Protein at Breakfast

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Better Breakfast, Better Weight Management

What single change at breakfast might help our patients lose more fat and less muscle while trying to lose weight? According to research, upping protein intake might increase satiety, reduce food intake later in the day and even help maintain muscle mass. In a meta-analysis of 24 trials and 1,063 adults, a higher-protein diet compared to a standard protein diet had a beneficial effect on weight loss, loss of body fat, maintenance of fat-free mass, and resting energy metabolism (1). Additional studies suggest that spreading protein intake out over the day is beneficial both for optimal weight loss and for preventing the loss of muscle mass with aging (2). Padden-Jones and Rasmussen propose including 25 – 30 grams of protein per meal to maximize muscle protein synthesis (3).

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range, established by the Institute of Medicine, for protein is 10-35% of calories for adults. Thus, consuming 25-30 grams of protein at each of three daily meals is within the recommended guidelines.

A caveat here is to help our patients understand that greater than 30 grams of protein is not needed. Most often, we will be helping our patients distribute their protein intake from heavy at the evening meal to approximately even amounts at three meals.

The following menu ideas might help patients consume adequate protein at breakfast.

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, fruit, ½ cup Post Grape-Nuts cereal
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, fruit
  • Veggie omelet with 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • Turkey sandwich (2 slices whole grain bread, 2 ½ ounces turkey)


  1. Wycherley TP, Moran LJ et al. Effects of energy-restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:1281–98.
  2. Devkota S and Layman DK. Protein metabolic roles in treatment of obesity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2010 13:403–407.
  3. Padden-Jones D and Rasmussen BB. Dietary Protein Recommendations for the Prevention of Sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2009 1:86-90.

By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE

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