Protein is essential for repairing muscles, and many people find that eating enough protein helps keep the appetite at bay. When most people think about protein, they naturally think about meat or the protein shakes that bodybuilders seem to love, but these aren’t the only players in the game. You can get protein from a variety of sources. By changing things up a bit, your diet becomes significantly more satisfying. Consider choosing from these excellent sources of protein each day.
Eating meat is probably the quickest way to get a big boost of natural protein, and it’s the main course in many meals.
Leaner meats like chicken and fish are a good choice when you’re trying to lose weight or watching your cholesterol, but it’s fine to eat some beef or pork occasionally.
If you’re looking for a little more variety in your diet, try making the meat a smaller part of the meal. For example, you could whip up a stir-fry that’s mostly vegetables with a few small pieces of meat. Serve that with brown rice and you have a very healthy meal.
Eggs used to get a bad rap as a factor that contributes to high cholesterol, but they’ve started to come back into favor. They’re small, easy to cook, and cost a bit less than meats.
Many people enjoy them for breakfast as an omelet or part of an egg sandwich, but a hard-boiled egg makes a good afternoon or late-night snack as well.
Try adding some veggies when you cook your eggs to boost fiber and vitamin count. Eggs can freeze well, so you could make a batch of “muffin omelets” or breakfast sandwiches to keep in the freezer. Then, you’ll have a something easy to grab on your way out of the door.
Not only does milk have the protein you want, but it also has the calcium you need to keep your bones strong. A small glass of milk alongside your meal is a healthy way to quench your thirst.
You could also use it in place of water when making oatmeal or a smoothie. While chocolate milk does have some extra calories that come from sugar, it can be a good post-workout drink, offering protein, calcium and some extra carbohydrates for energy.
Alternatively, throw a cup of milk, a scoop of protein powder and a few ice cubes into the blender and you’ll have yourself a healthy milkshake without the sugar from ice cream. Remember that skim milk has far fewer calories than whole milk, so making that choice is a good way to get the benefits of drinking milk without worrying about eating too many calories.
Perfectly portable, nuts are one of the easiest snacks to keep stashed in your bag for those times when you need to tide your hunger. Nuts can also add a bit of healthy crunch to salads or yogurt.
These days, they also come in many different flavors, which is a great way to get some variety when you’re bored of having the same old snack every day.
Just be wary of the sweeter flavors, as these often have a lot of added sugar, and remember that nuts are calorie-dense. A single serving size is the size of a small handful. Since they’re so small, nuts can be easy to overeat if you’re trying to cut back on calories.
Whether you’re looking for a healthy side dish for a sandwich or a protein-packed mid-day snack, edamame may be the answer for you. Simply boil them in the shell, then sprinkle with salt and enjoy them hot or cold.
Alternatively, if you take frozen edamame out of the freezer in the morning, it should thaw by lunchtime. Shelled edamame can also add a bit of vegetable protein to a salad or fried rice, so you don’t have to think of edamame as a vegetable that needs to be eaten on its own.
6. Protein powder
Protein powder is an easy solution for getting more protein into your day. You can pack a serving of the powder with you and mix it up with water anywhere you go.
It’s also a great addition to smoothies, and you can add a bit to pancakes or muffins as well.
If you’re looking for something sweet without breaking your diet, try mixing chocolate protein powder with a bit of peanut butter and a few drops of water to form a sticky paste. Put this into the microwave for about 10 or 15 seconds and you’ll have a small cookie.
Legumes are the staple protein in a vegetarian and with good reason. They’re inexpensive, easy to incorporate into recipes and have the fiber that meat doesn’t.
Beans can feature prominently in the main dish, such as chili or chana masala, but they can also be a fine addition to other dishes, like soups or salads.
Though dry beans are less expensive, it takes time to learn how to cook them properly. Canned beans are still a bargain and will be perfectly cooked and ready to add to your recipe. If you’re not a fan of the flavor or texture of beans, blending them before adding to a recipe can make them a bit more palatable. Switching a few of your weekly meals to bean-based vegetarian dishes can help you reduce your grocery bill as well.
Most people don’t think of the grains that they eat as being a significant source of protein, but they can be.
Quinoa, for example, has a fantastic nutty flavor and a lot of protein. You can use it in dishes where you might have used rice or couscous, and even use it in pancakes or other baked goods.
The wheat used for bread and pasta also has protein in it. When paired with foods like meat or cheese that also have protein, bread can up the protein count of the meal. You can even find varieties of pasta at the store that have additional protein. For example, a variety of pasta made by Barilla has 18 grams of protein per serving, yet tastes the same as regular pasta.
9. Yogurt and cheese
Like milk, yogurt and cheese offer essential calcium in addition to the protein they offer. A stick of string cheese or a small cup of yogurt make for great snacks, but can also be incorporated into many meals.
When it comes to yogurt, consider choosing a plain Greek yogurt, then sweetening it with fresh fruits and adding some nuts for extra protein and texture. Greek yogurt often has twice as much protein in it as ordinary yogurt, yet has a comparable calorie count.
Broccoli and other vegetables may not seem like an ideal source of protein, but on a per-calorie basis, broccoli actually has more protein than steak. Of course, there’s a big difference in volume when you’re comparing 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of steak.
Still, the protein count in your average vegetable is just another reason you should be sure to include them in your diet every day. Dip raw broccoli into a hummus dip or fill up your plate with some flavorful roasted broccoli alongside your chicken and rice at dinner.