Protein has been shown to help keep you fuller longer, speed up your metabolism, and even help build muscle more efficiently.
Each meal should be based on protein, whereby you consume at least 20 to 30 grams of protein.
Use the Food Swap Guide to help you pick out different proteins and how much to eat, generally 4 oz is a good place to start.
Add some protein and a healthy fat like avocado or an oil-based dressing (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil) to a salad.
Adding protein, either animal based or plant based, will keep you full longer than just a salad with veggies.
Your body will absorb more nutrients from the vegetables when you add a little bit of fat rather than using a fat-free dressing, which also may be stripped of other nutrients
If you prep lunches for the workweek, add one small step into your routine to rack up even more grams of protein.
You can prepare and cook extra portions of a lean protein like chicken or fish and keep it stored in the refrigerator to add to meals throughout the week.
But we know that it can feel like a challenge to incorporate protein seamlessly into your diet; there are only so many turkey sandwiches one can eat!
The following ideas will show you how to increase the amount of daily protein you’re eating without totally disrupting your routine:
Swap Regular Yogurt for Greek Yogurt
Regular yogurt often has tons of additives and hidden sugar—especially the flavored ones—but plain Greek yogurt can have up to almost 20 grams of protein per serving.
Look for varieties with little to no sugar for an afternoon snack or a great way to jumpstart your morning.
Choose Eggs Over Cereal
Cereal servings are often much smaller than a traditional bowl’s size, leading to overeating with very little protein.
Swap your cereal for eggs—hard-boiled, soft scrambled, or however you like them—for a fat-burning and delicious meal.
If you’re craving something earthy and sweet, add sweet peppers and root vegetables and double down on toppings like herbs and hot sauce that will only cost you a few calories.
Choose Low-fat Cheese Instead of Junk Food
If you’re looking for something creamy and satisfying that feels indulgent, grab a cheese stick instead of cheesy chips or other junk.
Low-fat string cheese comes in at under 200 calories per serving with all the protein you’d get from a glass of milk. (A cup of low-fat milk has about eight grams of protein.) Plus, it’s fun to eat!
Add Lentils to Your Soup
If you’re looking for a way to increase the protein in your broth-based soups, try adding lentils.
A longtime staple for vegetarians looking for alternative sources of protein, lentils can completely fill you up with very little effort.
A handful of lentils can be subbed in for noodles, rice, or anything else starchy.
Add Beans to Anything
Your vegan friends are onto something when they rave about how much they love creating culinary concoctions out of good 'ole simple beans.
Add garbanzo beans, white beans, lentils, kidney beans, or black beans to meals like salads, soups, or pastas.
Beans are full of fiber and average around 15 grams of protein per cup.
As a bonus, eating beans blasts fat and curbs cravings so you can lose weight.
Choose Quinoa Over Rice or Pasta
Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids we need.
The seed (most people think it's a grain) is packed with about 8 grams of protein per cup.
Swap quinoa for rice or pasta, or, add it to soups, salads, or even muffins and pancakes for extra nutritional value.
Considering how many meals are better with a base, swapping your usual brown-rice habit for protein-packed quinoa will add a good chunk of protein to your diet.
Make DIY Trail Mix
Instead of purchasing a packaged snack pack that likely has tons of additives (looking at you sneaky sugar!), make it a DIY project!
Get your own favorite mix of nuts, seeds, and all the fun fixings.
I like walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate chips and unsweetened coconut flakes.
Nuts provide your daily dose of healthy fats, in addition to protein, and are filling and delicious to boot. (Just watch portions, as the calories add up quickly.)
Double Up on Fish
Especially if you're strapped for time or tend to only cook once in a blue moon, making larger portions is the way to go.
Preparing healthy fish in bulk makes it easy to make high-protein choices for several days.
Four ounces of salmon has 23 grams of protein, according to the USDA.
Sprinkle on Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is like the best kept secret of the vegetarian and vegan community.
One ounce of this flaky seasoning contains 14 grams of protein!
Nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavor and can be used to season anything from scrambled eggs to salad to pesto.
It's also an amazing source of B vitamins, doubling as a perfect vegan alternative for cheese.
Add nutritional yeast to just about anything to take your nutrition to the next level.
How You Feel
I find it highly beneficial to pay close attention to how you FEEL after you eat.
Notice which foods make you feel good and energized and which ones make you feel sluggish, bloated, gassy, tired, light-headed, give you brain fog after a short time, or leave you still feeling hungry.
Really try to tune in to which foods give you energy and which ones cause symptoms of any kind.
Every body is different. What works for some, may not work for you.
Many people are sensitive to something that can cause unnecessary side effects or reactions (bloating, gas, headaches, brain fog, etc.), so paying close attention to how you feel is key.
Foods that don’t agree with us can also cause inflammation, which can lead to a whole host of problems including weight gain.
Often people are eating very healthy but aren’t aware that something they’re eating may be the cause of their “feeling off.”
Just because a food is supposed to be healthy doesn’t mean it’s healthy for YOU, and your unique body.
By understanding this and realizing that each of us is one of a kind, it can be a huge eye-opener when you discover the foods that work for you…and those that don’t!
Add in protein and healthy fat to EACH meal.
Make note of how you feel after you eat food.
Check in with yourself and notice which foods make you feel good and energized and which ones make you feel sluggish, bloated, gassy, tired, light-headed, give you brain fog after a short time, or leave you still feeling hungry.