High Protein Breakfast Options
Posted on Sun 07 March 2021 in Fitness • 9 min read
To Get 200+ Grams of Protein, You Have To Start Early
You can check out my previous diet guidelines post to read more about my general thoughts on what I eat. The short version is that I strive to hit 200g of protein per day while keeping calories around 2500. This requires food choices that add up to around 4 meals of at least 50g protein each, though sometimes I spread a "meal" over a couple of hours to have a more consistent protein intake.
While getting protein during lunch and dinner is somewhat easier (as you can just eat whatever meat you have), breakfast foods tend to be dominated by carb-heavy options. Cereal, bagels, and fruit are all high in carbs and low in protein. Even most traditional breakfast meats, like bacon and sausage, are very high in fat and don't have as much protein as you would hope while keeping calories low.
Here are my main breakfast staples, along with how I make them.
Every Day - Protein Coffee
I always put flavored creamer in my coffee. I found that the sugar-free options from Coffeemate have good flavor and are the lowest calories, fat, and carbs of most creamers. I normally try to avoid drinking my calories, but since I enjoy my coffee this way and don't like it black, I figure I should get some protein while I'm at it.
Since I typically drink 3 cups throughout each morning, I've started adding protein powder to the creamer before putting the coffee in. I've tried putting the powder in the hot coffee, but it seems to not mix very well. Speaking of mixing, the best way I've found to mix the powder in to the creamer is to use a milk frother to stir it together. We have this one but I think anything that stirs, blends, or froths will work.
How I Make It
I start with 4 tbsp of flavored creamer, and add half of a scoop of protein powder to it. I then start blending with the milk frother for maybe 10 seconds, which usually makes a very thick liquid. If I'm using casein instead of whey, I find I have to add a little bit of water or coffee to this mixture to help make it blend better. Then, as I'm still blending, I slowly pour the hot coffee into this and blend it in. I'll usually stop the frother mid-pour, as the frother makes the liquid go up the side of the cup and can overflow it quickly. I then keep pouring coffee until the cup is full.
For flavors, I find this works best with either chocolate or vanilla protein powder, although most sweet flavors should work. I also tend to use flavored creamers, like hazelnut or vanilla, but this is optional as half-and-half works well too.
I'll typically have 3 big cups like this throughout the morning, one while making other food and then two more while eating and starting my day. That adds up to 12 servings of creamer and 1.5 scoops of protein. The creamer and powder I'm currently using total 345 calories, 27g carbs, 13g fat, and 36g protein.
Food Option 1 - Meat/Egg Scramble
This is my default breakfast, as it's very flexible based on what meat and spices I have that day. There's a lot of variety possible here, which can scare people who aren't used to cooking without a recipe, but it's very hard to screw up too badly. The core of this is to cook a meat, some combination of eggs and egg whites, some optional vegetables, and whatever seasoning you want.
For the meat, I either use something leftover, something pre-cooked, or cook up ground meat. If we have a leftover meat from the previous day that might work, I'll use that and just cut it up or shred it (examples include pork loin, hamburger patties, or chicken breast). If I'm using something pre-cooked, I like to use something with less fat and dice it up (examples include larger chicken sausage links or smaller breakfast turkey sausage). If I'm cooking ground meat (like beef, turkey, or chicken), I'll usually cook the whole pound of meat and then use half and save half for another day.
The breakdown of eggs and egg whites typically is based on the fat in the rest of the dish. I always buy a dozen eggs and a 32oz carton of egg whites each week, which seems to last our household of 2 people for a week. Egg whites are almost purely protein, but I don't mind having whole eggs if I can.
For vegetables, I typically buy pre-sliced and pre-washed mushrooms for ease of use. I also usually have a big container of washed baby spinach. Sometimes I'll cut up a bell pepper as well. These are great for adding volume to the meal and getting micronutrients without adding many calories.
Spices are a whole topic in themselves, but this is where you can really make the dish taste like whatever you want. I've come to really like the spice mixes, as it's minimal decision making and they taste great. For example, McCormick's has a Grill Mates line with options like "Smokehouse Maple", "Hamburger", or "Chipotle and Roasted Garlic". Alternatively, I use basics like salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, then use something else to add a little different flavor.
I've been trying to avoid sauces, as they typically add calories. That said, depending on the dish, I will use soy sauce, hot sauce, or mustard to give a little flavor.
How I Make It
I'll give 3 different examples based on meat options:
Often, if we make hamburgers for dinner, we'll have a bunch left over. Each burger patty is about 4oz of beef, and for this example we'll assume it's 85% lean beef. If this is a fattier beef like 85%, then I'll usually just use one patty, but a leaner cut might be two patties. I'll take the cold patty and break it into bite-size pieces into my small frying pan, then add the egg whites. Again, if this is fattier, I'll use egg whites to limit the fat content, so I would probably add 4 servings of egg whites from the container. I then put in a handful of vegetables (broken up mushrooms or a small handful of spinach, for example) and season with whatever seasoning I want. Once all ingredients are in, I turn on the burner on a low-medium and just keep stirring until the eggs are cooked. Since the meat is already cooked, I don't have to worry about that, so I just watch the eggs.
