Skipping the first meal of the day is a major nutrition no-no. Eating a balanced breakfast has been shown to improve energy and concentration, kickstart your metabolism, and actually help you eat less over the course of the day. But just grabbing a granola bar and cup of coffee at the office won’t cut it.
A new study conducted at the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that loading your plate with protein is crucial to reaping the weight loss and energizing benefits of a good breakfast. Researchers found that when people ate a breakfast consisting of 35 grams of protein, they felt less hungry and ate less during the day and gained less body fat over 12 weeks compared to than those who loaded up on just 13 grams. (As for how you should spread your protein intake out throughout the day, find out The Best Protein-Eating Strategy for Weight Loss.)
So why does packing in the protein keep you from packing on the pounds? “Protein is one of the most filling nutrients, as it requires extra work for the body to digest, break down, and metabolize,” says New York-based nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., who was not involved with the study. It also takes longer to digest, so it keeps you fuller, longer. “The more satiated you feel, the more likely you are to make healthier and smarter food decisions throughout the day.”
Don’t be discouraged by that whopping 35 grams. The study participants were all growing boys who notoriously need more fuel than us fully developed adults. Plus, you really can only even absorb or utilize a maximum of 30 grams of protein at one sitting, Moskovitz explains. She recommends shooting for closer to 20 to 25 grams at breakfast. What does that look like? Well, we’ve got 10 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas That Aren’t Eggs. Or try three of Mostovitz’ favorite protein-packed breakfast recipes.
Egg Scramble (26g of protein)
Scramble one whole egg and two egg whites and cook. Place on slice of Ezeikel bread and top with 1 ounce light Swiss cheese and 2 tablespoons avocado.
Greek Yogurt Parfait (26g of protein)
Top 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with 4 tablespoons of almonds and 1 cup of fresh blueberries.
Smoked Salmon Toast (25g of protein)
Top two slices of Ezeikel bread with 2 ounces of smoked salmon and 2 light spreadable cheese wedges.