These are the Six Ways to Add More Protein to This Popular Breakfast
Warm, filling, infinitely customisable, cheap, and easy to keep in the pantry, oatmeal wins breakfast – no matter the season. Not to mention that it also contains a unique cocktail of nutrients that make it one of the healthiest foods for your heart, says Karen Ansel R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods For Anti-Ageing: Stay Younger, Live Longer.
In fact, two heart-healthy highlights of oatmeal include beta glucan, a unique fibre that whisks cholesterol out of your body, as well as antioxidants known as avenanthramides, which help lower blood pressure, she says.
But one thing the superfood is not super packed with? Protein. (At 5 grams of protein per serving on its own, it could use a boost.) Here, our favourite nutritionists share the best ways to add the muscle-building macronutrient to your morning bowl of oats.
1. Nut butters
“One tablespoon of peanut butter adds 4.5 grams of protein, two tablespoons adds 9 grams, and any of the other nut butters add a similar amount as well,” says nutritionist and trainer Rande Bryzelak, R.D. and president of Nutrifitness.
Once you’ve added the nut butter, try topping with fresh fruit to add natural sweetness without processed sugars.
“If you add milk, it’s about an additional 8 grams per serving,” says Bryzelak. “Not doing dairy? Soy provides 6 or 7 additional grams.”
Ansel likes to whisk in a dollop of cottage or ricotta cheese at the end for creaminess, or top it with Greek yogurt, chopped pears, pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup for an additional 4 to 10 grams of protein.
“Unfortunately, other alternative milks such as almond and coconut milk don’t have a lot of protein,” says Bryzelak.
If you’re a crunch lover, you can add a tablespoon or two of nuts or seeds instead of a creamy nut butter for an additional 5 grams of protein, says physician-nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, M.D. and author of Spice Up, Slim Down.
Pepitas or dried sunflower seeds and dried cranberries are a nice variation on good old raisins and peanuts. Get creative with hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and walnuts.
Your morning oatmeal doesn’t have to be sweet. “Go savoury and add shredded spinach or kale,” says Ansel. “Stir in some grated parmesan and top it with a sunny-side up egg for an additional 6 grams of protein per egg,” says Ansel.
Then add any toppings you would add to an omelette: chives, smoked salmon (for more protein), or sautéed peppers, mushrooms, or onions, and a little grated cheese (also a protein bonus) of your choice can elevate your oatmeal from breakfast to lunch or dinner.
5. Whole grains
“Try making your hot porridge with a higher-protein grain such as quinoa, spelt, or amaranth, either blended with your oats or alone,” says Ansel. Cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup, spelt has 11 grams, and amaranth has 9.
Follow the package directions for cooking and treat the finished grains how you would your normal oatmeal with your favourite toppings and spices.
6. Protein powder
Obviously, an easy way to add protein to practically anything is stirring in a scoop of protein powder. Experts agree that you can pick the one you like best – whey, egg, pea– just make sure it’s made with real-food ingredients and doesn’t have a lot of additives or fillers.
“My main tip is to dissolve the powder in a little liquid before putting it in your oatmeal, otherwise it is harder to mix in and may get clumpy,” says Dr. Jampolis. A scoop of whey protein, for example, generally has about 25 to 30 grams of protein.