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Turns out that last week’s post on protein powder generated more buzz than I expected! That’s a wonderful thing. I love seeing you all take this topic seriously and really think through some tough questions when it comes to eating clean and sourcing your ingredients.
I wanted to share with you two of the common questions that were asked, as I’ll be addressing them in the next several weeks:
- What are some high-protein breakfast ideas that don’t use protein powder?
- How do I create a protein-packed smoothie without protein powder?
Today I want to address the first question, and I’ll return to the second question next week.
I’m a firm believer in eating protein for breakfast. It’s one of the best ways we can set ourselves up for a day of smart food choices, balanced blood sugar, and curbed sugar cravings. Here are my personal top 3 reasons why I don’t enjoy using protein powder as my morning protein source:
- Quality, quality, quality. Read my original protein powder post for the scoop on that. I’m just not comfortable consuming something that may very well be a source of high levels of heavy metals, chemicals, and gut-disrupting additives.
- Taste. Honestly, quality aside, I have yet to find a protein powder with a flavor that I really love. Even the so-called “squeaky clean” protein powders made from organic hemp or sprouted rice taste awful to me. From a flavor standpoint, they completely ruin smoothies in my opinion! I’d much rather enjoy a protein-rich snack later in the morning than spoil my smoothie with a nasty tasting powder.
- Satisfaction. Smoothies, even if they’re made with healthy fats and protein powder, do not keep me full all morning. My body just thrives on solid foods for meals. I love smoothies and juices in between meals as snacks, but when it comes to a satisfying breakfast, even protein powder-based smoothies do not keep me full. Everyone is unique, so I know this won’t be the case for all of us.
Building a Protein-Rich Breakfast
While protein powder may be a convenient (albeit not so great tasting) option for fast morning fuel, I want to offer you some healthier protein-rich breakfast alternatives that are both satisfying and less risky than processed powders.
If you’re dairy-free…
- Eggs! Every which way. And make sure to eat the yolk. It contains most of the egg’s nutrition and nearly half of the protein.
- Try my chicken sausage recipe. I enjoy these for breakfast with steamed kale and carrots, or any leftover roasted veggies from dinner. They’re a great egg alternative if eggs are off the table for you.
- If you tolerate grains, enjoy a bowl of quinoa or millet porridge (natural sweeteners only!) topped with some blueberries, soaked almonds, hemp seeds, and maybe some coconut butter for richness. The healthy fats will satisfy you, and you’ll get some protein from the nuts and seeds as well. It won’t be quite as protein dense as eggs or meat, but if you prefer a sweeter way to start the day this is a good option.
- Enjoy grain-free granola (I have two recipes here and here) with a splash of almond milk and some berries.
- Leftovers. We need to start looking at them in a whole new way, because leftovers from dinner or lunch make fantastic breakfasts. Shake off the weirdness of the concept and get eating! They’re a snap to reheat (if you even need to reheat them) and they’re usually pretty portable, too.
If you can eat dairy…
- Any of the options above!
- Make a parfait with full fat organic yogurt (or goat’s milk yogurt), chopped apples or berries, walnuts or soaked almonds, hemp or chia seeds, a dash of cinnamon, and maybe a few raw cacao nibs if you’re feeling a bit indulgent.
- Instead of using protein powder in your smoothies, try a few spoonfuls of full fat organic yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt, or cottage cheese.
- Enjoy a few slices of raw goat cheese with an apple and a boiled egg. Fast, portable, and easy to eat!
How Much Protein Do We Really Need?
Our individual protein needs vary based on our gender, age, activity levels, and unique body composition. I can’t tell you exactly “how many grams” you should be eating per day. Sure, you can use an online calculator to determine your ideal range, but how well does a computer system really know you after asking a few basic questions?
Like I always say, you are the person who best knows your body! You just have to listen to what it’s telling you.
The truth of the matter is that most of us, even if we exercise regularly, do not need to chug down giant protein shakes or eat portions of meat or bacon the size of our heads. (In other words, just because you run 3 miles around the neighborhood and do a few sets of push-ups doesn’t mean you need to immediately “refuel” with a tall whey protein shake and jumbo bagel.) Just like the other macronutrients (fat and carbs), I view protein as something to be consumed in balance with everything else. Finding your protein “sweet spot” is up to you.
My rule of thumb? Eat a source of protein with each main meal. After much experimentation, this is what I’ve learned works for my body. But don’t think I’m chowing down on 8 ounce steaks every night. Nope. Three to four ounces of animal protein at once (when enjoyed with veggies and and some fat) is—in most cases—plenty for us gals. :)
Be on the lookout for more protein-rich breakfast ideas and recipes in the coming weeks!
And tell me: What are some of your favorite breakfasts that you make without protein powder?