Protein is a macronutrient that plays an important role in every part of your body. It serves as the building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. That’s why consuming enough protein is essential to a healthy, balanced diet.
Not consuming enough protein daily could lead to muscle loss, weak hair and nails, or immune issues. Also, a protein deficiency will hold you back from the best results if you exercise vigorously at the gym.
Additionally, protein helps you keep feeling fuller for longer, so starting the day with it can help hold you over until lunchtime.
Keep reading to learn why protein is so important to include at breakfast and 25 delicious high-protein breakfast ideas.
A smoothie is a beloved go-to breakfast for many people, especially in the summertime. Smoothies are incredibly versatile, so it’s easy to turn your smoothie into a high-protein breakfast. Add walnuts, nut butter, and chia or flax seeds, and use cow’s milk, soy milk, or pea milk as your liquid for the best protein boost.
You can also add protein powder. Pair those protein sources with oats, frozen fruit, and spinach or kale for fiber, carbohydrates, and micronutrients and you’ve got a well-rounded, protein-packed meal.
For convenience-seekers who love savory breakfasts, egg muffins are a great choice. They are essentially on-the-go, pre-prepared omelets. Simply add whisked eggs and your favorite mix-ins to a muffin pan.
Each large egg contributes about 6 grams (g) of protein. You’ll probably need more than one for a complete breakfast anyway, but for more protein, you can add cheese or your favorite breakfast meat.
To add fiber, (a non-digestible carbohydrate important for digestive health, cholesterol reduction, and blood sugar management) chop up onions, peppers, and spinach to add before baking.
You can eat the egg muffins right away, or freeze them for future use. Pair them with toast or an English muffin for a well-rounded breakfast.
You don’t have to wait until dinnertime for a delicious pizza meal. Make a protein-rich breakfast pizza loaded with eggs, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella or goat cheese, basil, and spinach. You can also add chopped sausage (vegetarian options are also suitable) for an added protein boost.
You’ll get plenty of protein from the eggs and cheese (and meat, if you choose), while the veggies will provide fiber and vitamins. The crust will give you carbohydrates, a key source of energy for our bodies. For added fiber, go with a whole-wheat pizza crust.
Chia seeds are loaded with nutrition. Each ounce of chia seeds contains 4.7 g of protein. They’re also a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber for digestive health. Plus, they’re a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
To make chia pudding, mix one part chia seeds with four parts milk (e.g. ¼ cup chia seeds and 1 cup coconut milk). You can spice it up with cinnamon, add honey for sweetness, and top it with fruit for fiber.
To make this a protein-rich breakfast, add nuts (1 ounce of walnuts adds another 4.3 g of protein) or peanut butter (2 tablespoons adds 7.1 g of protein).
If we can do breakfast pizza, then why not breakfast grilled cheese? The cheese itself will provide a good amount of protein—about 4 g per slice for cheddar cheese and 6 g per slice for Swiss cheese.
Add two slices of cheese to whole grain bread for a protein-rich meal. If you want to add more fiber for added satiety and health benefits, you could add sliced tomatoes and/or spinach to the sandwich.
A yogurt parfait is an easy way to have a nutritious, high-protein breakfast, even when you’re short on time. Use Greek yogurt—which has 10 g of protein per 100 g of yogurt—since it has far more protein than regular yogurt.
It’s also a great source of calcium, which helps promote bone health. Top the yogurt with granola to add carbohydrates, fruit to add fiber and vitamins, and sliced almonds for more protein. You can even sprinkle chia seeds for omega-3s.
Whether you’re a meal prepper or not, overnight oats are a worthwhile addition to your breakfast routine. You can prep them up to a few nights before you plan to eat them, so they’re great if you’re short on time in the morning.
Simply add equal parts old-fashioned rolled oats and milk and let them soak overnight. To ensure there’s enough protein, use cow’s milk, soy milk, or pea milk. If you prefer low-protein milk like almond milk, you could add Greek yogurt to add protein. Top it with your favorite nut or mixed nuts— think almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. These will not only add protein, but they’ll also add heart-healthy unsaturated fat and fiber.
