Make a New Year Resolution that Will Stick: Get More Protein at Breakfast
I hear it every year from people. “This year I resolve to eat healthier and lose weight.” It typically goes like this: Week one, said resolver cuts out all caffeine (um, why?) and alcohol (fair enough), eliminates all desserts (good for you if you can do that for the long haul), and removes everything else from their diet that brings joy to life (eesh, not for me). She reports having a a huge burst energy. The second week, she’s less enthusiastic, and by the third week she is miserable. By Super Bowl weekend she indulges in a “bad” food day, blows her calorie wad, feels guilty and is back to her old habits. And this is a smart woman with the best intentions. Where did she go wrong? Oftentimes, the problem lies in setting unreasonable and too broad of goals.
This year, instead of resolving to just “eat healthier” or “lose weight,” and putting yourself on a strict fad diet, make three specific goals of foods to add to your diet, rather than take away. The more detailed the better. One goal to consider is to eat a balanced breakfast every morning that contains a good protein source.
While a slice of 100% whole-grain toast spread with jelly or buttery spread, a glass of orange juice and a banana might sound like a good and balanced breakfast, the missing link is a good source of protein. That’s right. While most Americans eat plenty of protein in a single day, especially at dinner, the protein is inadequately spread throughout the day and often breakfast is overlooked. According to recent NHANES data, Americans average eating 13 grams of protein at breakfast. By comparison, research suggests, with many nutrition experts in agreement, that a goal of 20-30 grams of protein at breakfast is prudent to help optimize how the body utilizes this important nutrient. While protein is known for building and maintaining muscle, adequate protein at breakfast can help you stay satisfied longer, enabling you to better stick to your healthy eating routine.
Personally, I strive to get at least one good protein source at each meal, and if I can tack on a couple more at breakfast, all the better. These are my family and my go-to protein sources at breakfast:
Breakfast Foods That Contain Protein
- Lowfat or nonfat milk: Starting your day with 8 ounces of this nutrient-rich beverage will provide you with nine essential nutrients including 8 grams of high-quality protein, vitamin D and potassium. In addition to pairing a glass with your meal, there are lots of delicious ways to incorporate milk into your favorite foods. If you’re a coffee lover like I am, try converting your plain coffee into a café au lait, composed of half strong coffee and half hot milk, or a latté. A bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk is always a winner, as well as a smoothie made with whole fruit and milk. I love this Berry Burst Smoothie, made with oats and milk. Almond milk drinkers: be aware that 1 cup of your non-dairy drink has just 1 gram of protein per glass. Disclosure: My client the national Milk Life Campaign compensated me for my time in writing this post.
- Peanut and almond butters: I slather at least a tablespoon of one of these spreads on sprouted wheat sesame toast in the morning, which adds 3-4 grams of protein, as well as good fats, fiber and vitamin E. Look for those containing just nuts and salt, rather than added oils with saturated or partially hydrogenated fat. I love this Mango Ginger Smoothie recipe made with almond butter and milk that offers 11 grams of protein per serving.
- Hemp seeds: 2 tablespoons contain 6 grams of protein, plus manganese and zinc. I like to peel back a yogurt cup and sprinkle on these small but mighty seeds, along with dried fruit or pomegranate arils. I also sprinkle them over a bowl of cereal and milk for an added protein and nutrient boost.
- Eggs: One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, plus the nutrients choline and iron. Often I make a batch of hard-boiled eggs to last the whole week and drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Stay tuned for next week when I share my latest protein-packed recipe for Grab-and-Go Mini Breakfast Casseroles with Cheddar and Spinach. Yum.
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