Protein is an essential nutrient that's critical for many bodily functions, such as building muscle, skin and hair and fueling cellular reactions that depend on enzymes. Eating a diet that's rich in proteins, especially those derived from lean or vegetarian sources, can also help in a weight-control or exercise program. But you might not realize that eating protein at breakfast can help you feel full longer while also helping control your appetite during the day. Whether you eat a leisurely breakfast or are in a hurry most mornings, you can easily add one to two servings of lean protein to your first meal of the day.
The Institute of Medicine suggests you eat 0.8 gram of protein for every kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of body weight. So each day, a 120-pound woman should get 44 grams and a 160-pound man 58 grams. When you're on the go, you can make a good start toward this goal by combining 1 cup of tofu with seasoning to make a breakfast scramble, netting you about 20 grams of protein. Or have 1 cup of a high-protein dry cereal containing between 8 and 12 grams paired with 1 cup of low-fat or nonfat milk for another 8 grams of protein. One cup of low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt also makes a quick breakfast that's extra creamy and contains about 13 grams of protein; add 1 cup of blackberries or raspberries for fiber and some vanilla extract for extra flavor.
When you have a few extra minutes to cook breakfast, it's easy to make this a high-protein meal. For a traditional, eggs-and-bacon breakfast, poach or boil two large eggs for about 12 grams of protein, or to reduce fat, use a nonstick pan to fry two egg whites for about 7 grams. To boost protein even higher, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds on your eggs while cooking to add another 5 grams. Or add a slice of low-fat turkey bacon or a 1-ounce slice of turkey ham, for 2 grams and 5 grams, respectively, but choose reduced-salt products to minimize your sodium intake. Don't rule out breads when looking for protein: Add a 2-ounce whole-wheat bagel, boosting your morning protein by another 5 grams, or a half of a 6-1/2-inch whole-wheat pita that contains about 3 grams. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter for another 4 grams.
Parfaits and Shakes
You can also add protein to your breakfast by making a parfait, a creamy treat you can sweeten in a healthy way with fresh fruit. Combine 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese, which provides 28 grams of protein, with 1/4 cup of walnuts or hazelnuts for another 4 grams of protein; add cinnamon and nutmeg for extra flavor, and layer components in a glass bowl or tall tumbler. You can also make a flavorful, high-protein shake for breakfast by blending 1 cup of low-fat milk -- containing 8 grams of protein -- with 1 ounce of soy protein isolate to add an additional 23 grams; add strawberries or blueberries while blending. For a healthy, high-protein grain, mix some cooked quinoa into your parfait or shake; it has 4 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.
For a change of pace, prepare a savory breakfast that's based on high-protein legumes such as boiled lentils, which contain about 18 grams of protein per cup. Mix warm lentils with your favorite seasonings, adding 1/4 cup of sunflower seed kernels for crunch and an additional 7 grams of protein; top the dish with 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese to add another 5 grams of protein. You could also make a high-protein, open-faced breakfast sandwich, starting with a 2-ounce, toasted whole-wheat English muffin, which has about 5 grams of protein. Adding a poached egg onto each muffin side ups the protein grams by 12. Next, layer one slice of turkey bacon on each side, on top of the egg, for another 4 grams, topping this off with cheese if desired.