It’s not only about eating within thirty minutes of waking up — which kickstarts your metabolism — but also starting the day with the right foods. What you choose to put on your plate has an even greater effect on your metabolism and muscle development. “Protein is key to weight loss because it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates,” explains Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, Owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. This helps delay the onset of sugar highs and lows, which can trigger fat storage.
Whether you’re trying to slim down or tone it up, your body needs a steady supply of protein. And many classic breakfast foods can give you what you need. All that’s left for you to decide is whether it’s an omelet or a parfait kind of morning.
Protein Payoff: 6.29 grams per egg
It doesn’t matter if you like your eggs scrambled, over easy or — no judgement — Rocky-style raw, you’ve got a breakfast that will jumpstart your fat burn from the first bite — as long as you go easy on the oil and cheese. Eggs contain all the necessary amino acids for lean muscle development and help promote lasting feelings of fullness. This classic breakfast item also contains nutrients vital to healthy skin, immune system, brain and liver functioning such as vitamin A, riboflavin and choline, all which are found inside that bright yellow yolk! So don’t be too quick to dismiss that nutrient-packed center.
2% Plain Greek Yogurt
Protein Payoff: 20 grams per 7 ounces
The overachiever of weight loss foods, Greek yogurt is the golden child of many nutritionists and no-brainer for people looking to slim down. The low calorie count and impressive punch of body-building protein are only the beginning of this dairy staple’s slim-down skills. Yogurt is rich in good bacteria that encourage gut and digestive health, and will also keep things moving along nicely — banishing belly bloat. Toss in some antioxidant-rich berries and healthy fat-filled nuts like almonds or walnuts, and you’ve got an easy, balanced meal that will help melt away fat and promote healthy muscle growth.
Protein Payoff: 8 grams per 2 tablespoons
Nut butter is the intense friend in the high-protein breakfast posse; calorically dense, it’s best in small doses. Add a measured dollop to your overnight oats, weight loss smoothies, or whole-wheat toast. The one-two punch of carbs and protein fuels your body and brain to help you tackle all the morning has in store.
Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
Protein Payoff: 15 grams per half-cup
Slipping into diet obscurity with tuna casserole and Tang, cottage cheese is one bygone staple that deserves a comeback. It pairs perfectly with nutrient-rich berries and a sprinkle of cinnamon: a slim-down triple threat. This combination boasts the fat-frying power of protein, the belly fat blocking polyphenols of berries and the blood sugar-stabilizing skill of the sweet spice. Even if you enjoy it solo, the 15 grams of protein will fuel your morning by firing up your metabolism and satisfying your hunger for hours. And at only 100 calories per half-cup serving, you feel free to go back for seconds. If you’re worried about getting enough fiber and healthy fats to keep you full and focused through the morning, pair a small bowl of the curds with a serving of oats or avocado toast.
Protein Payoff: 12 grams per link
Big breakfasts can add up to big weight loss results — with the right ingredients. Pairing lean chicken sausage with eggs in the morning will give your body a huge hit of protein and, as a result, increase calorie burn as your body works to digest it. These sweet and savory links may be low in calories, but they’re incredibly rich in flavor thanks to clean, organic chicken, herbs and spices. We like Bilinski’s Organic.
Protein Payoff: 8 grams per cup cooked
Quinoa may be the star of veggie-filled lunchtime salads and healthy dinner side dishes, but it shouldn’t be blacklisted from the breakfast menu. This complex carb dishes up slow-burning fuel that will set your up for steady energy levels throughout the day. Protein and complex carbs in this pseudograin team up to steady blood sugar and increase feelings of fullness — they’re your dream team defense against those donut holes in the break room. Make quinoa porridge by cooking quinoa in your milk of choice and then adding spices like cinnamon or cardamom and sprinkling on some crushed nuts. Essentially, anything you mix into oatmeal will mix just as well into a hot bowl of quinoa.
Protein Payoff: 8 grams per cup
Sometimes it’s hard to stay away from the classics, like a good ol’ bowl of cereal and milk. As long as the box you choose has nutrition stats similar to our favorite low sugar cereals and plenty of fiber, it’s the perfect quick and easy start to your day paired with skim milk. Sprinkle some pumpkin seeds or crushed nuts over your bowl for added healthy fats, just remember your measuring spoon. With the added topping, your bowl will boast an ideal balance of fiber, protein, and fat to keep you on your toes all morning.