Frequently referred to as the most important meal of the day, there can be no question that a well-balanced breakfast is an important health consideration. And another important consideration -- getting enough protein.
Eggs are one breakfast selection guaranteed to pack a protein punch, but are they the only way to start your day with protein? To find out, “Take Care” spoke with Johannah Sakimura, a registered dietician and nutritionist for the Atlantic Health System, with a master’s degree in nutrition from Columbia.
According to Sakimura, the amount of protein one needs will vary depending on a few factors. From age, to activity level, to weight, it will be different for everyone. But to roughly gauge the number of grams you need, she says, a good rule of thumb is to find 40 percent of your weight. For example, someone who weighs 140 pounds needs roughly 56 grams of protein each day.
In addition, Sakimura notes, it’s important to spread out that protein throughout the day. It’s not uncommon for many Americans to eat carb-heavy breakfasts and lunches, reserving their protein intake for the hefty helping of meat they eat at dinner. But every meal, she says, should have a balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.
Eggs, with their high protein content, have remained a breakfast staple for many. But if eating eggs every morning is too redundant, they aren’t the only way to get protein in your breakfast. Dairy products, for example, are a good source of protein, and yogurt, cheese, and milk are all easy to incorporate into your breakfast, Sakimura says.
In addition, dairy, nuts and seeds have some protein too, as do certain whole grains. Even beans and lentils are unlikely options that can be worked into breakfast meals, she mentions.
For a quick and easy breakfast fix, one cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit can offer up to 28 grams of protein. And as far as the varieties of cottage cheese available, Sakimura notes that low-fat varieties are ideal, but differences in curd-size are just a matter of personal preference.
Another breakfast option with room to incorporate protein is oatmeal. Not only can whole grain oats provide protein themselves, but extra protein can be added when prepared with milk instead of water. Peanut butter can also be included to provide a creamy texture and more protein. And additionally, Sakimura says, ground flax seed offers protein too, topping off a highly substantial breakfast. With milk, peanut butter, and flax seed, one bowl of oatmeal can have around 22 grams of protein.
For those who like their breakfast’s on-the-go, smoothies are another way to include protein in your busy mornings. Pumpkin and chia seeds, with their high protein content, are easy to throw in a smoothie. And when they’re made with low-fat milk or Greek yogurt, smoothies can have even more protein -- 20 grams in fact, and that’s without protein powder.
Breakfast burritos are another good option for a protein-filled breakfast. They can be made with eggs, of course, but that’s not the only way. Sakimura recommends trying out a tofu-scramble. Firm, crumbled tofu can act as an egg substitute, and when sautéed with onion, garlic, and other vegetables, makes for a great vegetarian breakfast burrito. Wrap it up in a whole grain tortilla with black or pinto beans, and you’re sure to meet your protein quota.
And if you swear by your morning toast but want to get more protein out of it, Sakimura recommends topping a piece with white beans and avocado, for a fibrous and protein-filled take on avocado toast. Similarly, ricotta cheese can also be mixed with avocado, for another protein-rich toast topper.
Sakimura says it’s important to ensure our diets have a consistent balance of healthy fats, carbs, and protein in every meal. Eggs, while a great source of protein, aren’t the only way to get the necessary nutrients for the upcoming day. And as Sakimura said, there are plenty of other options to make sure our breakfasts have all the protein we need.