25 Ways to Up Your Protein Game
By Lauren Finney
Think outside the "add grilled chicken" box.
If there's one thing that can help you eat less and increase the chance you'll lose weight in turn, it's eating more protein. Protein has been shown to help keep you fuller longer, speed up your metabolism, and even help build muscle more efficiently.
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 25 ideas will show you how to increase the amount of daily protein you're eating without totally disrupting your routine. And to get all your protein questions answered, then bookmark Your Ultimate Guide to Protein.
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. Wondering which eggs to buy? Cage-free, farm-fresh, organic…? We decipher what's what in our report on 26 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Carton of Eggs !
Add a handful of pecans to a salad
Nuts are not only a great crunch element to add to salads, entrees, and desserts, but they're also packed with protein and antioxidants. Pecans, in particular, have a ton of magnesium, which aid in digestion; they're filling and cleansing at the same time.
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. And speaking of adding stuff to soups, avoid these 20 Worst Ingredients to Put Into Your Soup!
Add quinoa and black beans to homemade veggie burgers
Move over, beef burgers; veggie burgers with quinoa and black beans are packed with fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties. No, you won't get that juicy, beefy taste, but you might be pleasantly surprised by how much better you feel afterward. If you're feeling a little nervous about making your own patties, then start by scoping out our guide to the 32 Best and Worst Veggie Burgers.
Add hummus to a sandwich
Forget the fattening mayonnaise and cheese; you can satisfy your need for something super creamy by spreading hummus on your sandwich instead. The chickpeas in your hummus are packed full of protein, and the flavorful herbs and garlic can be added to give your sandwich some zing—without the grease and fat. To make your own hummus at home, check out our 11 Tips for Making the Perfect Homemade Hummus!
Top stir fried veggies with chopped almonds
Vegetables themselves do contain some protein, but why not gild the lily by adding chopped almonds to an Asian-inspired stir fry? Opt for slivered and unsalted to control your sodium intake and not to overdo it on the good fats.
Swap ricotta cheese for cottage cheese
Yes, ricotta cheese has protein—a half a cup has about 14 grams—but it also has a ton of fat (which is why it tastes so good). Swap ricotta for cottage cheese in cold dips for about the same amount of protein with fewer calories and less fat.
Add pepitas to your hummus
Pepitas, also known as roasted pumpkin seeds, are a delicious way to increase your protein intake in hummus (which already has a decent amount). You can whip them in with a food processor, or you can just sprinkle them on top for a crunchy topping. For more awesome toppings to throw on your oatmeal, hummus, and yogurt, scope out these 30 Healthy Toppings for Weight Loss!
Sneak in flavorless protein powders
It's time to go beyond only using your protein powders for post-workout shakes. You can sneak flavorless protein powders into things like salad dressings, oatmeals and more! To cook with protein powder, you can even add it to things like brownies and mashed potatoes.
Snack on a hardboiled egg
If you want a meaty, creamy, and filling snack on the go, grab a hard-boiled egg. There are six grams of protein in each egg (eat the yolk!), and you can add flavor simply through spices, herbs, and hot sauces.
Substitute fatty lunch meats for lean ones
Put away the fatty and sodium-filled deli meats like salami, ham, and roast beef. Instead, swap them out for low-sodium turkey and canned tuna, both of which are extremely rich in protein and will keep you full way past the 3 p.m. afternoon slump. Salty deli meats can also make you puff up; bookmark these 42 Foods to Deflate Your Belly Bloat for some quick fixes you can eat!
Sprinkle salad with nutritional yeast
A nice alternative to cheese, nutritional yeast (nicknamed "nooch") has six grams of protein per serving, compared to about two grams of protein in parmesan cheese. You can also use it to top popcorn and other snacks where you'd like a cheesy yet protein-filled boost.
Top sweet treats with macadamia nuts
If you're craving something sweet and know you're going to indulge no matter what, try adding a quick handful of protein like macadamia nuts to your brownie or cookie to help get you some sort of filling protein with your sugar rush.
Add tahini to salad dressings
Tahini, made from sesame paste, is a great substitute for oil in salad dressings because it includes two grams of protein per serving (compared to olive oil's zero grams per serving). Use lemon juice as an acid and just a smidge of oil to get the dressing going, and then add things like mustard, herbs, and spices to customize your flavoring.
Add ancient grains like amaranth to your salads
Quinoa is amazing, but it can also get boring quickly. Add another ancient grain, like amaranth, to your salads to switch it up a bit. Amaranth is gluten-free like quinoa, packed with protein and fiber, and has a nutty-but-mild taste that will complement your greens.
Swirl nut butter into your oatmeal
Oatmeal is a great breakfast option, but it can often get boring. Add an extra helping of protein to your morning bowl with a tablespoon or two of nut butter, which will keep you full until lunchtime. And if you're an oats lover, then be sure to try making overnight oats, too!
Use a pesto with pine nuts and tree nuts
Pine nuts, traditionally used in pestos, have about 9 grams of protein per half a cup, which is a great option for spreads on sandwiches and for quinoa pastas. But if you add a handful of tree nuts such as almonds or walnuts to your pine nut pesto, you can almost double the amount of protein you're getting!
Use chia seeds in puddings and baking
If you're going vegan, did you know that you can swap out eggs for chia seeds and water in your baking? They have about five grams of protein per ounce and will make your baked goods and puddings creamy and delicious. For more smart swaps, these 25 Healthy Ingredient Swaps for Baking will blow your mind!
Add peas to your meals
Many vegetables have protein, but green peas have about eight grams of protein per cup. You can add them to stews and soups or even blend them into dips and hummus for an added vegetable-based protein boost. Also consider pea protein, if you are looking for a plant-based protein powder.
Add tofu as a smoothie and shake thickener
Tofu doesn't have to just be scrambled into a stir fry—you can use it as a thickener in shakes and smoothies, as well as a base for dips and soups. A half a cup of the stuff will give you 10 grams of excellent, flavorless protein, but make sure to choose a tofu that doesn't use the coagulating agent magnesium sulfate, which has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Tofus that use nigari salts, lushui, or clean sea water as a coagulating agent are safer choices. Once you found that better-for-you product, find your new favorite shake recipe with this list of 23 Best Protein Shake Recipes!
Try one of those new meat snacks
Yes, meat snacks are a thing—and we're not just talking about those rubbery beef jerky sticks from the gas station. Tons of new options are popping up and many of them are seriously impressive, thanks to their omega-3, vitamin B12, and iron levels that all come in a portable package. These are the 14 Best Protein-Packed Meat Snacks that we approve of—because, no, Slim Jims definitely don't count.
Bake a Potato
We talked about peas earlier, but a regular ol' russet potato also has a surprising 8 grams of protein per large spud; it's kinda nice to know that the starch isn't nearly as bad for you as you may think, right? Just don't ruin it with a bunch of cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits.
Swap your bread slice for Ezekiel bread
Confession: We're diehard fans of Ezekiel Bread. So much so that we even wrote about the 15 Reasons People Are Obsessed with Ezekiel Bread—and no, they didn't pay us to do so. Among the many benefits of these sprouted slices, there are 4 grams of protein per slice—meaning you'll score 8 grams with a sandwich. It's literally better than any other sliced bread.
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