What did you eat for breakfast this morning? A slice of toast? Your favorite coffee and a pastry? Or did you sit down to a hearty mix of eggs, toast and juice?
Whatever your go-to breakfast is, breakfast remains an important way to refuel after the overnight fast and supply a range of important nutrients including vitamin B and dietary fibre.
There is also a trick to getting your breakfast balance right, and a trick that will set you up for appetite and calorie balance long term.
The foods we think of when thoughts turn to breakfast tend to be carbohydrate-rich foods – toast, breakfast cereal, bagels, oats, juice and smoothies.
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Great for energy, carbohydrate-rich foods help to refuel the muscles and the brain after the overnight fast. But these popular breakfast foods can be low in protein, which means that can increase glucose levels relatively quickly after consumption.
The issue with this is that spikes in glucose after eating, especially for those with glucose regulation issues, are inevitably followed by sugar lows, and cravings and hunger within an hour or two of eating breakfast.
On the other hand, breakfast options that offer 20-30g of protein have a number of nutritional benefits.
Firstly, as protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates, high-protein breakfasts such as eggs, Greek yoghurt and protein toast help to keep us fuller for longer after eating.
The other key factor that appears to play a direct role in appetite control is that a number of high protein breakfast foods including eggs and dairy also offer 2-3g of the amino acid, leucine.
Leucine has been shown to play a key role in controlling insulin levels in the body. As insulin is the hormone that regulates fat metabolism, protein-rich breakfasts that are disk rich in dietary leucine are likely to be especially satisfying options, keeping hunger controlled tight through the morning.
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Leucine is found in greatest concentrations in animal-based foods. An ideal portion would be two eggs, 25-30g whey protein powder, 150g lean beef or chicken, or 250g of Greek or protein yoghurt.
In plant foods it is trickier, with 12 slices of wholemeal bread required to give 2g of leucine, although one cup of wholegrains such as oats or legumes offers roughly 1g of leucine.
So, if you regularly find yourself reaching for the biscuit jar at work come 10 or 11am, here are some of the most nutritious, high-protein breakfast options that will help to keep your morning appetite under control.
Eggs with anything
Eggs may sound like a time-consuming option, but you can find readymade egg mixes that can be transformed into an omelette in just minutes.
Even more time efficient is using hard-boiled eggs. You can boil your eggs in advance and keep them in the fridge for up to a week and then enjoy them smashed on crackers or toast, or chopped up and made into a breakie wrap with a little salad.
Either way, you will have made yourself a breakfast with more than 16g of high-quality protein, and a cost-effective one at that.
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Smoothies are another tasty breakfast option that can be made in advance and stored. Simply adding high-protein Greek yoghurt, milk or even an egg or protein powder to your favorite fruit mix will ensure your breakfast smoothie contains more than 20g of protein. Or even better, a green smoothie will give you a couple of vegetable serves, without you even noticing.
For the organized among us, making frittata breakfast muffins is not only exceptionally easy but another high-protein option. Plus, you can add lean ham, smoked salmon, or bacon to your egg mix to further boost the protein content, as well as plenty of extra veggies such as grated zucchini, spinach and mushrooms.
High protein toast
There is a growing range of higher protein bread and bread roll options available in supermarkets that can contain as much as 24g of plant protein in a single serve. This translates your favorite peanut butter or Vegemite toast into a filling breakfast option, or avo toast a whole lot better nutritionally. Plus, you can keep the bread in the freezer at home or at work so you always have a supply on hand.
Smoked salmon wrap
With almost 2g of leucine per 100g serve, a salt-reduced smoked salmon enjoyed with your favorite wholegrain toast or wrap and salad is a tasty, Omega-3 rich breakfast option that is easy to make in advance and eat on the run.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of shape meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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