Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full


Before I get to the meat (just laugh with me, ok?) of this post, a few thoughts:

  • I purposefully didn’t use the word “dieters” in my title although that’s the word used in the article that spurred this post.  I’m following my own advice to watch the words we use.  Instead of promoting dieting by using the word to describe what we do when we cut back in an attempt to achieve/maintain a healthy weight, I prefer to say we’re readjusting by eating more lightly.
  • No, we’re not starting a trend of theme weeks on A Weight Lifted, although last week was Fashion Week (sort of) and this week is shaping up to be Breakfast Week.  It’s just that as I was reading Emily’s post on Monday, I opened a newsletter from the Egg Nutrition Center and saw an article about a study I thought worth addressing.
  • Given today’s post is our entry for the Women’s Health Blogfest (more below), I also thought this subject a good one for women.  Even though the study was done on men.  Hey, I don’t think we’re so different that the results can’t apply to us women, too.

The study was fairly simple.

It basically put 10 overweight-according-to-BMI men through five feeding trials: 1) normal protein intake 2) higher protein breakfast 3) higher protein lunch 4) higher protein dinner and 5) higher protein intake spread across meals.  In each trial, they ate an energy-balanced (not cutting back) intake for 3 days, then followed it up with an energy-reduced intake for 3 days.

Comparing measures of fullness, the researchers found no differences worth talking about when the men weren’t eating more lightly.

But when they did eat lighter, it seems the higher protein breakfast won over lunch and dinner.  “…the [higher protein breakfast] resulted in greater fullness ratings throughout the 15-hour assessment period compared to the [higher protein lunch and dinner].”  Higher-protein-throughout-the-day had a similar effect.

What the egg folks are so excited about.

Maybe excited is too strong a word.  But they are happy to share these results because they strengthen the idea that eating more protein at breakfast when we’re trying to readjust our intake downward to a healthier level may help us feel more satisfied and less hungry throughout the day.

I know this is something many of us have already discovered on our own, and it’s nice to have a study confirm it.  But as we talk to women who come to Green Mountain, and I read other blogs, I realize that many folks don’t understand the potential of protein to help satisfy, whether we’re working to lose weight, manage type 2 diabetes, other health problems or just trying to eat healthier.  Indeed, we encourage protein at meals and snacks throughout the day when eating lighter to take full advantage of the satiating value of this powerful nutrient.

Do you find increased protein at breakfast helps you feel less hungry?  What do you eat for breakfast protein? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Now, more about the Women’s Health Blogfest.  It’s an effort spearheaded by registered dietitians Renata Mangrum and Monika Woolsey.  Thanks, you two!  (Btw, Monika will be the featured expert at our upcoming Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) weeks that we’ll be announcing very shortly.)

Read more posts from Women’s Health bloggers.  For some reason, the individual links won’t post here so I’m sending you to Renata’s blog where she has all the links to some great posts!

17 responses to “Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full”

  1. I agree. I make sure to eat protein in the morning a few hours before I work out. It gives me far more energy than the days when I either not eat or have a piece of fruit before working out. I can work out longer and stronger after eating Greek yogurt or peanut butter or egg whites. Carbs don’t do what protein does 🙂

  2. I have found that I feel best and suffer less cravings when I eat plenty of fat and protein at breakfast. My favorties are eggs cooked in coconut oil or Fage 2% or sometimes even full fat with fruit and cereal.

  3. I have found that eating more protein for breakfast AND lunch (~30+ grams per meal) has resulted in both a sense of fullness immediately following the meal, but has also given me a sense of control later in the day. No false hunger, no carb cravings (for the most part LOL).

    A typical breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 2 turkey breakfast sausages, 2 Kashi waffles OR oatmeal with protein powder and a scrambled egg mixed in OR whey protein/avocado shake and 2 Kashi waffles.

    A typical lunch: 5 oz tuna with various veggies mixed in, 1 tsp olive oil and lemon juice or 1 tbsp yogurt dressing on a low-carb, whole-grain pita and plain, non-fat yogurt with fruit mixed in.

  4. […] Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin Monika […]

  5. […] Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin Monika […]

  6. Angie says:

    Great post!!

