We’ve all heard the refrain that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but the real key – especially for busy families– is what’s on the menu.
Protein in particular is essential for muscle contraction and movement and the production of hormones like insulin, which regulates blood sugar. It is also involved in each and every biochemical reaction in the body, as well as contributing to cell repair and the maintenance of balance and vision.
According to the Institute of Medicine, toddlers aged 1-3 require at least 13g of protein every day and kids aged 4-8 require 19g. In order to meet their daily requirements, I recommend including 4-7g at every meal – starting with breakfast.
Here are three easy ways to ensure your child is getting enough.
There are lots of kid-friendly ways to serve up protein for breakfast. A tablespoon of organic peanut butter contains 5g of protein, and the same amount of organic almond butter contains 4g. Both are kid favorites on toast or sliced apples.
1.5 ounces of soft goat cheese serves up almost 5 grams of protein. At my house, this is a staple food item – my kids love it on toast. Helpful hint: Soften it in the toaster oven so it’s easy to spread
Eggs are fantastic because in addition to supporting the body’s protein needs, they are a source of Vitamin B12, as well as other vitamins like Vitamin B6 and Vitamin D. One egg contains 6g and can be prepared in countless ways.
There’s no need to stick to the typical breakfast menu when it comes to serving up protein. Beans and lentils can be a morning treat, and a bowl of vegetarian chili or lentil soup can taste just perfect on a cold morning.
If you’d rather use your leftovers for something a little more “breakfast-y”, a breakfast burrito made with black beans, brown rice and vegetables is a great start to the day. 1/3 cup of black beans provides 5g of protein, plus a healthy dose of fiber. You can also use chopped leftover meat and fish. 1 oz of chicken, beef, or fish provides 7 grams of protein.
Protein in a hurry
For extra busy mornings, adding protein powder to a smoothie is a great option. Smoothies also allow you to add other healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables to the menu.
My recommendation for a healthy protein powder is Vega’s Protein Smoothie, which delivers plant-based protein. 1/3 of a package (26g) gives your child 5 grams of protein. Add banana or berries and you’ve got a great tasting breakfast! Helpful Hint: Try adding supplements like omega-3’s and probiotics to this morning smoothie. Your little one won’t even notice!
Protein for body and mind
Proteins are the basic building blocks for muscles and are involved in many biological processes, so it is essential children get enough of them. Proteins also help kids regulate blood sugar and reduce their cravings for carbohydrate snacks. This translates to fewer tantrums in toddlers, more focused children, and all round happier, healthier kids.
What are you favorite ways to serve protein at breakfast? Share your best ideas in the comments section below.
 Blom WA, et al. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. Am J Clin. Nutr. 2006;83(2):211-20.