Ten foods for a protein boost at breakfast

French toast is a great way to up the protein in your morning meal.
French toast is a great way to up the protein in your morning meal. Photo: Anu Kumar

Eating the right amount of protein at breakfast can increase feelings of satiety; helping you to feel fuller for longer, aiding weight loss and weight control, and making it easier to concentrate at work.

While many people grab something quick and easy such as toast for breakfast, many overlook the importance of including a serve of protein with their morning meal. Regular meals containing both protein and carbohydrate support stable blood sugar levels, which aids nerve signalling in brain cells, and assists memory function and concentration.

Protein also acts as the building blocks for the bones, muscles and cartilage throughout the body, and getting enough of it at breakfast can be very beneficial to health. 

Arabella Forge's chia pudding with berries, nuts and seeds.
Arabella Forge's chia pudding with berries, nuts and seeds. Photo: Anu Kumar

Individual protein requirements can depend upon age, body size, fitness level and daily activity. As a starting point, the National Health and Research Council (NHMRC) recommends 64 grams a day for men and 46 grams for women. Spread across three meals, this is 21 grams and 15 grams for each meal. 

Higher protein diets aimed at building muscle can recommend a higher protein intake of up to 25-30 grams for each meal, with protein snacks between meals. Protein is best distributed evenly throughout the day. It also needs to be combined with a healthy source of carbohydrates and fats. 

Ten protein-rich foods

Eggs

Eggs are one of the best sources of complete protein: they also contain important nutrients for buildings muscles such as B vitamins, folate, zinc, vitamin E and iron. Look for free-range or cage-free eggs; they have a healthier ratio of fatty acids, and also a greater source of antioxidants. Two soft-boiled eggs will provide 15 grams of protein.

Steak

Steak for breakfast might be considered an indulgence, but it is an excellent source of protein and also contains important nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and zinc. One small (70 grams) serve of steak provides 22 grams of protein. Make sure you combine it with plenty of healthy carbohydrates, such as a generous side dish of sauteed wild greens.  Use grass-fed steak where possible; it's leaner with a healthier fat profile.

Smoked salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of protein as well as providing a good source of calcium and health-promoting marine fats. Try adding a small amount to omelettes, or combining it with cottage cheese as a topping for wholegrain toast. An 80 gram serve provides 18 grams of  protein.

Sardines

Fresh or tinned sardines are an economical choice of good quality protein: they also provide a good source of calcium and health-promoting marine-based omega-3 fats. Tinned sardines are great on wholegrain toast with fresh tomato and cracked pepper. A tin of sardines in olive oil (84 grams) provides 17 grams of protein.

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Nuts 

Nuts are a great addition to any breakfast – they can be spread across porridge or cereal, or added as a spread to smoothies and toast. A ½ cup of almonds contains 14 grams of protein, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains 9 grams of protein. Nuts are also an excellent source of health-promoting antioxidants as well as mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. 

Seeds

Seeds are an excellent source of protein, they also contain good amounts of mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as important minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 5 grams of protein, and a ¼ cup of sunflower seeds provides 9 grams of protein. Try sprinkling seeds over cereals and porridge; they can also be added to smoothies and breads. 

Beans and pulses

Try adding a dollop of hummus on your morning breakfast toast. A ¼ cup of hummus provides 7.4 grams of protein. It's also a good source of fibre and slow-release carbohydrates. 

Cottage cheese and quark

Quark is a cultured dairy product with a thick texture similar to cream cheese. It can be found in most supermarkets and health food stores. Cottage cheese and quark are the richest sources of protein of all the dairy products, with two tablespoons providing 6 grams and 4 grams respectively. Try adding them as a spread on toast, or using it as you would cream or yoghurt with porridge.

Quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth

Quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth are considered pseudo-grains; they mimic the characteristics of common grains, but come from different plant families. All of them contain good sources of protein - amaranth has 16 per cent, and buckwheat and quinoa both contain about 13 per cent. They can be used as a flour in breads and pancakes. Quinoa and buckwheat can also be bought as seeds or grouts and cooked into a porridge.

Free-range breakfast ham

Ham is a good source of protein and iron. Most deli varieties contain large amounts of sodium, so it's best eaten in moderation. Look for nitrate-free, free-range varieties where possible. A 50 gram serve provides 8.5 grams of protein.

Recipes

French toast

Whisk together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of almond milk and 1/4 teaspoon of  vanilla essence. Place two slices of wholegrain, sourdough bread in the egg mixture; allowing the mixture to evenly coat both sides of the bread. 

Prepare a frying pan on a medium heat and add a generous dollop of butter. Fry the bread for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until crisp. Serve immediately with a dollop of cottage cheese and maple syrup.

Chia pudding

Mix together 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup Greek yoghurt, 2 tablespoons quark, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ cup of chia seeds. Mix well ensuring there are no lumps. Pour into serving jars and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, garnish the puddings with 1 cup of fresh raspberries, ¼ cup of coarsely chopped almonds and ¼ cup of sunflower seeds. Serve immediately.