When it comes to the essential nutrients our body needs, protein tops the list. There is no doubt about that anymore. We know that it’s needed for everything from repairing muscle, to supplying energy, to keeping us strong. The current recommendation is to target between 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. What is also increasingly becoming clear is the importance of having a high protein breakfast. Not only does protein help keep the “hangry” (hunger + angry) monster in the stomach quiet until lunch time, it also helps boosts our metabolism for the entire day too. Win-win there!
Now, egg is by far the most popular (and easiest) choice for getting a mega dose of good quality protein early on in the day (two eggs deliver 11-12 grams and one is sorted). But then some of us are vegetarians, some vegans and many others have some vegetarian days every week (for religious reasons or otherwise). So then how does one ensure enough protein under these circumstances?
It’s easy enough, as there are plenty of other good options to begin the day right with a high protein fuel. In fact, I say the deal turns out pretty good in comparison, as most plant protein sources are lower in saturated fat, free of cholesterol, are higher in fibre, and are a good source of antioxidants and phytochemicals too – all of this helps contribute to better health and reduced disease risk.
Some options to consider are:
No this not just for the navratra puja, you can have it year round in fact. 100 grams of flour deliver a whopping 13 grams of protein (for 350 calories), and buckwheat crepes with some maple sugar are a great start to any day. Or you can even make them savoury by adding some shallots, seasoning, and stuffing them with assorted veggies.
Added Bonus: Besides being a good protein source, buckwheat helps improve circulation, lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose levels too.
These are tiny but pack huge protein power; two tablespoons deliver 9 grams (for 280 calories) and even when you pair one table spoon of these seeds with 250 ml milk (or yoghurt) the protein meter reaches 12.5 gm (4.5 gm plus 8 gm).
Try chia seed pudding: Take 250 ml warm milk, add 1 tbsp chia seeds, a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon and 1/4th tsp turmeric. Let it stand for 20 minutes. Add 1 tbsp honey to this, stir and eat.
Added Bonus: They are a gold mine when it comes to brain-boosting omega-3s and fiber content.
With just a hand full you can get a wholesome dose of superior quality and quantity of protein as soaking and sprouting improves the quality and absorbability of proteins. 200 gm will give you 18 grams of protein (for just 200 calories). Try this: mix ½ cup of chopped, cooked broccoli with boiled carrots, mixed sprouts (channa, moong, lobia) – all tossed in a spoon full of an oil based dressing (oil will help absorption of at soluble vitamins). I love this dressing: just whirl some mint leaves, garlic and olive oil in the food processor and pour over the sprouts.
Added Bonus: Sprouts provide a good supply of Vitamins A, E & C plus B complex. The vitamin content of some seeds can increase by up to 20 times their original value with sprouting.
100 gram delivers 14 grams of protein (for 350 calories). Plus the protein in quinoa is of unusually high quality; it is a complete protein, with an essential amino acid balance close to the ideal, similar to milk. Try this: Top cooked quinoa with sliced bananas, chopped toasted walnuts and a bit of honey, or make a savoury quinoa umma.
Added Bonus: Quinoa provides valuable amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (oleic acid) and small amounts of anti inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid too.
If you want to go local then amaranth is a great option as it is comparable to quinoa in all respects (370 cal per 100 gm), and protein (14 gm), and has similar calcium, potassium and iron too, plus higher Vitamin E and magnesium as compared to quinoa. Try this: Cook amaranth with 30 gm feta cheese, 1/4th cup pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, salt and pepper.
Added Bonus: The significant level of carotenoids and vitamin A found in amaranth leaves is a major boost for eye health.
This is a high energy and protein giving food which is a perfect mixture of all the necessary ingredients – protein, carbohydrate, iron, calcium, and vitamins. It’s good for both weight watchers as well as for muscle builders. 100 grams gives a whooping 23 grams of protein (and 350 calories). Sattu parantha paired with curd or buttermilk is a highly recommended high protein breakfast.
Added Bonus: It’s extremely cooling that’s why sattu sherbet is so popular during summers.
Other interesting add ons that can help boost the protein content of your breakfast further are peanut butter (2 tbsp = 7 grams protein), nuts (one ounce = 4 to 6 grams), tofu (100 gm = 7 grams) and seeds (10 grams deliver 3 grams).
(Kavita Devgan is a weight management consultant, nutritionist, health columnist and author of ‘Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People’.)