Keep reading to see which alt-milks get the stamp of approval from Brooklyn–based dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RDN. But first: a friendly reminder of why it’s always a good idea to start your day with plenty of protein.
The importance of a protein-rich breakfast
“Protein is a vital macronutrient for life. It plays many important roles in the body, including regulating metabolism, facilitating cellular repair, and enabling almost any reaction that is taking place within the body,” Pasquariello says. Of course, it’s essential to consume enough protein on a daily basis—but getting a solid fix of protein during your first meal of the day is particularly beneficial for a few reasons.
She notes that many popular breakfast foods in America—think toast, pastries, and cereal—are richer in carbs and sugar, and less so in protein. If you rely on these types of foods for breakfast, “You may notice that your energy is waning, you feel super hungry, and your focus and concentration have diminished by midday,” Pasquariello says. Once you add more protein to the mix, you have a much better chance of bypassing these side effects.
Next, Pasquariello says that you’ll absolutely want to enrich your breakfast with more protein if you work out in the morning. “Having some protein to refuel afterward—even if it’s an hour or two later—will help your body recover and facilitate muscular repair,” she explains.
The dietitian then shares a few additional benefits of protein consuming at breakfast, which include:
- Better hormonal and neural regulation of appetite
- Making healthier food choices throughout the day
- Enhancing diet-induced thermogenesis
- Improvements in blood pressure
The highest protein milk alternatives to add to your coffee
If you’re relatively new to the ever-growing world of alt-milk, there are a few key FYIs specific to protein you’ll need to know. “Typically, folks will have to seek out alt-milks with added protein to approach the protein content seen in regular dairy,” Pasquariello says. Also, the protein content in alt-milks tend to vary by brand—so you’ll likely find discrepancies from, say, one selection of almond milk to the next. (With that said, she notes that soy milk offers the most protein at an average of four to eight grams of protein per cup. Meanwhile, almond milk offers two to four grams, oat milk one to four grams, and hemp milk around two grams.)
To make things easier for your grocery haul, Pasquariello prefers to share specific brand recommendations. Her top protein-rich alt-milks for coffee include:
Tip: Super committed to upping your protein intake with alt-milk? Pasquariello advises opting for one that includes pea protein, no matter what the brand is, “as this will help bring the protein content to around eight to ten grams per serving.”
Additional ways to boost protein intake with alt-milk
Though adding protein-rich alt-milk to your coffee is a great idea, it’ll only get you so far if you’re tossing in a splash or two per cup (versus using it as a base for a latte). To make your alt-milk go the extra mile and to rev up your morning protein intake with ease, Pasquariello offers a few helpful hacks.
“So many of my breakfasts revolve around adding milk—e.g., smoothies, granola bowls, chia pudding, overnight oats, muesli, and scrambled eggs—so I add high-protein non-dairy milk wherever I can,” says Pasquariello. Depending on which healthy breakfast option (and alt-milk) you choose, she says you can anticipate getting in at least 15 grams of protein—and even more if your brekkie includes the likes of grains, nuts, and seeds. When enjoyed alongside a protein-rich alt-milk latte, you’ll be in good shape to hit 25 to 30 grams of protein, which she says is a great goal to aim for for breakfast.
Finally, if you’re crunched for time or on the go, Pasquariello advises opting for a non-dairy, high-protein coffee shake. Her vote (and mine too, FWIW) goes to Cold Brew Coffee by OWYN, which packs 20 grams of protein, 535 grams of omega-3s, and 148 milligrams of caffeine.