Most people think protein is for hardcore bodybuilders or professional athletes but in reality, it’s the magic maker of the macronutrients. Not only does it aid in lean muscle gain and fat loss, but it also supports your metabolism and the stability of your blood sugar (aka helps keep you from reaching for the office cookie jar mid-afternoon slump).
When you’re not eating enough protein, your body actually starts to break down muscle and other tissues to get the amino acids it needs. This also can decrease your immune system’s functions and make you more prone to injury. That’s the last thing we busy people have time for!
The problem is, it can be difficult for us all to get an adequate amount day-to-day. Your daily need truly depends on your goals, your activity level, and your health conditions. The general minimum protein RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for the average, untrained or sedentary adult in normal health is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This equates to about 54 grams for a 150lb person. Keep in mind though that this is the minimum to prevent deficiency, and it is not for optimal levels for people who workout, regularly. For those trained individuals, the recommended protein intake goes up to 1.3-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which is about 95-135 grams for a 150lb person.
While there is no one size fits all recommendation, the plain ol’ truth is that not enough of us are getting enough quality protein. Adding more protein to your diet doesn’t have to be restricted to monotonous grilled chicken and protein bars. There are plenty of ways of sneaking in handfuls of quality protein throughout the day without much extra effort!
Here are five tips:
1. Start with it
Begin every meal/snack with a protein source. Eat your protein and veggies first, then your carbs. If you fill up on it first, you’ll be sure you get enough before you fill up on other less nutrient-dense items, like eating all the roasted potatoes before getting to finish your wild salmon.
Here is a little cheat sheet for you of some of the most common protein sources for your meals, so you can figure out how much you are currently having (and if you might need to add in more!).
- Plain Greek Yogurt: 23g per 8 oz serving
- Eggs: 6g per 1 large egg
- Chicken + Turkey Breast: 24g per 3 oz serving
- Steak: 23g per 3 oz serving
- Ground Beef: 18g per 3 oz serving
- Pork Chop: 26g per 3 oz serving
- Tuna: 25g per 3 oz serving
- Salmon + Halibut: 23g per 3 oz serving
- Lentils: 9g per ½ cup serving
- Peanut Butter: 8g per 2 tbsp serving
- Tofu: 12g per 3 oz serving
- Quinoa: 8g per 1 cup serving
- Navy Beans: 15g per 1 cup serving
- Chickpeas: 15 g per 1 cup serving
2. Easy Add-Ins and Boosts
Nowadays there are plenty of little quick add-ins that can boost the protein content of practically anything you’re eating.
This super boost is trending for a reason — it’s odorless, flavorless, and adds 11 grams of protein in two tablespoons. Its amino acid-rich nutritional makeup makes it easy for the body to absorb and use quickly. Add it into smoothies, soups, coffees, or matcha lattes for bonus protein boost you won’t even taste.
Seeds like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. In one tablespoon of these seeds you can get about 2-4 grams of amino acid dense protein. Sprinkle them on your toasts, salads, smoothies, and in soups!
A quality protein powder is a great pre or post-workout snack r grab and go meal that helps you boost your protein intake without much preparation. Throw it in a smoothie or buy a Ready To Drink option. For those who keep plant-based or vegan, protein-dense foods can be tough to get enough of. It’s tough to rely on legumes, tofu, grains, and nuts as main sources of protein, as they can get calorically dense due to the higher carb and fat content that comes with an adequate serving of protein. For instance, in order to get 15g of protein through chickpeas, you’d have to eat an entire cup, which also holds 45g of carbs. It’s helpful to supplement with some pure, quality, plant-based protein powders like pea protein powders in things like smoothies. Just make sure it’s free of fillers, artificial sweeteners, and flavorings!
3. Prep your grab + gos and opt for protein-rich swaps
I hardboil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week to have on hand. Slice it up and add it on top of avocado toast, in your salads, or enjoy as a little snack with some himalayan pink salt. It’s an easy six quality grams of protein per egg, and a wonderful source of healthy fatty acids.
Nuts like almonds, cashews, and pecans are great sources of protein on the go. Just watch your portions, as they are also very fat and calorically dense!
Greek yogurt is an amazing source of protein. One cup can contain upwards of 20g of protein, so top that with some nuts and seeds and you’ve got yourself the perfect breakfast to start the day!
Grain-free, protein-boosted noodles
In place of traditional pasta for pasta night, try swapping to chickpea-based pasta for 14g of protein per serving, or almond and egg-based fresh pasta for 6g of protein and low carbs.
4. Power Snacks
Stop thinking of food in terms of meals i.e. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Grab some small snacks throughout the day to boost protein and ad in satiety. Good examples of a power snack would be:
- Handful of almonds and string cheese
- Greek Yogurt, berries and walnuts
- Dave’s Power Bread, Low Fat nut butter and honey
5. Don’t forget your veggies to switch up your protein sources
Don’t forget that there are some vegetables that are high in protein value. A cup of cooked spinach or broccoli adds in 6g of protein to any stir fry, soup, or omelette, and a cup of cooked asparagus gives you 10g of protein. Mix this up with some cauliflower rice or quinoa for a quick weeknight stir-fry. Also, chicken and salmon are not the only meat and fish protein options. Try experimenting with fish like cod, shrimp, scallops, and calamari or meats like turkey and lean pork tenderloin.