Have you ever eaten breakfast and wondered why your stomach was growling an hour later? Or have you ever given in to cravings for sweet and salty foods in the evening and then wondered how to reduce your late night snacking? The answer may lie in what you eat at breakfast.

The Power of Protein at Breakfast

Protein – the missing piece

You have probably heard all about why eating breakfast is a great idea. In breaking the fast your body experienced overnight, breakfast helps rev up your metabolism, recharge your energy and boost your concentration. Plus, breakfast eaters tend to be more successful at maintaining a healthy weight. But does that mean anything goes for your first meal of the day? Not quite. If you want a breakfast that keeps you full longer, lessens food cravings and improves your diet, aim to include 20-30 grams of protein.

Which type of breakfast is best?

In a recent study, researchers looked at three breakfast patterns:

  • Normal protein – cereal breakfast with 13 g protein and 350 calories
  • High protein – egg and beef breakfast with 35 g protein and 350 calories
  • No breakfast

Twenty overweight or obese breakfast-skipping girls followed one of the breakfast patterns for six days. Then on the seventh day, subjects ate the following:

  • Breakfast: following their assigned pattern
  • Lunch: the same 500-calorie meal of a turkey sandwich, pudding, pretzels, fruit and water
  • Dinner: microwavable chicken parmesan pizza pockets where they could eat as much as they wanted until they were comfortably full
  • Evening snacks: a cooler filled with a mix of snacks (cookies, candy, chips, cheese, apples, carrots, ice cream beef jerky, etc.) where they could eat what they wanted.

The researchers found unique effects of having a high protein breakfast:

  • greatest decrease in feelings of hunger and greatest increase in feelings of fullness
  • reduced daily levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and increased daily levels of the satiety/fullness hormone peptide yy
  • greatest decrease in brain activation (linked to food cravings) when shown images of food
  • reduced evening snacking on high fat foods

While total calorie intake for the day was similar for no breakfast and high protein breakfast eaters (only differed by 120 calories), feelings of fullness and the quality of foods eaten improved when the day began with a high protein breakfast.

Top five protein-rich foods to include at breakfast

Enjoy a healthy and tasty breakfast featuring protein-rich foods; get inspired with these creative recipes. Bon appétit!

1. Cottage cheese – 1 cup = 30 g protein
Try it: Small Blueberry Skyscrapers or Spiced Cranberry Compote Oatmeal
2. Greek yogurt – ¾ cup = 18 g protein
Try it: Avocado Breakfast Smoothie or Greek Yogurt Pancake
3. Eggs – 2 large = 12 g protein
Try it: Veggie and Cheese Frittata or Farmhouse Breakfast Cups
4. Milk – 1 cup = 9 g protein
Try it: Blackberry Lemon Breakfast Quinoa or Apple Pie Smoothie
5. Peanut butter – 2 tbsp = 8 g protein
Try it: Peanut Butter Breakfast Parfait or Peanut Apple Toastie

Want more ideas? Check out A Week’s Worth of Protein-Packed Breakfasts.

Article revised June 2017

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on December 1, 2014

Active Tip

Periodically switch tasks at work. Just like you need recovery time after an hour workout, you need recovery time after an hour of typing or letter stuffing. Alternate these tasks with some standing work or filing.

The Expert Says

Registered dietitian Jaclyn Chute says, “If you want a breakfast that keeps you full longer, lessens food cravings and improves your diet, aim to include 20-30 grams of protein.”