simple breakfast recipe is packed with 21 grams of protein, thanks to the Greek yogurt, milk, and pistachios. In fact, pistachios are one of the highest-protein nuts out there,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. Plus, since this recipe is made the night before, the time-saving bonus is built-in.
A simple dish that stars every-day ingredients, shakshuka is basically eggs poached in a spiced tomato and green pepper stew with onions and garlic. “This simple stovetop shakshuka recipe uses one skillet and cooks up a protein- and veggie-packed breakfast or brunch in less than 30 minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated for a quick morning meal when you're in a hurry,” says Holley Grainger, MS, RD, Culinary Dietitian and founder of Cleverful Living. Unlike a traditional shakshuka recipe, this version adds in lean ground beef for an extra protein source boosting the vitamins, minerals, and, most importantly when you're trying to lose weight, the satiety factor. One serving of this recipe has more than 20 grams of protein and less than 250 calories.
For an easy protein-packed breakfast, this five-ingredient parfait made with Greek yogurt is sure to please. In addition to the 23 grams of protein per serving, this parfait pumps up the nutrients even further with fresh kiwis and strawberries, which are both an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C. “Both protein and fiber help keep you satisfied, allowing you to focus on your day ahead instead of food,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of “Smart Meal Prep for Beginners” and nutrition partner with California Strawberry Commission. Providing a satisfying crunch, the chopped almonds in this parfait add to the fiber and protein content, plus recent research suggests almonds can help reduce hunger and promote weight loss.
Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, healthy cooking expert, and captivating communicator inspiring millions of people to eat and live well. Sign up for Patricia’s free emails and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.