Eating plants doesn’t have to mean starting the day with little or no protein. These vegan breakfast ideas pack a protein punch!
Lately, I have had a lot of curious omnivores ask me what I eat for breakfast, and I can understand why. If you’re used to bacon and eggs with buttered toast, your plate is pretty sad without animal products. But there are so many delicious, cruelty-free ways to start the day!
The other concern many folks have when cutting out animal products is that they’ll fall short on their protein needs. Before we get to the delicious, protein-packed vegan breakfasts, let’s take a look at protein needs and some tricks for adding more protein to your breakfasts.
How much protein do we need?
I often hear concerns that it’s hard to get enough protein on a vegan diet, but chances are, if you’re eating a diet heavy in animal foods, you’re actually getting too much protein. There’s a growing body of evidence that overdoing it on protein can actually contribute to chronic disease, like heart disease and even cancer.
To calculate your protein needs, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends using this formula to calculate your daily protein needs:
Body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams)
So, a person who weighs 150 pounds needs 54 grams of protein (150 x .36) per day. You may need a bit more or a bit less, depending on your body and your activity level, so that number is more a ballpark than an exact figure. The average American eats three to five times more protein than needed.
You don’t need to count grams of protein on a vegan diet, though, any more than you do on an omnivore diet. Just make sure you’re including a couple of protein sources at each meal, and you’ll be in good shape. I’ve been vegan for over a decade, and the only time I tracked my protein intake was during my pregnancy.
Tricks for Adding Plant Protein to Your Morning
Going vegan isn’t about simply taking things off of the menu—it’s about replacing things you used to eat with new, plant-based alternatives. And those alternatives can be just as protein-rich as animal based foods. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Add nuts or seeds to your hot or cold cereal.
- Try nut or seed butters in your morning smoothie, mixed into your oatmeal or spread onto your toast.
- Choose high protein vegan milks, if you’re replacing animal milk, soy and hemp milks are both good choices. Most almond milks are not good protein sources, but some smaller companies are now offering almond milks that rely on almonds rather than thickeners, for their bulk. Those tend to have more protein, so read those labels!
- Go whole grain. Whole grains provide more protein than refined grains. In fact, a cup of oatmeal contains almost twice as much protein as an egg. (11g versus 6g)
A Note about Soy
Soy gets an undeserved bad rep as an unhealthy food, but whole soy foods aren’t something to fear! If you’re worried about soy, I encourage you to read this informative piece on the truth about soy by Tanya Sitton. Alisa Fleming at Go Dairy Free also tackled the question of soy and health.
Highly processed soy ingredients like soy protein isolates are not good for us, but neither are many other processed food additives. Soy isn’t the issue, it’s what’s done to it in a lab.
Many whole soy foods—like soy milk, soy sauce, tofu and tempeh—are minimally processed. I’ve made soy milk at home before. There’s a lot of boiling and straining, but that’s about it. I’ve also made tofu at home. Making tofu is basically like making cottage cheese. You take additive-free soy milk (like Westsoy), add an acid to curdle it, and press out the excess water.
Whole soy foods are perfectly safe to eat and provide protein, vitamins and minerals. My son’s pediatrician recommended I give him two servings of soy per day at his one-year checkup. He’s now three-and-a-half, and growing like a weed.
Vegan Breakfasts with a Side of Protein
I haven’t calculated the protein content of these breakfasts, because it’s really not necessary. Each one contains at least two protein sources.
1. Teff Bowl – Teff is an ancient whole grain that is rich in protein. Use it to make a savory breakfast bowl if you’re tired of oatmeal.
2. Tofu Rancheros – Tofu and beans are the protein stars of this delicious vegan breakfast. If you’re worried about soy, check out the soy section above.
3. Millet and Veggie Breakfast Tacos – Are you crazy for tacos, like I am? Start the day with these vegan, protein-rich breakfast tacos!
4. Mexican Breakfast Burritos – These breakfast burritos are packed with chickpeas. Choose a whole grain wrap if you want to add even more protein to this recipe.
5. Breakfast Kale Salad – Kale, tofu, tempeh and cashew sauce all contribute protein to this healthy bowl of comfort.
8. Salted Caramel Smoothie – Soy milk and cashew butter deliver a protein wallop in this shockingly healthy breakfast smoothie.
9. Salted Caramel Granola – Sarah’s decadent breakfast bowl gets its protein from sun butter and oats.
10. Crunchy Quinoa Cereal – This is basically granola made with quinoa instead of rolled oats, and it’s a stellar quickie breakfast to have on hand.
11. Superfood Breakfast Bars – Florian’s whole grain breakfast bars are great to have on hand when you’re grabbing breakfast on the way out the door.
12. Hemp Power Protein Smoothie – Hemp, flax and tahini all contribute plant protein to this yummy smoothie.
13. Vegan Omelette with Asparagus and Vegan Cheese – This is another chickpea flour omelette that’s packed with protein. And this one includes rich and creamy cashew cheese!
14. Chia Pancakes – Dreena’s fluffy pancakes feature chia seeds and whole grains for plenty of morning protein.
15. ‘Nutella’ Chia Pudding – You will not believe that this decadent vegan breakfast is packed with protein, but hazelnuts and chia seeds get the job done deliciously.
16. Mediterranean Tofu Scramble – You only need eight ingredients to make this tofu-riffic breakfast scramble!
Image Credits: All images via recipe authors, used with permission.