The Best High-Protein Breakfast for Weight Loss

The Best High-Protein Breakfast for Weight Loss

Many traditional breakfast options like toast, bagels and cereal are missing the mark on protein, so you may overlook it. In general, Americans tend to load up on protein at the end of the day with dinner. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to optimize your breakfast’s staying power by including more protein.


“Eating a well-balanced breakfast with the right amount of protein, carbs and fat jump-starts your metabolism, provides essential energy for the day, and sets the tone for healthier food choices, supporting weight loss and overall well-being,” says Julie Pace, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Core Nutrition Health & Wellness in Petal, Mississippi.


Exactly how much protein should you eat at breakfast? For weight loss, we recommend consuming a breakfast that provides at least 15 grams of protein. That’s enough to help give you a head start on reaching your recommended protein target for the day and will maintain your energy levels so that you aren’t reaching for a snack an hour or two later. 



How to Choose a High-Protein Breakfast for Weight Loss

When eating fewer calories for weight loss, it is important to be strategic about what is included on your plate. Making room for more protein can support your weight-loss goals. In addition to protein, there are a few other nutrients we recommend you include in a well-balanced breakfast. 


Include Lean Protein (but Not Just Eggs!)

Eggs are probably top of mind when you think about adding more protein to your breakfast, but don’t forget about plant-based protein foods, too. Beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds can pack more protein into your breakfast while also providing other nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.


Protein promotes weight loss by improving the satiety factor of a meal. It alters your gut-hormone signaling and increases energy expenditure, per a 2020 review from the Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. There is also research, such as a 2020 article from the Journal of Nutrition, that supports the benefits of spreading out your protein intake throughout the day to optimize muscle growth. (More muscle means a higher metabolic rate, which supports weight loss.)


In addition to keeping you full, eating protein early in the day helps you make nutritious choices at lunchtime and may prevent late-night cravings. A small study of 13 healthy adults published in 2018 in Current Developments in Nutrition found that people who ate high-protein breakfasts were less likely to snack on high-carb or high-fat foods in the evening than those who skipped breakfast. In a 2020 study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, participants who ate a high-protein breakfast consumed significantly fewer calories at lunch compared to when they ate a low-protein breakfast.




Focus on Fiber

Combining fiber with protein in your breakfast will double down on the fullness factor. Fiber slows down digestion so that your stomach isn’t rumbling again an hour after eating, and it can help keep blood sugar levels in check. In addition, some types of fiber feed good bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy and diverse microbiome that can support weight loss. 


A 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants who consumed a calorie-restricted diet with the highest fiber intake lost more weight than those who ate little fiber over the six-month study. Since most people don’t get enough fiber in their diets, breakfast is a great opportunity to incorporate fiber-rich foods like fruit, vegetables or legumes. We recommend aiming for at least 6 grams of fiber for a high-fiber meal. 


Keep It Low in Added Sugar

It’s all too common to load up on sugar rather than protein in the morning since sweet breakfast options like muffins, doughnuts and other pastries are so popular and convenient. In fact, bakery items like muffins and pastries are two of the top sources of added sugar in Americans’ diets, per a 2021 Frontiers in Nutrition study. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excess sugar consumption has been linked to weight gain and obesity.


Cereal, in particular, is a popular breakfast option that has earned itself a health halo but can actually be a sneaky source of added sugar. Take a peek at the Nutrition Facts label to double-check for added sugars when choosing a breakfast. Keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends that most people aim to consume at most 6 teaspoons (about 25 grams) of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day (or about 37 grams) for men. 



The Best High-Protein Breakfast for Weight Loss

Our top breakfast pick for weight loss is this Black Beans, Rice & Fried Egg recipe because it checks all the boxes. “The combination of eggs, brown rice, beans and spinach in this recipe creates a well-balanced breakfast to support weight loss. The ingredients provide high protein, high fiber and essential nutrients, promoting fullness, steady energy and a metabolism boost,” says Pace.


Eggs

Not only are eggs quick to prepare, but they are also a good source of budget-friendly and high-quality protein. A 2020 study in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that eating eggs for breakfast left people feeling more satisfied than those who had cereal—which helped them eat less at the next meal. 


Beans

Although you may not have considered adding beans to your breakfast before, you could start today. Researchers have linked greater weight loss to increased bean consumption, per this 2022 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Meanwhile, a 2020 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that women who consumed at least ½ cup of beans per week had significantly lower body fat than those who didn’t.


Brown Rice 

Although oats are one of the most popular whole-grain options for breakfast, add variety by using brown rice, like in this savory breakfast. Wan Na Chun, M.P.H., RD, CPT, of One Pot Wellness, based in Indianapolis, says, “Brown rice is also excellent for weight loss because it contains more fiber than white rice. This combination can help in maintaining fullness throughout the day and prevents overeating.” Brown rice, like other whole grains, may help you lose weight. A 2019 meta-analysis in Nutrients found that regularly eating whole grains can help you lose weight and also prevent weight gain. 


Veggies

When you are trying to lose weight, loading your plate with more vegetables adds volume to meals without many calories. Research supports the benefits of vegetables for weight loss. For example, a 2018 review from Nutrients noted that people who ate vegetables were much less likely to gain weight over the study period of up to four years. Vegetable intake was also associated with a lower risk of overweight or obesity. 



The Bottom Line

“It’s a common misconception that you have to eat super-small portions and/or sacrifice flavor from the foods you love to lose weight,” says Beth Stark, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Beth Stark Nutrition, based in Pennsylvania. And our top pick for a high-protein breakfast for weight loss, which scores high in protein, fiber and flavor, is proof. 


“Not only does it provide a generous portion, but it is also loaded with savory flavors like garlic, lime juice and hot sauce,” says Stark. To reach your weight-loss goal, our dietitians assure you you’ll always win if you choose a breakfast high in fiber and protein—a combo that will keep you feeling full and satisfied for hours.