Huevos rancheros is a traditional protein-rich dish from rural Mexico that has become popular in the U.S. To make it, warm up corn tortillas and top them with refried beans and a fried egg. Sprinkle on salsa, queso fresco, and a garnish of cilantro. If you’d like, you can serve them with sauteed diced potatoes, ham, and onions on the side.
The beans and egg are protein-rich foods, with the cheese and ham upping the protein content further. Plus, beans have loads of health benefits apart from their protein content. They contain phytochemicals that improve blood cholesterol levels and glycemic status and reduce markers of chronic inflammation. Additionally, the resistant starch found in beans produces short-chain fatty acids that promote a healthy gut microbiome.
While avocado toast in and of itself isn’t super high in protein, topping it with crumbled feta cheese adds 19.7 g of protein per 100 g serving size.
Plus, feta cheese is a food commonly included in the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a plethora of health benefits including promoting cardiovascular health, reducing diabetes risk, improving blood sugar control amongst those with diabetes, increasing longevity, reducing incidence of neurodegenerative disorders, and more.
Throw some whole wheat bread in the toaster, and top it with creamy, smooth (or crunchy) peanut butter. The peanut butter provides about 7 g of protein per 2-tablespoons of peanut butter. And the whole wheat bread provides about 4 g of protein per slice.
While each of these is an incomplete protein—meaning they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids on their own—when paired together they become complementary proteins. Between the two of them, you will get all nine essential amino acids.
A 1-cup serving of cottage cheese provides 24 g of protein. It’s also a great source of calcium for bone health, a nutrient many Americans don’t consume enough of. The fat content varies based on whether you purchase full-fat, low-fat, or fat-free cottage cheese. Note that the fat in cottage cheese will primarily be saturated fat, which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend capping at 10% of your calorie intake for the day.
Since cottage cheese is low in carbohydrates and doesn’t have any fiber, top it with your favorite fruit. Berries are a great option because they’ll not only add fiber and carbs but also antioxidants.
Salmon is a complete source of protein with lots of health benefits, partly because of its omega-3 content. Consuming omega-3s is associated with good heart health and reduced inflammation.
Salmon is also a good source of numerous micronutrients including iron, vitamin A, and vitamin D. There aren’t many dietary sources of vitamin D, and most Americans fall below the recommended intake for it, so salmon is a great food to help up your vitamin D intake.
For breakfast, we recommend topping a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. For more flavor, add capers and/or dill.
Quinoa is popular for its high protein content—8 g per cooked cup— which makes it a great base for a high-protein breakfast. Top it with eggs, tofu, or beans for more protein.
Similar to peanut butter and toast, beans and quinoa work as complementary proteins, so you can have a plant-based breakfast with all nine essential amino acids.
Avocado makes for a great addition to add fiber and heart-healthy fats, while cherry tomatoes add a refreshing pop of vitamin C.
For those who have more time to spend preparing a high-protein breakfast, try a mushroom and cheese quiche. It’s a fun use of protein-rich eggs, and it’s big enough to serve your whole family or at least last you a few days.
Adding mushrooms (or your favorite veggies) provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while cheese adds more protein and calcium. Plus, the crust will give you carbohydrates for energy.
Breakfast tacos are a simple meal for savory food lovers. Simply prepare scrambled eggs with black beans, onions, and peppers. Once they’re cooked, add them to flour or corn tortillas and top with salsa, avocado, and sour cream.
If you want, you can swap the sour cream for plain Greek yogurt, which will further enhance the protein content of the meal and reduce the saturated fat content.
Whether you’re vegan or just trying to eat more plant-based meals, a tofu scramble is a nutritious alternative to scrambled eggs. Tofu is made from soy, a complete source of plant-based protein associated with a number of health benefits including reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, reduced menopause symptoms, and lower risk of osteoporosis.
To make a tofu scramble, simply sauté diced veggies and garlic, and add drained tofu when the veggies are mostly cooked. Break up the tofu in the pan as needed until it crumbles. Finally, add spices like turmeric, chili powder, and black pepper for flavor. Serve it with potatoes for a source of carbohydrates.
Preparing a Mediterranean toast not only provides protein but also a number of other nutrients from whole plant foods.
To make it, top whole grain toast with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, chopped kalamata olives, feta cheese, and Za’atar spices. You’ll get plenty of protein from the whole-grain bread, hummus, and feta cheese.