If I'm using a pre-cooked meat, the preparation is similar to the above. I'm a big fan of the breakfast turkey sausages from Johnsonville as they have a good flavor while being low in fat. If I'm using these, I'll typically break 3 of them up into a cold pan and add 2 eggs and then 2 servings of egg whites. Then add a handful of vegetables, season, then cook on low-medium while off-and-on stirring until the eggs are cooked.
Making this with uncooked meat is a slightly different process. Let's say I have 1lb of 93% lean ground turkey. I'll typically heat up the small pan with a spray of oil, then put in the whole pound. I'll season the meat here (instead of at the end) with whatever seasoning I want, then break it up and make sure it's fully cooked. Once cooked, I'll turn the burner off and put half of that into an open container to cool. Then, I'll add 2 eggs and 2 servings of egg whites to the remaining half of the turkey, and then add the vegetables. Once together, I'll turn the burner back on, and cook until the eggs are heated.
Using the examples above, here is the nutrition information:
4oz of 85% ground beef, 4 servings of egg whites, handful of vegetables = 360 calories, 3 carbs, 17g fat, 44g protein
3 turkey sausages, 4 eggs, handful of vegetables = 395 calories, 5g carbs, 24g fat, 41g protein
8oz of 93% ground turkey, 2 eggs, 2 egg whites, handful of vegetables = 510 calories, 3 carbs, 24g fat, 69g protein
Food Option 2 - Protein Pancakes
Since I don't completely avoid carbs, I really like pancakes for breakfast. That said, normal pancakes are almost purely carbs, so getting some protein means changing things up. What I've found is that Kodiak Cakes have a little bit of added protein, which I can boost with eggs, milk, and more protein powder. My grocery store carries a few different flavors of Kodiak Cakes mix, including Dark Chocolate, Buttermilk, and Cinnamon Oat. Depending on the flavor of mix, the flavor of your protein powder can enhance or clash. I've had good luck with vanilla and salted caramel protein powder, but I also have used unflavored powder with success.
Note that I've also used regular Aunt Jemima boxed pancake mix and it works well, just with less protein.
How I Make It
With my modifications, I have to basically ignore the ratios of ingredients on the box. I'll usually start by weighing out the pancake mix (and sometimes make extras for leftovers). For each serving of pancake mix, I'll put in half an egg and half a scoop of protein powder, then mix those together. Then, I'll slowly add milk and stir until the consistency is pourable but not thin. This ends up being around 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of milk per serving, but this is very different based on the protein powder and pancake mix and how you like your pancakes.
Once mixed, I'll let it sit for a couple minutes, as I've found this helps the mixture really settle together. Then, I'll heat up a pan to low-medium heat, and either pour giant pancakes or a couple small ones, and keep making batches until it's done. This ends up being about 3-5 minutes per side, but I just flip when I see bubbles and then take them off when they seem they are done.
A common scenario for me is one serving of pancake mix, half of a scoop of protein powder, half of an egg, and half of a cup of milk. This makes either 2 large pancakes or 5-6 small pancakes. The nutritional totals for this setup (and the powder I use) is 335 calories, 35g carbs, 8g fat, and 33g protein.
Food Option 3 - Anabolic French Toast
I stole this straight from Greg Doucette, but I'll modify it based on what I'm feeling that day. The basics of this recipe is to dip a slice of bread into an egg white mixture and then cook it. The egg white mixture includes a sweetener (I use Stevia), cinnamon, and vanilla extract. You can also add in some protein powder to this as well, but it's challenging to not have clumps of powder since it's not a lot of liquid. This recipe is also fairly dependant on your bread choice, but I'm a fan of Dave's Killer Bread since it has a mix of grains and good flavor.
How I Make It
For each slice of bread, I'll typically use around 1 serving of egg whites, a small packet of Stevia, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a couple shakes of cinnamon (I know that's not an amount, but I just kind of put some in). Mix this together in as flat of a dish that still has sides, then dip the bread in and then place into a pan on low-medium heat. If I'm making a few batches, I'll often leave the next piece of bread in the mix to soak it up. When I put the bread in the pan, sometimes I'll sprinkle some pre-mixed cinnamon sugar for a little extra flavor. My topping of choice is usually Walden Farms syrup because it's zero-calorie, but sometimes I'll just eat it straight since it's not dry.
As a twist, I'll sometimes cook some bacon in the pan before making the french toast. Then, with the bacon grease in the pan, the french toast ends up almost deep-fried. This definitely adds some fat to the meal, but it's an amazing amount of flavor that gets added so it can be worth it!
I can usually eat two pieces of french toast as a breakfast. With the bread I use, this adds up to 270 calories, 42g carbs, 4g fat, and 16g protein. This is the lowest protein option of the three, but it's still low calorie and good for a once-per-week kind of treat. Also, it's still got room to pair with something like turkey breakfast sausage or bacon.