All teens can benefit from eating breakfast. Breakfast for teenagers can be a touchy area for parents, though. As a parent, you know that breakfast is a key to healthy eating and staying full throughout the morning.
Yet, many teens are flying out the door in the morning empty-handed. Well, let’s reverse that trend.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why a healthy breakfast for teens is important
- How much protein your teen needs
- How to add more protein to your teen’s breakfast so he can grow regulate his appetite, and build muscle
- 8 different high protein, healthy breakfast ideas for teens
The Benefits of a Healthy, Hearty Breakfast
It can be really hard to get teens to eat breakfast, let alone a high protein one.
They say no. Run out the door. Have no time for it. Or, they aren’t hungry.
The excuses go on and on.
Of course you know the positive benefits of breakfast, in general.
These have been touted for years: Better attention and focus in school, higher academic scores, improved appetite control, better blood sugar control throughout the day, and a healthy body weight.
It turns out that paying a little more attention to the protein content of your teen’s breakfast is the big reason for these benefits. Offering a healthy breakfast, including protein foods could do your teen some good.Paying more attention to the protein content of your teen's breakfast could have benefits on appetite regulation and weight. #poweredbyprotein ##healthybreakfast #feedingteens Click To Tweet
Protein at Breakfast and Body Weight
Researchers from the University of Missouri suggest breakfast for teenagers focus on a high protein content, specifically containing around 30 grams of protein. This “dosage” has been found to improve blood sugar control, slow fat gain, and encourage a healthy body weight.
This may be particularly helpful for teens who carry extra weight.
Personally, I encourage my own teens and the teens I work with to target a protein source in their breakfast every day.
I teach them to plan the high protein food first, then work in the other food groups such as fruit, grains and dairy.
You can read more about my meal planning strategy for kids in my article, Balanced Meal Plans for Kids.
This way, a protein-packed breakfast is always prioritized.
[Listen to my interview with Heather Leidy, the lead researcher on protein-containing breakfasts for teens.]
How Much Protein Does a Teenager Need?
Teenagers need about 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Teens can have a high protein breakfast, but you don’t want to go super high with this nutrient.
For one, it can cause extra, unwanted weight gain. Protein does have calories, after all!
Can Young Children Eat a High Protein Breakfast?
For toddlers and children, you won’t want to go this high with protein. However, a source of protein incorporated into breakfast is a good idea.
Kids and toddlers need around the same amount of protein per pound as teens. (Unless the teen is an athlete which means he or she may need a bit more.)
For example, a 30# toddler would need about 15 grams of protein per day at a minimum.
Although younger children don’t benefit from as much protein at breakfast as teens do, I still take the same approach to planning this meal.
Select the protein food first, then round out with other food groups.
One important thing to remember when including protein in a younger child’s breakfast or any other meal: They require less protein overall due to their smaller body size, so don’t go overboard.
When you overshoot protein in a young child, you may increase the risk of dehydration and this can hurt the developing organs. You’ll be okay if you keep portions small!
Which Foods are High in Protein?
There are several quality protein foods you can focus on in the morning, some of which may or may not appeal to your teen:
- beans, lentils and soybeans
- milk and soy milk
- Greek yogurt and regular yogurt
- cheese and cottage cheese
- nuts and nut butters
8 Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Teens with Protein
There are many ways you can include protein in breakfast for teenagers. In addition to the protein foods listed above, getting creative with combinations of foods and rotating through different ones during the week can keep your teen interested in eating them.
I’ve got 8 tasty options below:
1. Easy Egg Sandwich
This recipe calls for one egg, but it’s easy to bump up the protein by doubling the egg, the cheese, or the ham.
Of course, you could always serve it with a glass of milk, too.
Your teen will get about 28 grams of protein!
2. Easy on the Go Breakfast Idea: Bento Box
I thought this bento box idea was a cute one from Shape.com. What teen isn’t on the go or running late in the morning? I think this could be a perfect solution.
Place one large hard-boiled egg, 1/4 cup almonds, 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese topped with 1/2 cup berries, and 4 whole-grain crackers in a bento box or other re-sealable container for a protein-packed breakfast that’s around 450 calories and 31 grams of protein.
Get the specifics on how to make this bento box here.
3. Unique Breakfast Idea: Breakfast Tacos
I love tacos and many teens do too. Here’s a breakfast recipe for tacos I think any teen would enjoy (plus it’s packed with protein and fiber!):
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
2 6-inch corn tortillas, heated
4 teaspoons prepared salsa
Scramble the eggs in a pan. Divide and load them into the corn tortillas; top with cheese, beans and salsa. Here’s the recipe from the Eating Well website.
This breakfast will provide 32 grams of protein.
4. Easy Breakfast Foods: Apple Walnut Oatmeal + Milk
I borrowed this one from U.S. News & World Report blogger, Melinda Johnson, who is a contributor for Eat + Run.
Cook 3/4 cups of dry oatmeal with 1 and 1/4 cup of skim milk, and add 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, plus 1 chopped apple. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with honey. Total: 24 grams of protein.
Round out this meal with a glass of milk to meet the protein target of 32 grams.
5. Simple Breakfast Idea: Nut & Berry Parfait
If you’ve got a yogurt lover, give this one a try! It’s one of the breakfasts we eat a lot in my house because it’s so flexible. You can use any flavor of yogurt, vary the fruit and sub in nuts or granola.
Layer ingredients, beginning with yogurt, and ending with honey on top.
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted if desired
2 teaspoons honey
You’ll get 30 grams of protein from this one!
6. Fast Breakfast: Peanut Butter Toast with a Glass of Milk
Swipe each whole grain slice of toast with 1 ½ tablespoons of peanut butter. Serve with a 12-ounce glass of low fat milk.
Bonus: add a sliced banana on top for more fiber. Fill up with 28 grams of protein.
7. Portable Overnight Oats
A twist on the classic lunchbox sandwich! Place oats and milk in a mason jar and leave in refrigerator overnight.
Stir in peanut butter, top with banana slices and chopped peanuts.
½ cup of oats
1 cup of low fat milk or soy milk
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
1 ounce of chopped peanuts
1 small banana
You’ll get 32 grams of protein from this one.
8. Cottage Cheese and Blueberry Parfait
Instead of layering with yogurt, use cottage cheese instead! You’ll get a whopping 35 grams of protein.
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
½ cup of blueberries
½ cup high protein granola such as KIND, Nature Valley, or Bear Naked.
A Healthy Breakfast Habit Starts Young
While these may not be as high in protein as the ideas listed above, they all have a protein source to offer up similar benefits on fullness and appetite regulation.
Last, don’t forget that the way you serve breakfast to children can influence how well they eat it.
I love the “family-style” approach to meals and this includes breakfast, too.
In a nutshell, you set the menu, your child chooses from the options you’ve planned.
What are your favorite healthy breakfast ideas for teens?
Protein Rich Breakfast for Teens: Need More Ideas?
This guide gives more healthy ideas for the teenager and athlete breakfast. It’s good for the whole family, too.
This post was originally published in 2015 | Updated September 2020.