To understand the power of protein, try eating nothing but a croissant for breakfast on your way to the office, and see what happens at 10 a.m. Most likely, your stomach will be rumbling and grumbling and, if you're anything like me, you'll be grumpy.
That's because that pastry didn't have much protein in it, and protein is a key nutrient to keeping you full and focused until lunch, since it takes longer to digest than carbs. Protein also helps kickstart your body, contributing some of the energy it needs after a long sleep.
Here's how 10 common breakfast foods compare in protein, so you can make a smart choice for what you need tomorrow morning.
1. 1 egg = 6 grams of protein
They're called the "Incredible Edible" for a reason — just one large egg packs a solid 6 grams of protein. One egg — hard-boiled and taken for breakfast on the go — is a solid choice. Or take a few minutes to scramble two and you'll get a double dose.
2. 1 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt = 20 grams of protein
Greek yogurt gets a whole lot of love, and for good reason, as it contains over double the amount of protein that regular yogurt does. This is because Greek yogurt is strained, which not only thickens it but also concentrates many of its nutrients, like protein.
3. 1 cup of full-fat regular yogurt = 8 grams of protein
Regular yogurt doesn't have quite the high level of protein that Greek yogurt does, but if you prefer it to its extra-thick sibling, it's still a good morning pick, whether you're eating it straight from the bowl or adding it to your smoothie.
4. 1 cup of cooked rolled oatmeal = 6 grams of protein
For many, a hearty bowl of oatmeal is the only way to start the day. Oatmeal is a great breakfast pick because not only is it a whole grain, but also its protein (the same amount as an egg!) is combined with its fiber to keep you extra satisfied throughout the morning. One cup of cooked instant oats and 1/2 cup of cooked steel-cut oats have the same amount of protein, so go with your favorite.
5. 2 slices of cooked bacon = 6 grams of protein
If your plate of eggs isn't complete without a side of bacon, you're in luck, because you'll get an extra 6 grams of protein with two crispy slices.
6. 3 cooked links of breakfast sausage = 11 grams of protein
7. 3 ounces of smoked salmon or lox = 16 grams of protein
Whether you prefer smoked salmon or lox atop your bagel and cream cheese, either one delivers a high-protein punch. You can try taking either beyond your Sunday morning bagel routine by tucking some into an egg sandwich or cheesy egg boat, or adding it to your avocado toast.
8. 1 piece of whole-wheat toast spread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = 12 grams of protein
Peanut butter toast was what I probably ate four out of five days of the week before school as a kid, and it's still a breakfast I turn to when I want something that's filling, comforting, and fast. A standard slice of whole-wheat bread contains 4 grams of protein, while 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein. Other nut or seed butters like almond, cashew, sunflower, and tahini have a similar amount of protein, so feel free to reach for your go-to choice.
9. 1 cup of Cheerios with 1/2 cup of 2% milk = 3 grams + 4 grams = 7 grams
Cheerios on their own don't have much protein — just 3 grams in a cup — but pouring your usual milk over the bowl adds an extra 4 grams to the equation. Nonfat, low-fat, reduced-fat, and whole milk all have roughly the same amount of protein, so stick to your favorite.
10. 2 frozen waffles = 4 grams of protein
Frozen waffles aren't the best protein pick at breakfast, as you need to eat two to get 4 grams of protein, but if you're a fan of their ease, try spreading them with a bit of nut butter or tahini, or topping them with yogurt and fresh fruit to boost their staying power.
Who I Am (and Why I'm Writing to You)
As a food editor who is also a Registered Dietitian, I know the confusion of our fractured landscape of diet information. But if you strip away the study-of-the-day and fad diets, there is solid information we can all learn about basic nutritional building blocks.
We're offering these unsexy yet useful tools to empower cooks to make decisions that suit them with solid, science-driven resources.
This especially applies to protein, the first topic in our new Nutrition 101 series. We want to give you the tools for confident eating and a more wholesome diet — something we can all get behind.