If there’s such a thing as a miracle meal, breakfast is it. Research supports that it’s key to reaching your near-range goals (staying focused through that interminable work meeting) as well as those further in the distance (dominating the race course and keeping a healthy BMI). To keep you humming at full throttle through lunch, you need a morning meal with protein in addition to fiber. While eggs are the default source, if you can’t eat them, or just need a good long break from them (understandable), here are some easy, dietician-approved, protein-rich alternatives.
It’s hard finding pancakes that won’t make you feel like a slug afterward. This chocolate version from Ashley Jennings, integrative health coach, of Cook Nourish Bliss is made with buckwheat flour. “Despite its name, buckwheat flour is not related to wheat and is instead made from the seed of a plant related to rhubarb. It's a delicious source of fiber, protein and calcium, among others, and lends this awesome, unique nutty taste to dishes,” Jennings says. Each pancake packs 3 grams of protein, so there’s about 9 grams in a short stack. Serve them with fresh berries and 2 tablespoons of the nut butter of your choosing for an extra 7 or so grams of protein and even more staying power.
Not only are smoothie bowls super Instagrammable, but they top out on nutrients, between protein, fiber, and good fats. This version--starring cauliflower, berries, protein-rich nut butter and greens--by Rachel Dickens, RD, CDE, of The Conscious Dietitian is breakfast gold. “It’s a nutrient-dense breakfast that won’t send your blood sugar levels soaring,” Dickens says. On its own, the bowl has 12 grams of protein, thanks in large part to the hemp hearts and almond butter, but you can add 1 cup plain Greek yogurt for an extra 8 to 10 grams of protein if you’re diggin in as a recovery treat.
Instead of scrambled eggs, try a spinach and kimchi tofu scramble, served it up with a side of whole grain avocado toast, like Alyssa Rimmer, CHN, of Simply Quinoa does. “Tofu scrambles are an awesome high protein breakfast for plant-based athletes. Adding kimchi gives it a nice flavor and little kick. Feel free to add more veggies to make it even more filling and nutrient-dense,” Rimmer says. Concerned about soy protein? Aim for non-GMO and certified USDA organic tofu, and you won’t have any issues.
Mornings reliably nuts? Whip this protein, fiber and healthy-fat loaded cup at night and stick in the fridge for your morning commute, from Claire Cary, CHN of Eat With Clarity. Between the peanut butter, chia seed jam, and oats, there’s 12 grams of protein per mason jar serving. You can add a scoop of plant-based protein powder to the oat mixture for almost 20 grams of additional protein, if you really want to go OTT.
While it’s a brunch staple, avocado toast isn’t inherently protein-packed. That’s why Abbey Sharp, RD, owner at Abbey’s Kitchen, adds white beans to her avocado mash. (Plus the beans and roasted tomatoes on top add even more flavor). “You’ve got your healthy monounsaturated fats from your avocado mixed with high-fiber, high-protein beans. Then you’re adding some more high-fiber goodness with whole grain bread," Sharp says. The whole shebang has 12 grams of protein per toast.
“Oatmeal is a go-to breakfast choice, but it’s not the best option to keep you satisfied on its own,” says Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, owner of Chelsey Amer Nutrition. “This protein-packed oatmeal bake is easy to make ahead and has a more ideal balance of nutrients, which is especially important if you’re training for a race.” Chia seeds, Greek yogurt, and 2 scoops of collagen protein powder account for 20 grams of protein--add nut butter for even more of the good stuff.
We don’t typically think of (protein-rich) quinoa for breakfast, but that’s an oversight, according to Diane Boyd, RD of Cape Fear Nutrition. She seasons her with smoky paprika and adds grape tomatoes sauteed in olive oil and topped with heart-healthy avocado cubes. Boyd adds egg whites for additional protein, but you can swap those out for tofu or tempeh.
Muffins aren’t ordinarily protein powerhouses, but if you use an alternative to refined white flour and top them with crunch pistachios, they’re close to qualifying. “Quinoa is an easy way to increase the protein content of your baked goods. You can easily swap half the flour in most baked recipes with quinoa flour without altering the taste and texture much,” says Rachael Hartley RD, LD, owner of Rachael Hartley Nutrition. “Whole grain flours also have a lot more flavor. In these muffins, the flour adds a nuttiness, but still lets the delicate flavor of the honey, pears and olive oil shine through.”
Each of these waffles contains whole grain oats and 11 grams of protein, big thanks to the secret ingredient: cottage cheese. (The serving size is 2 waffles, so you’ll get double the protein in your meal). “These waffles came out so thick, fluffy and absolutely perfect. It’s no different than using Greek yogurt, just as creamy and just as good,” says their creator, Kim Lee of Kim’s Cravings. Pump up the protein even more with a dollop of Greek yogurt, along with chopped pecans, peaches, and fresh berries.