Breakfasts Without Protein Powder

February 6th, 2014 at 9:09 am

Breakfasts without Protein Powder (Daily Bites)

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:

  1. What are some high-protein breakfast ideas that don’t use protein powder?
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?



  1. Susan in Salida said on February 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

    I like breakfast bars, cookies or muffins made with nut flours and served with a smoothie. Plenty to choose from on your site, and the fat and protein from the nuts keep me full for most of the morning.

    I also like these two from your fellow bloggers. (no eggs!)

  2. Tofu scrambles are a great option, especially if you’re vegan or if you are trying to avoid ingredients containing cholesterol.

  3. I like my quinoa pudding with nuts on top
    or sausages with avocado

  4. Hi Hayley
    Loved what you said about the importance of protein at breakfast as helping set you up for a day of smart food choices due to balanced blood sugar and curbed sugar cravings. I would like to suggest a few additional protein sources; hemp hearts are a great plant protein option as 3 Tablespoons yield 10 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of Omega 3 fats. Fabulous for drizzling on oatmeal or greek yogurt parfait. Nuts and seeds added to yogurt or oatmeal can also boost protein content. Also high fibre sprouted grain bread such as Ezikiel has a relatively high protein content (for a grain), combine it with 1 Tablespoon of Walnut or Almond butter and you have a fibre/protein rich power house breakfast.

    • Krissy: Thanks for your tasty suggestions! :)

      • Thanks for sharing (I’m always looking for protein oriented breakfast to fuel my daughter to stay fuelled for the day, or at least til lunch). Also thanks for your smoothie recipes (similar to mine, only I add cucumbers and/or spinach with a handful of mixed nuts, opposed to (peanut/cashew/ect) butter).

        Keep up the great work of providing nutritious & delicious alternatives (even though I have no allergies, it does change things up once in awhile.


  5. Hallie, you are a gem! Thank you for this.

  6. Great post, comprehensive list that really helps. I do try to avoid grains during breakfast but I was fine with sprouted grains since they assimilate better. I opt for eggs or chia pudding!

  7. Oh my gosh, you’ve totally opened my eyes. I didn’t even think about heavy metals in my protein powder. I eat protein powder every single day for breakfast. Yikes!!! That’s going to change.

    I’ve been in a major breakfast rut too. So this is giving me some new inspiration. What do you think about a breakfast of whole grain toast with almond butter and apple slices? It sounds delicious to me, but I wonder if it might be too much sugar…I make my own multigrain gluten-free bread with quinoa flour, chickpea flour and sorghum, plus adds nuts and seeds, in attempt to make it as health as possible. I need to start adding eggs and sausage too :)

    Thanks for this post. You’re the best! xo

    • Alyssa: Almond butter and apple toast sounds amazing! :) Especially since you’re making your own bread, I think it’s a winner. In my mind the important thing is variety, so changing things up is always important…but I definitely think that one sounds like a good plant-based option to add to your rotation. :)

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