What image comes to mind when you hear the adage “Breakfast of Champions?” My husband’s reply was similar to many of our middle-aged friends: An amazing athlete eating a heaping bowl of flaked cereal.
The quintessential healthful breakfast is changing. While boxed cereals made their debut during World War II, dietitians and consumers alike are learning we’ve been missing the “antiaging boat” with our breakfast choices. Review of the literature and my own global longevity research supports a change to include dosing our protein throughout the day. Ingestion of approximately 25 to 30 g protein per meal maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in older individuals and can reduce the risks of sarcopenia. Research shows that muscle protein synthesis decreases when less than 20 g protein per meal are consumed. Centenarians interviewed during my qualitative research project conducted last year in Italy, Singapore, Japan, and the United States confirmed the benefits of a life-long habit of eating substantial protein at breakfast.
Since a typical American breakfast usually is lower in protein, how do we teach our clients to consume 25 to 30 g at this meal? The answer may be in a breakfast bake. Clients can make it ahead of time, cut it into individual portions, bring it to Sunday brunch, or freeze and reheat it.
Consider these hearty protein additions when counseling clients, several of which are featured in the example recipe below:
- beans (whole or refried);
- tofu or tempeh;
- wheat germ;
- nuts and seeds;
- fish (eg, salmon, tuna, or light flavored fish);
- ground chicken, turkey, buffalo, or other lean meat
- eggs and egg substitutes;
- plain Greek yogurt;
- nonfat dry milk powder;
- whey protein;
- cottage cheese;
- edamame; or
Whether you’re counseling an Olympic gymnast or a casual walker, the breakfast of champions should include a hefty dose of protein. So, unlike my husband’s description, my 17-year-old daughter says the breakfast of champions is, “breakfast I should eat to do really well in soccer today—like eggs, Greek yogurt with berries, and peanut butter toast.” Maybe she is listening!
Mediterranean Breakfast Bake
1 cup cooked potatoes or thawed (not frozen hash browns)
1 cup cooked beans of choice (pinto, black, soybeans, fava)
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 cup chopped spinach or arugula
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (variety of color is nice)
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups Egg Beaters (or equivalent) or 10 large eggs
1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned drained stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped basil, rosemary, oregano, and thyme, or 1 T Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes, if desired
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly spray 9 X 9-in square baking dish. Add the potatoes and beans to the bottom and set aside.
2. Gently sauté onions and garlic in olive oil on stovetop. Add chopped greens, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms, and sauté for approximately 5 minutes or until they start to soften. Add vegetable mix to potatoes and beans.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs. Add tomatoes, herbs or Italian seasoning, chili pepper flakes, wheat germ, Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese, and salt and pepper, and mix lightly. Pour mixture over vegetables and beans. Top with grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, and shredded cheese of choice. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Cut into six pieces and serve with fresh arugula, olives, or basil garnish.
Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 295; Total carbohydrate: 26 g; Total fat: 9 g; Protein: 27 g; Sodium varies based on products used and salt added.
— Sue Linja, RDN, LD, is cofounder, officer, and president of S&S Nutrition Network, Inc, a company that provides geriatrics nutrition services to skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, psychiatric homes, assisted living, and other health care entities. She’s also a sought-after speaker on various nutrition and aging topics.