    I think protein at breakfast is so important. It is easy to get in the habit of a carbohydrate-only breakfast- cereal, toast, bran muffin, etc. But I have always found that having a little protein and healthy fat with breakfast keeps me satisfied longer and keeps my energy level stable throughout the morning.

    My favorite breakfast proteins:
    – almond butter on whole wheat toast
    – almond butter stirred into oatmeal – yum!
    – an egg with toast and fruit
    -peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat with banana

    Thanks for a great post!

  7. Monika Woolsey says:

    Hi Marsha,

    I am such a huge breakfast eater. Nothing reinforces more for me the importance of breakfast as that rare day when I skip it! It’s my reality check and something I stress with everyone I work with.

    See you soon…Vermont is sounding awfully good in this triple digit weather!

    Thanks so much for being part of blogfest!


  8. lisa says:

    i’ve definitely found that eating protein for breakfast helps me have more energy and ability to stay focused in the morning, AND i don’t think about snacking as often.

    lately my husband has been going out to get his coffee in the morning rather than making it at home. he was bringing me a muffin every morning (which – YUM) but i asked him please to bring me a breakfast sandwich instead (egg, cheese, english muffin) which makes me feel like a had a whole meal. if i just have the muffin i actually start to get light headed and very hungry about two hours later. with the sandwich i’m not really hungry until lunchtime.

    lisa’s last blog post..happy patchwork pincushion

  9. […] Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin Monika […]

  10. Sagan says:

    YES. My typical breakfast is a poached egg on toast or nut butter with fruit and a glass of milk. Just the right amount of protein (combined with healthy fats and carbs) to keep me fueled up. I adore adore adore eggs.

    Sagan’s last blog post..Recap of an indulgent weekend

  11. Protein often gets left out of the conversation with all the media’s focus on carbs and fat. Thanks for giving it the well-deserved spotlight today!


    Liz Marr, MS, RD’s last blog post..Reflecting on Family Food Ways and Women’s Work

  12. […] – Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin Monika Woolsey, MS, RD […]

  13. Marsha says:

    @Karen — I thought of you as I wrote this post, knowing you had benefited so much from including protein in your breakfast.

    @Lynn — I LOVE Greek yogurt!

    @Christie — I’m with you on full-fat sometimes. It really helps satisfy, and there is growing acceptance that full-fat might be nutritionally preferable to lower-fat in many cases.

    @Anthony — I’m off to read your post for the blogfest after I finish this comment. Dinner? I don’t need no stinkin’ dinner. Just kidding — it’s just that I need to start dinner and here I am on the ‘net.

    @Angie — I LOVE almond butter. I get mine freshly ground at our local coop and it is SOOOO good.

    @Monika — It’s gorgeous here, and we are so excited about the PCOS program…if we ever get the webpage up to announce it. 🙁

    @Lisa — What a sweet hubby you have. I have one like him.

    @Sagan — I’m with you. Eggs are a fav. I especially like them deviled…even for breakfast.

    @Liz — Thanks for that comment. I was worried my post wasn’t “women’s health” enough, but then I thought, “Sure, it is.” A good breakfast is very important to our health. Off to visit your post for the blogfest, too!

    Thanks to everyone for their comments!!

  14. Lori says:

    I include protein in all my meals, including snacks. Fat and protein keep you satisfied and whole grains keep you full.

    My breakfast protein is either protein pancakes made with oats,egg, and cottage cheese, or I have oatmeal to which I add nut butter or protein powder.

    Lori’s last blog post..Bagel Day and back to lifting!

  15. susan says:

    I dont’ really know about overall, but a higher protein breakfast doesn’t really keep me fuller longer unless it also has a healthy dose of fat. Fat free Greek yogurt, oats, and fruit leaves me hungry 1-2 hours later, in spite of having plenty of protein. Oatmeal with plenty of peanut butter in it, however, keeps me satisfied longer. I do know that eating cold cereal, no matter how high in protein, means that I’ll be ravenous in 90 minutes!

  16. Steffany says:

    after reading your post I decided to include more proteins in my breakfast, since I heard that is better to eat as much as you need at the morning for a better digestion, and I’m feeling less hungry in the course of the day. Nice tip you shared here!

  17. […] focus on breakfast?  Well,  if there were “superlatives for meals,” breakfast would be voted “most […]

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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