I never realized how hard it was to eat enough protein until I started paying attention to my macros during my weight loss journey. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average adult needs about 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, or 7 grams for every 20 pounds. I shoot for about 30-40% of my calories coming from protein, depending on the intensity of my fitness goals. In addition to vitamin C and D, protein has been identified as a critical nutrient for the development and function of immune cells in the body. In terms of weight loss, protein has been identified as being the most filling macronutrient and also helps build and maintain muscle. Unfortunately, the standard America diet is focused around carbohydrates—particularly added sugars and refined grains. If you would like to up your protein game, the following hacks can help you crush your health and weight loss goals:
Reach for the Whole Grains and Protein-Packed Veggies
Whole grains are ridiculously good for your health! They provide B vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and even protein. The average serving of whole grains contains 7-10 grams of protein. Even oatmeal has 7.2 grams per 200 calorie serving. If you work in one serving of whole grains per meal, you can easily pack in up to extra 30 grams of protein per day. Some vegetables have a surprising amount of protein. One cup of green peas contains 8.58 grams of protein. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, artichoke, and asparagus have about 5 grams per serving. By eating two servings of higher protein vegetables, you can increase your protein intake by 10 grams. If you already eat to the Healthy Eating Plate, you can increase your daily protein intake by up to 30 grams per day by simply choosing different vegetables and whole grain options.
Make Proteins a Snack Staple
If you eat to the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate but still feel hungry, you should eat snacks that are protein-rich. Protein helps keep you full and reduces your body’s production of ghrelin—the hunger hormone. If I still feel hungry outside of my meals, I reach for a Greek yogurt or a low-fat string cheese to help top me up. If I’m really hungry, I’ll pair my protein with some fruits and/or vegetables to get some extra fiber to fill me up as well. You can snack on some hummus and carrots, hard boiled eggs or any number of high protein snack combinations to increase your daily protein consumption and improve your satiety levels.
Supplement with Protein Powders if Necessary
If you are eating a diet rich in protein but you’re still falling short on your protein goals, you should consider supplementing with protein powders. Protein powders are not just for body builders anymore! There are many varieties available these days if you have specific dietary concerns. They even make protein powder from pea protein! You should ideally reach for a variety that has the most protein with the least amount of carbohydrates. I drink a protein smoothie every morning because they are easy to make and I don’t like eating a heavy meal in the morning. Most protein powders have 20-25 grams of protein per scoop, which makes it easy to boost your protein intake without eating tons of food.
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