10 Easy Ways to Sneak More Protein Into Your Breakfast, Say RDs
Whether you just started the keto diet, you’re trying to build muscle, or you’re finding it hard to stay satiated after meals, you may be looking for ways to up your protein intake. The best place to start? With your first meal of the day. Fortunately, there are lots of easy ways to get more protein at breakfast — ensuring you kick off your day on the right foot, nutritionally speaking.
Shauna Davis, RD, founder of Veggicated, notes that since protein takes a while for your body to digest, it keeps you feeling full for longer. Not only that, but research has found that a protein-rich breakfast can activate signals in your brain that curb your appetite, thus helping to reduce cravings and preventing you from overeating. In fact, studies have shown that eating a high-protein breakfast can help you eat fewer calories later in the day.
Protein can also help stabilize your blood sugar, says Davis — which is particularly important when you’re eating a carb-heavy meal, like a bowl of oatmeal or a bagel. Having protein in your system can slow the release of sugars from those carbohydrates into your bloodstream, so you can avoid a crash and maintain more consistent energy levels more consistent throughout your day.
With all that in mind, here are some super simple ways that registered dietitians get more protein at breakfast.
1. Whisk milk into your eggs.
Amanda Blechman, RD, Director of Health & Scientific Affairs at Danone North America, likes to whisk cow’s or unsweetened soy milk into eggs before scrambling them for an added protein boost. As an added bonus, Blechman says this extra step will also make a scramble much fluffier.
“If you’re opting for a plant-based milk alternative, I recommend soy as it has the highest protein content and is the only plant-based source of complete protein,” explains Blechman.
As a general rule, add 1 tablespoon of milk for every one to two eggs for the ideal consistency.
2. Use Greek yogurt or cottage cheese in your pancakes.
You might not think to add Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to that pancake batter, but according to Hilary Walentuck, RD at New England Dairy, this is one pro move that can seriously supercharge your breakfast. After all, just a 1/2-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese has 12 grams of protein, and a 100-gram serving of plain low-fat Greek yogurt has 10 grams of protein.
For example, you can swap out some of the buttermilk or milk for yogurt, or swap out some of the flour for cottage cheese. If you’re using cottage cheese, though, be sure to look for a small-curd product. This type melts better in the pancake batter during the cooking process, ensuring a more even consistency.
3. Mix nuts and seeds into your bowls and smoothies.
Nuts and seeds may look small, but they can add a big protein punch to your morning meal.
Davis recommends tossing a tablespoon or two of almond butter or peanut butter into a smoothie or swirling it into a warm bowl of oatmeal. You can also use it in place of regular butter on your toast for a higher-protein alternative.
She also notes that seeds add a satisfying crunchy topping to oatmeal or yogurt. Fun fact: Hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds are the highest-protein options, with 7 to 9 grams of protein in just 1 ounce.
4. Add eggs or Greek yogurt to your oats.
Whether you prefer a piping hot bowl of oats or cold overnight oats, one easy way to get more protein at breakfast is to add some Greek yogurt. Not only does this make your oats more satiating, but Blechman says it also adds a tasty tangy flavor.
A large egg offers 6.2 grams of high-quality protein — which is why Davis likes adding one to her morning oats while they’re cooking on the stovetop. In addition to boosting the protein content, this tactic also helps to thicken up the oatmeal. If you prefer, you can add just the egg whites, says Jenna Stangland, RD, Director of Nutrition for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Pureboost.
“Prepare a savory oatmeal base by cooking oats in broth and stirring in your favorite flavor enhancers such as Italian seasoning or garlic powder,” suggests Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. “Get creative with toppings like diced avocado or sauteed kale. Then, to round out the bowl and add high-quality protein, top it off with a poached or fried egg.”
5. Cook your oatmeal in milk.
Rather than cooking your oats in water, try switching to cow’s milk, says Walentuck. If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, soy milk is the highest-protein plant-based option.
While 1 cup of 1% cow’s milk has 8.2 grams of protein, 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk has 7 grams of protein,
Either of these options will also lend a creamier texture to your morning oats.
6. Use quinoa as a substitute for oats.
Speaking of oatmeal, you might want to consider making a hearty quinoa porridge instead. While it has a somewhat similar consistency, Davis notes that it has a slightly higher protein content, says Davis.
Whereas 1 cup of cooked oatmeal has about 5.5 grams of protein, 1 cup of quinoa has more than 8 grams of protein.
You can make quinoa porridge on the stovetop, or in an instant pot or slow cooker — and add any toppings you enjoy having on oats, like cinnamon, chopped nut or nut butter, seeds, and dried or fresh fruit.
7. Bring on the nutritional yeast.
If you’ve never used nutritional yeast, you’re missing out on some major potential to up your protein intake. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that also happens to be a complete protein. And a little goes a long way: just three tablespoons contain 8 grams of protein.
Cesar Sauza, RDN at the National Coalition On Health Care, says the savory flavor of nutritional yeast works best in egg dishes, like scrambles, frittatas, and omelets. Just whisk a couple of tablespoons into the eggs along with your other preferred seasonings.
8. Add Canadian bacon to your breakfast sandwich.
Did you know that Canadian bacon is not only lower in fat but also higher in protein? In fact, a 100-gram serving of Canadian bacon packs a whopping 20 grams of protein with just 2.6 grams of fat — compared to American bacon, which only has 13.7 grams of protein with 37 grams of fat.
That’s why Sauza highly recommends adding it to your next breakfast sandwich or wrap. If you prefer a lower-carb breakfast, you can also enjoy a slice or two alongside plain eggs.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, Burgess suggests adding some Beyond steak to your breakfast hash for an extra dose of protein and flavor.
“This new plant-based steak has 21 grams of protein and just 1 gram of saturated fat per serving,” she says. “It’s also filled with beneficial nutrients like potassium, iron, and fiber. It’s even certified by the American Heart Association heart-check program, meeting the strict nutrition guidelines to be considered a heart-healthy food.”
9. Add beans to your omelet.
Tiffany Ma, RD at Gainful, suggests tossing some black beans into your next omelet — say, with some salsa, bell peppers, and avocado for a super flavorful Southwestern twist.
One 1/2-cup serving of black beans offers nearly 8 grams of protein. Plus, it lends almost 8 grams of filling fiber, further helping to keep those hunger pangs at bay.
Not a fan of black beans? Try adding chickpeas or white beans, tomatoes, spinach, kalamata olives, and garlic instead for a Mediterranean-inspired omelet.
10. Sneak in the protein powder.
Protein powder isn’t just for the blender.
Burgess advises adding a scoop or two to your next oatmeal or smoothie bowl — but you can also blend it into your pancake, waffle, and muffin mix.
Or, try whisking collagen protein powder into your morning coffee.