Did you know that eating lean protein with each meal can help you lose weight and sustain your weight loss achievements? Despite this fact, most people don’t consume enough protein in their daily diets, which means they miss out on its fat burning and lean mass building benefits.
Protein important for a number of reasons. First, it helps build and repair almost all of the tissues in the body. Protein is also the building block of many of the hormones that control key bodily processes – including the ones that make you feel happy and relaxed! Protein supports a healthy immune system, helping to fight off any illness that is trying to find a body to live in, and it also boosts your metabolism, which helps with fat loss and the sustaining of lean muscle. Most importantly, protein helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
You only need to consume a handful of protein to enjoy all of these benefits. It’s easy to make this a habit, but first you need to know which foods are a source of protein.
Foods with the highest amount of protein (between 15-20 grams per serving) are:
- Lean meats – beef, pork, lamb and wild game
- Poultry – chicken and turkey
- Seafood (shrimp, calamari, scallops) and fish
- Eggs and egg whites
- Cottage cheese
- Plain Greek yogurt (strained)
- Protein powder (including whey, egg, pea and other vegetarian blends)
- Cooked lentils or beans
- Tempeh or tofu
- Veggie burgers
Plants are also a great source of protein, so you can try many different combinations of protein-rich options to add to your diet. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll want to eat a cupped-handful portion of beans or lentils. This vegan protein chart can help you find ways to add protein to your diet. ( per 100 g serving)
Now that you know which foods provide protein, here are some ideas to help you work it into your everyday meals.
- Eggs aren’t just for breakfast. Omelets or frittatas can also be an excellent choice for lunch or dinner; you can enjoy some egg salad, or hard-boil some eggs for lunch or as a high-protein snack.
- Throw together a stir-fry for a protein-rich lunch or dinner. All you need are some veggies and the protein of your choice – meat/poultry/fish/seafood/tofu/tempeh. Toss them into a pan with some coconut oil, add your favourite seasonings and in just 10 minutes, you have a hearty, healthy meal with tons of protein. Change it up by adding some salsa and black beans to create a Mexican stir-fry!
- Pre-cook your protein by grilling it. Season it first with salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs and any low-sugar sauce. It takes the same amount of time to grill a couple of pieces as it does to grill many, so grill more than you need and keep the pre-cooked protein handy to save time later. This means you’ll always have healthy options available when you get home after a long day or need that quick meal and aren’t sure what to make.
- Wrap your protein. Pick a protein and your favourite veggies; select a sugar-free or low-sugar sauce, such as hummus, hot sauce, salsa or guacamole, and toss it all in a wrap! You can even wrap up all that yummy goodness in a lettuce leaf or collard greens.
- The idea of being hungry after you eat a salad doesn’t have to be true. Cut up a palm-size portion of protein – eggs or your favourite meat, etc. – and add it to your salad. A sprinkle of nuts can add crunch and an extra protein kick, too.
- Make soups, stews, curries and chili. This lets you have all of your veggies and protein in one meal. Cook these items in large batches, and you’ll have meals all week – you can even freeze portions to reheat, which is perfect for lunches or those nights when you forget to plan a meal or just don’t feel like cooking. Here’s an example of the protein content in a bowl of chili:
- 3oz ground beef = 21g of protein
- 1oz corn = 3g of protein
- ¼ cup black beans = 4g of protein
- 2ox avocado guacamole = 2g of protein
The total ‘blocks’ of protein in the single bowl of chili is 30g of protein.
- Shake it up! Everyone can enjoy protein shakes. This is a convenient way to get enough protein each day. You can make a shake into a complete meal in a glass by adding fruits and/or veggies to your shake. There are many versions (and flavours) of protein powders available, including whey isolate (made from milk) and vegan selections made from pea, hemp, flax seed, chia seeds and even brown rice.
Eating more protein will help stay satiated longer after meals, which will help you be able to lose more fat. It also helps you add more lean muscle mass, which is the process that creates that ‘toned’ look.
Here’s a handy dandy infographic to make it easy to add protein to your meals.
What are your favourite ways to incorporate protein into your meals and snacks? Please share in the comments!