Egg Nutrition Center Blog

Protein at Breakfast: The Most Important Part of the Most Important Meal

Breakfast Eggs

Hi Readers!  Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Keith Ayoob, blogging.  Enjoy!


You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It’s true for everyone, and especially for kids.  There’s also plenty of science to back it up.  Kids who eat breakfast do better in school.  They also miss fewer days from school and are more likely to have a normal body weight.

Many adults skip breakfast and even when they don’t, their breakfast tends to run more towards coffee and a roll and butter.  Not much protein at all and that’s how they’re starting their day, setting themselves up for a possible crash mid-morning and real hunger pangs by lunch, which may also be skipped.

Biggest complaint about not eating breakfast is a lack of time.  As a nutritionist working with families and kids, honestly, I have a rough time with this one.  Breakfast is just too important to dismiss casually like that.  Funny – parents cringe at the thought of their child going to bed without eating dinner but they often have no problem with a child who skips breakfast.

This needs to change, but so does the way we think of breakfast in general.  Research on adults has shown that people tend to eat about two-thirds of their protein at dinner and only about 10% of it at breakfast.  That’s a concern, because the first meal of the day should contain at least as much protein as the dinner meal.  Not to say that people should be eating more protein overall, just spreading it out more evenly.  A third of your day’s protein should come at breakfast.  There’s evidence showing that people will utilize protein more efficiently, that is, for muscle growth and repair, if protein is more evenly distributed.  About a third of a day’s supply at each meal would do it.

Protein: Nature’s Appetite Regulator

Protein tends to help you feel full and satisfied, less hungry.  It does this in two ways: by blunting the rise in blood sugar and by staying in your stomach for longer, because it takes the body longer to digest it.

I have a hectic life, too.  I don’t always know when I’m going to get to lunch but I’m sensitive to hunger pangs like anyone else.  As long as I get enough protein in the morning, the timing of my next meal can be a bit more flexible – as it may need to be.

Recommendations are for between 10-35% of your calories from protein, so it’s not likely you’ll get too much protein, especially if you think of just shifting some of your protein from dinner to breakfast.  Aim for leaner protein foods to keep calories reasonable.

My Favorites at Breakfast

Cereal is often a typical at breakfast food and you don’t have to give it up to get more protein.  Indeed, whole grain cereal is a good way to get fresh fruit and low-fat milk into your diet and you need these foods.  I think of this breakfast as only a start however.  That’s right.  Add at least an ounce of lean protein to kick this breakfast into full steam.  Here are some of my favorite protein-boosting breakfast foods:

  • Hard-cooked eggs.  A total go-to food.  They’re fast, easy, and give me great protein and nutrition in the morning.  I keep a bowl in the fridge at all times and it’s a top-notch grab-and-go protein boost.  Yes, they’re absolutely OK every day.
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt.  Another great lean protein food, just pricier.
  • Low-fat cottage cheese.  It’s not “girl food”.  Check the label.  It’s protein-loaded and ready when you are.
  • Leftover dinner.  Not a big meal, just add that leftover chicken drumstick or slice of roast beef.

If you add one of the above to your usual bowl of cereal/fruit/milk, you’ll not only stay full for longer, you’ll get protein when your body actually needs more of it – first thing in the morning.

– Keith

Author: Marcia Greenblum, MS, RD