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Good Sources of Protein for Breakfast

By Natalie Stein

Protein is an essential nutrient for promoting strong immune function and maintaining lean muscle mass. This nutrient can also help you control your weight because it suppresses hunger by slowing digestion so that you feel full for longer. Include a source of protein as part of a balanced breakfast to help you meet your daily protein requirements, or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for most healthy adults.


Eggs and other animal-based proteins are complete, which means that they provide each of the essential amino acids that your body needs to get from your diet. A large egg or egg white provides 6 grams of protein. Using fat-free cooking spray or olive oil instead of butter, scramble eggs with spinach and mushrooms or make an omelet with tomatoes and cilantro. Melt low-fat shredded cheese on top and serve with whole-grain toast for a balanced breakfast. Hard-boiled eggs are sources of protein for portable breakfasts. All of the protein in an egg is in the white. You can reduce your intake of calories, cholesterol and saturated fat by eating only the whites and discarding the yolks, or by choosing liquid cholesterol-free eggs.

Lean Meats

Meat, fish and poultry provide about 19 to 27 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving. Try a whole-grain English muffin with turkey breast or low-fat breakfast sausage and avocado, tomatoes and red peppers, or a ground turkey scramble with lean ground turkey, salsa, onions and bell peppers. Spread a whole-grain bagel with fat-free cream cheese and top it with sardines, tuna or smoked salmon for a breakfast that provides heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Serve it with some fresh fruit. Choose low-fat sources of meat, fish and poultry to limit your consumption of saturated fat.

Dairy Products

Dairy products can be rich in protein and calcium. A cup of skim milk or fat-free yogurt provides 8 grams of protein, a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese provides 12 grams of protein and a 1-ounce serving of cheese has 7 grams. A cup of fat-free Greek yogurt has 24 grams of protein, and a cup of nonfat kefir provides 11 grams of protein. A bowl of whole-grain cereal with fat-free milk, sliced banana and almonds is a breakfast that requires minimal preparation. Other balanced breakfasts with dairy products include fat-free yogurt mixed with whole-grain cereal and berries, cottage cheese with melon and a whole-wheat bagel and a toasted English muffin with low-fat cheddar cheese and sliced apple.

Vegetarian Options

Protein from quinoa and soy products, such as soybeans, tofu and soy milk, is a complete protein, while the protein from most other plant-based foods is incomplete because it lacks one or more essential amino acids. You can get all of the amino acids you need by combining two different kinds of incomplete proteins. A burrito with black beans and brown rice, and a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat toast, are breakfast options with complete proteins. You can also try a scramble with celery, onions, broccoli, carrots and tofu or soy-based crumbles as a substitute for ground beef. Some breakfast cereals are high in protein.

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