Power your weight loss strategy with protein-rich foods
It’s that time of year again! The post-holiday dieting frenzy is in high gear in response to concerns about those extra pounds gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Do you know that 28% of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions revolve around losing weight? In their effort to cut calories, many dieters focus on foods to exclude, rather than foods to include in their diets. Calorie-reduced diets rich in high-quality protein are gaining scientific support as a strategy to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
Potential ways protein beneficially affects body weight include:
- Inducing satiety or a feeling of fullness after or between meals.
- Increasing the energy needed for digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing nutrients.
- Improving body composition by increasing fat loss and maintaining or increasing lean muscle mass. While reducing calories alone can lead to weight loss, the weight lost often includes both fat and lean muscle mass. Maintaining lean muscle mass helps burn more calories, which is important for preventing weight regain.
More protein. Individuals following calorie-reduced diets to manage their weight may need to moderately increase their consumption of dietary protein. To optimize the body’s use of protein, some experts recommend evenly spacing protein intake throughout the day, for example, 20 to 30 g of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Americans typically eat a small amount of protein at breakfast, moderate amounts at lunch, and the largest amount at dinner.
Food sources of protein. People can choose from a variety of food sources of protein, including low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products (yogurt, cheese), lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Foods differ in the amount and quality of protein they provide. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are naturally good to excellent sources of high-quality protein. High-quality proteins contain all the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein, that cannot be made by the body, and are easily digested. Studies have shown that dairy protein and whey protein, a high-quality dairy protein, play a beneficial role in weight management. Dairy foods not only provide protein, but also several key nutrients that many consumers fail to get enough of, including more than half of their daily intake of calcium and vitamin D, for only 10 percent of daily calories.
Tips to boost your dairy protein intake.
- Read food labels for protein content. One cup (8 ounces) of cow’s milk or yogurt contains 8 to 10 g of protein, the specific amount listed on the label. Be aware that not all “milks” are the same when it comes to providing protein. For example, almond “milk” has only 1 g of protein per 8 ounce serving compared to a similar size serving of cow’s milk which contains 8 to 10 g. The protein content is higher for a serving of Greek yogurt than regular yogurt and for cottage cheese than Cheddar cheese. Also check the label for the calorie content of protein foods to find those that best fit within with your calorie goals.
- Try new recipes that include protein-rich dairy foods. To help boost high-quality protein intake at breakfast – a meal typically lower in protein than other meals – try this quick and easy Morning Power Muffins recipe. Each muffin provides 12 g of protein, along with other essential nutrients, at only 237 calories. Add a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk (8 g protein) – some to your cereal and some to your coffee or tea – and you’re already at 20 g of protein for this breakfast meal.