5 Not-So-Sneaky Ways to Get More Protein into Your Day
Protein continues to be the buzz-worthy nutrient in 2016, and for good reason! Research continues to support the important role protein plays in our diets.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate point out that variety is key when it comes to protein foods. This includes lean meat and poultry, non-fat and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, seafood, eggs, beans and legumes. While you might think of protein in terms of a piece of grilled chicken or a bowl of lentil soup, there are a few tricks to get more protein into your day without much effort! Here’s how:
- Serve milk at meals and with snacks. Milk, and other dairy products are considered complete, high-quality sources of protein that provide the full package of essential amino acids our bodies need to promote muscle growth and improve weight management. Plant proteins, such as grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are incomplete proteins, and do not provide that optimal mix of amino acids. So if you are eating more plant proteins at meals, consider adding a glass of milk to enhance the protein quality.
- Stock your pantry with a variety of canned beans. Black beans and pinto beans make a great addition to any salad, soup, or chili. They also make a great filling for tacos or other ethnic-inspired dishes. Just be sure to watch your serving size, as a ½ cup of black beans is about 350 calories on average.
- Vary your mealtime routine with eggs. In other words, eggs aren’t just for breakfast! Consider preparing and refrigerating hard boiled eggs to eat as a snack or chop in a salad for lunch. An egg, cheese, and veggie scramble takes about 10 minutes to cook and makes a filling, protein-packed dinner option for any busy weeknight.
- Top your favorite veggie-packed meals with shredded cheese. If beans, legumes, or whole grains are the star of your meal, consider finishing off your meal with a ½ cup of reduced-fat shredded cheese. This trick works great when topping casseroles, soups, stews, pizzas, and salads. By adding an extra ounce or two of cheese, you are ensuring that high-quality protein AND great taste accompanies your meal. Chances are you’ll feel more satisfied once you are done eating too!
- Keep packaged protein-rich snacks on hand for convenience. This includes, prepackaged and portioned out nuts, seeds, yogurt, and cheese. I find that prepackaged snacks help prevent overeating and curb overindulging in calories. Just remember, with nuts and seeds [like beans and other legumes], a small serving goes a long way calorie-wise. If you’re looking to get more calorie-bang for your nutrition-buck, consider snacking on cheese sticks and yogurt cups for a protein-rich snack.
From weight loss, to weight management and muscle strength, the amount and type of protein matters. As you search for the best way to improve your health and satisfy your appetite, simply re-think protein’s place on your plate and in your diet.