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Serving: IL

Get your morning protein

TAGS: Nutrition
Charlyn Fargo Ware egg bake casserole
POWER COMBO: There are many ways to pack more protein into your breakfast, and this Egg Bake incorporates eggs, sausage and cheese, as well as vitamin A from the red pepper.
What’s Cooking in Illinois: Many ways to get more protein in your breakfast

My dad, a lifelong farmer and seed salesman, made breakfast every morning. Most of the time it was eggs and bacon or sausage. Sometimes it was oatmeal. Regardless of the menu, Dad was up every morning, listening to the weather radio as he made breakfast for the family. Mom was off to work by 7, and we kids had to get on the school bus by 7:15, so most mornings started early. Very often, another farmer would drop by for coffee and an egg or two as well.

I’m not sure how, but Dad knew breakfast needed to include protein.

How much do we need? A 120-pound adult would need 45 to 70 grams of protein each day, but the key is to spread consumption out over our meals and snacks. 

Our bodies can only utilize 25 to 30 grams of protein (the equivalent of about 4 ounces of meat or chicken) at a time to maximize muscle building and repair, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Getting protein at breakfast can help curb hunger and start your metabolism. Every meal should contain a combination of protein, fats, fiber and complex carbohydrates. Not only does that support weight loss and sustained energy levels, but it helps preserve and build muscle mass.

So many proteins

So how do you get protein at every meal? Think Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, string cheese, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs; protein powder added to smoothies; or oatmeal, nuts, seeds and ancient grains like quinoa. Rather than a giant bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee, start your day with peanut butter on that bagel thin, overnight oatmeal, a peanut butter smoothie or a protein pancake. Avocado toast with a fried egg or slice of turkey sausage makes a great breakfast.

Even Dunkin Donuts has jumped on the wagon, offering avocado toast (mashed avocado with salt, pepper and lemon juice) with Everything Bagel seasoning sprinkled on top. It tastes amazing and has 7 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. You can boost the protein by adding an egg on top, if you make it at home.

For snacks, add a piece of string cheese to your air-popped popcorn, or grab a handful of almonds. Hummus with fresh veggies can be satisfying as well, and hummus has much more protein than ranch dressing.  

And if you add consistent exercise to protein throughout the day, it can help preserve muscle mass. As we age, that’s even more important. Muscle mass loss begins as early as age 30, and after age 50, it occurs at a rate of 1% to 2% per year.

The bottom line? Start the day with plenty of protein, and you’re well on your way to a healthy day.

Here’s a recipe for an Egg Bake, my own twist that offers a bit more protein.

Egg Bake

1 pound zesty sausage roll
1 package Simply Potatoes Southwest-style hash browns
1 red or orange pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
8 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon mustard
¼ cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese, such as Cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In large nonstick skillet, brown sausage and break into crumbles. When cooked, put into baking pan. In same skillet, add the hash browns, onions and pepper. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, until onions and pepper are soft and hash browns begin to brown. Pour over sausage in baking pan. In bowl, crack eggs; add milk, salt and pepper (to taste) and mustard. Blend completely. Pour over the sausage-hash brown mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheese over top of pan. At this point, the egg bake can be refrigerated overnight or immediately baked. Bake for 45 minutes. Serves 12. Note: After Egg Bake has baked, it can be refrigerated and pieces heated in the microwave for a quick breakfast each day.

Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU Medical School in Springfield. Send recipe ideas to her at

The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.


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