Despite harmful rhetoric around convenience foods, there are some awesome options out there to get in nutrition while short on time. Frozen protein waffles or a boxed mix make for a great high-protein breakfast option. You can even make these from scratch if you have the time.
Usually, protein waffles incorporate some kind of protein powder that enhances the protein content without having to add eggs on the side or nut butter on top. Each waffle can contain over 10 g of protein, so even having two will make for a protein-rich meal. Top with fruit and syrup if you like, and enjoy!
Similar to protein waffles, protein pancakes are a relatively new addition to the food market that make for a convenient, high-protein breakfast.
You can purchase them frozen or as a boxed mix, or if you’re up for it, you can make them from scratch by adding protein powder to pancake batter. Top with fruit for fiber or chocolate chips for a sweet treat.
If you’re one of those people who grabs a granola bar and heads out the door, this one’s for you. Rather than having the granola bar alone, top it with nut butter or bring a serving of nut butter on the side for dipping.
Nut butters are a great source of plant-based protein, so it can boost the protein content of your granola bar breakfast. Pair it with a piece of fruit on the side and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded meal.
A breakfast burrito is easy to pack with high protein ingredients to keep you satisfied through the morning. For example, add black beans for plant-based protein, but you can add eggs and cheese, too.
Adding other vegetables like sweet potatoes add fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients to promote various facets of health. You can also add avocado for heart-healthy fats and serve the burrito with salsa.
A smoothie bowl is essentially a thicker version of a smoothie topped with things like granola, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Adding kefir to the smoothie helps thicken it and adds 9 g of protein per cup plus probiotics for gut health.
Similar to a smoothie, adding nuts and seeds helps up the protein content, but for a smoothie bowl, you can do this by adding them as toppings if you prefer.
Protein balls are easy to prepare and pack a punch. While they’re often consumed as snacks, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have them for a high-protein breakfast. To make them, most people use a combination of oats, peanut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, and chocolate chips. Some also add honey and protein powder.
You mix the ingredients to combine them until you can form them into balls. Stick them on a baking sheet and throw them in the fridge so they’re ready to go whenever you need a high-protein snack or breakfast.
While you may be used to chicken quesadillas, spinach and cheese quesadillas are a great option for breakfast that can be prepped in just a few short minutes.
To make one, scramble eggs with spinach and black beans. The eggs provide 6 g of protein each, while the black beans offer about 7 g of protein per ½ cup. Next, warm a tortilla in a pan, sprinkle the inside with cheese, add the egg mixture, and press the tortilla down into a quesadilla. Let it cook until the outside is golden brown and enjoy!
Oatmeal bakes are another great breakfast for big families or those who like to meal prep. An oatmeal bake usually includes a combination of oats, eggs, baking powder, and milk, plus additions to enhance the flavor like pumpkin puree or blueberries.
The key ingredient to add is protein powder to make it a high-protein breakfast. Plus, once it’s ready, you can top it with nut butter for more protein and flavor!
Although many people may overlook breakfast, it’s your first source of energy for the day. Incorporating nutritional variety by including carbs, protein, fat, and fiber helps your body get in the nutrients it needs to promote your health and energy levels.
Carbs and fiber are commonly included in low-prep breakfasts (think things like toast and an apple or cereal with a banana), but protein may be neglected. Protein helps provide satiety and lasting energy, which is important to keep you feeling good through the morning until you can have a snack or lunch. Without protein, you may find yourself regularly hungry within an hour or two after finishing breakfast.
Additionally, a 2022 randomized control trial found that having a high-protein breakfast reduced healthy participants’ glucose levels following breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s established that adding protein helps manage blood sugars, but this study shows the importance of a high-protein breakfast in particular for preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can lead to energy levels spiking and crashing, too.
Incorporating protein into your breakfast helps promote satiety, manage blood sugars, and sustain your energy levels through the morning. There are a variety of ways you can add protein to your breakfast; some of the best protein-rich breakfast ingredients are eggs, nuts, nut butter, beans, and cheese. Whether you’re a savory food lover or you have a sweet tooth, there’s a protein-rich breakfast option for you!