The nutrient we are not getting enough of at breakfast

What did you eat for breakfast this morning? A slice of toast? Your favorite coffee and cake? Or did you sit down to a hearty concoction of eggs, toast, and juice?

Whatever your favorite breakfast is, breakfast is still an important way to refuel after an overnight fast and provides a variety of important nutrients, including B vitamins and dietary fiber.

There’s also a trick to balance your breakfast well, and a trick that will help you maintain your appetite and caloric balance in the long run.

The foods we think of when we think of breakfast tend to be high-carbohydrate foods: toast, breakfast cereals, bagels, oatmeal, juices, and smoothies.

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There is also a trick to balance breakfast well. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Great for energy, carbohydrate-rich foods help refuel your muscles and brain after an overnight fast. But these popular breakfast foods can be low in protein, meaning they can spike glucose levels relatively quickly after consumption.

The problem with this is that glucose spikes after eating, especially for those with impaired glucose regulation, are inevitably followed by low blood sugar, cravings, and hunger within an hour or two after eating breakfast.

On the other hand, breakfast options that offer 20-30g of protein have a number of nutritional benefits.

First, because protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, high-protein breakfasts like eggs, Greek yogurt, and high-protein toast help keep you full longer after eating.

The other key factor that appears to play a direct role in appetite control is that several high-protein breakfast foods, including eggs and dairy products, also offer 2-3 g of the amino acid leucine.

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Leucine has been shown to play a key role in controlling insulin levels in the body. Since insulin is the hormone that regulates fat metabolism, high-protein breakfasts that are rich in dietary leucine are likely to be especially satisfying choices as they keep hunger at bay throughout the morning.

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breakfast of buns
Popular high-carbohydrate breakfasts are often lower in protein. (Getty)

Leucine is found in higher concentrations in foods of animal origin. An ideal serving would be two eggs, 25-30g whey protein powder, 150g lean beef or chicken, or 250g Greek or protein yogurt.

In plant-based foods it is more complicated, it takes 12 slices of whole grain bread to give 2 g of leucine, although a cup of whole grains such as oatmeal or legumes offers about 1 g of leucine.

So, if you regularly reach for the cookie jar at work at 10 or 11 a.m., here are some of the most nutritious, high-protein breakfast options that will help keep your morning appetite in check.

eggs with anything

Eggs may sound like a time-consuming option, but you can find ready-made egg mixes that can be turned into an omelet in just minutes.

Even more time efficient is to use hard boiled eggs. You can boil the eggs ahead of time and store them in the fridge for up to a week and then enjoy them squashed on crackers or toast, or chopped up and made into a breakfast wrap with a side of salad.

Either way, you’ll have made yourself a breakfast with over 16g of high-quality, cost-effective protein.

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traditional breakfast
Adding eggs to breakfast staples is a great option for extra protein. (Getty)


Smoothies are another tasty breakfast option that can be made ahead of time and stored. By simply adding protein-rich Greek yogurt, milk, or even an egg or protein powder to your favorite fruit mix, you’ll ensure your breakfast smoothie contains over 20g of protein. Or better yet, a green smoothie will give you a couple of servings of vegetables, without you even realizing it.

Frittata Muffins

For the more organized, making breakfast frittata muffins is not only exceptionally easy, but also another high-protein option. Plus, you can add lean ham, smoked salmon, or bacon to your egg mixture to boost the protein content even more, as well as plenty of extra veggies like grated zucchini, spinach, and mushrooms.

High Protein Toast

There is a growing range of higher protein bread and roll options available in supermarkets that can contain up to 24g of vegetable protein in a single serving. This turns your favorite Peanut Butter or Vegemite Toast into a hearty breakfast option, or a nutritionally much better Avocado Toast. Plus, you can store bread in the freezer at home or work so you always have a supply on hand.

smoked salmon wrap

With nearly 2 g of leucine per 100 g serving, a reduced-salt smoked salmon enjoyed with your favorite whole-grain toast or wrap and salad is a tasty, Omega-3-rich breakfast option that’s easy to make ahead and eat on the go.

Author susie burrell is a prominent Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of shape meco-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in print and television commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.

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