For years my breakfast was either dry cereal or toast with jam. As I always ate whole grains, I thought I was starting my day off on a healthy note. I was utterly oblivious to how nutritionally lopsided my morning meal was.
Void of much protein or fat, my carb-laden breakfasts launched my body on a wicked blood sugar roller-coaster ride. The result: one cranky girl with brain fog, sporadic energy, constant hunger and mad carb cravings.
Can you relate? If so, it's time to power up your breakfast plate.
5 Reasons to Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast
- Elevate Your Energy and Mind
Protein is the only food source of amino acids. Amino acids produce mood-enhancing chemicals including dopamine, our natural energizer and mental focuser. A protein-rich breakfast will give you clear, sharp mental focus and lasting energy. Skip protein and you will feel slow, dull and scattered.
- Boost Your Mood
Protein's amino acids also create serotonin, a feel-good chemical that promotes happiness and well-being. Without a protein-packed breakfast, you may feel irritable, anxious or blue.
- Curb Hunger, Eat Less
A breakfast with high-quality protein and healthy fats can keep you full for 4 to 5 hours. Eat just a bagel, muffin or cereal and you'll soon be clamoring for a snack. If you're often hungry an hour after breakfast, you're most likely skimping on protein.
- Burn Fat
High-protein foods trigger the release of glucagon, a fat-burning hormone, unlike carbs, which stimulate the release of insulin, a fat-storing hormone.
- Tame Your Sweet Tooth
Protein helps stabilize blood sugar. A hearty dose of a.m. protein will help zap your 3 p.m. candy jar raids and nighttime ice cream binges.
Balanced Breakfast Ideas
Start your day off right with a breakfast containing 20 to 25 grams of protein, plus some healthy fats and fiber-rich carbs. Here are five high-protein foods with approximate grams per portion and serving suggestions:
- 3 eggs (18-24 grams depending upon size)
Make a veggie omelet, a veggie frittata, or a scrambled egg burrito with a whole-grain tortilla, avocado and salsa. Hard boil eggs or freeze mini quiches for easy workday breakfasts and enjoy with fruit and/or veggies.
- 4 ounces (about the size of your palm) of lean organic meat, organic poultry or wild fish (20 g)
Yes, you can eat lunch for breakfast! Layer turkey, chicken, salmon or sardines on whole-grain bread or a sprouted-grain wrap with avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, arugula, spinach--whatever sounds tasty.
- 1 cup cottage cheese (27 g) or plain Greek yogurt (23 g) - not fat free!
Stir in fresh or frozen fruit, cinnamon, flaxseed meal or chia seeds, and chopped raw nuts.
- High-quality protein powder (1-2 scoops depending upon type and serving size)
Mix into a green smoothie (recipe here) or warm porridge made with protein-rich whole grains (e.g., quinoa, millet, amaranth), nuts, seeds and fruit (or make it savory with sweet potato, Swiss chard, etc.).
- 2 tablespoons organic nut butter, such as almond, cashew, walnut or hazelnut (7 g)
Spread on a Food for Life Ezekiel sprouted-grain English muffin (8 g) and follow with protein powder (10-15 g) mixed with water and a green powder or low-sugar veggie juice.
Experiment with different dishes to find the right combination for your body; one that provides long-lasting physical and mental energy.
Don't Forget the Kids!
A protein-deficient breakfast impacts kids too. Sugary cereals and yogurts, refined-flour breads, pastries and fruit drinks will nose dive their mood, energy and concentration. Make sure their brains and bodies are well fueled with a balanced meal of lean protein (amount needed varies by age), healthy fats, fruits and veggies, and whole grains.