In video 2 of the second module in this course, we discussed strategies to help manage hunger. One such strategy that is very effective not only for this, but also for achieving a calorie deficit is to ensure you have a protein-rich diet. In this post we will briefly describe some effective strategies for adding protein to your diet, without increasing calories, and hopefully, actually decreasing them.
Indeed, a common mistake people make when adding healthy foods to their diet in an attempt to lose weight is to add it in addition to, instead of in replacement of other food items. Remember, in order to lose weight we must create a calorie deficit. Protein rich foods can aid in this as they tend to be very filling, and also less calorie dense, however this only works if we are replacing other less filling, more calorie dense food items with these protein sources.
Thus, below we identify 3 solid strategies for adding protein to your diet. If you would like more in-depth information on all sorts of protein related topics, check this post out here.
1) Choose one meal every day and build it around a lean source of protein. The idea here is to choose a meal where you do not consistently get very much protein, and to flip the script and turn it into a very protein rich meal. For most of us, this means breakfast or lunch, but for some it could be dinner too. While the options for protein rich meals are endless, below we list a few options for both breakfast and lunch:
Protein-rich breakfast ideas:
- Egg+egg white omelet (or other egg-based dish). The idea here is to use a 2-1 ratio for egg whites to whole eggs. In order to constitute a protein rich meal, we ideally want the meal to be at least 40% protein as a percent of calories. Whole eggs, while a solid source of protein, are actually only ~26% protein, whereas egg whites are a whopping 83% protein! Thus, if you use 1 whole egg, use 2 to 3 servings of egg whites as well when making this dish. If throwing egg yolks away pains you, you can buy egg whites in a carton at any grocery store.
- Greek yogurt with granola. A individual sized container of 2% greek yogurt from Fage, and a 1/4 cup of granola comes out at 27g of protein for just 270 calories, or 40% of calories from protein.
- “Super shakes”. A shake with a serving of greek yogurt, whey protein, fruit and perhaps even more depending on how adventurous you are can be a very healthy and protein rich option. Check this article out here for how to make a “super shake”. Using the recipes shown in the article would create a breakfast with 60(!) grams of protein for just about 500 calories, or about 47% protein.
Protein-rich lunch ideas:
- Dinner left-overs! Typically dinner is most of our most protein rich meal. If you make a little bit extra, this becomes a super easy lunch option the next day. Of course, this is predicated on your dinner being protein rich, so make sure that’s the case before choosing this option. An easy way to calculate how protein rich a meal is to take the grams of protein, multiply by 4, and divide by the total calories, giving you the percent of the meal that is made of protein (again, aim for 40% for your “protein focused” meals). For example, if a meal has 300 calories and 30 grams of protein: 30 grams x 4 = 120.. 120/300 = 0.4.. so 40% of the meal came from protein!
- “Protein Bowls”. The options here are endless with regards to specific ingredients, but the general idea is to choose a protein source, a complex carbohydrate, and a vegetable, with an optional healthy fat, and simply mix them together in an easy to prepare (and easy to make extra for later) bowl to take to work, or eat at home. This can also take the form of a protein rich salad. This can be as involved as you want it to be, or as simple as you want it to be, in fact, there are even pre-packaged microwaveable options out there that can also be a decent option for those for who may be laughing at the idea of making lunch from scratch every day. You can find some recipe ideas at this link here. Here are also two solid pre-packaged options you could consider that are sold at the majority of grocers out there: Healthy Choice Power Bowls & Life Cuisine High Protein Bowls. While we do suggest making your own when you can, the microwaved options could be a good backup plan as well!
- There are also some relatively healthy and protein rich options for eating out, since for many eating lunch out is going to happen from time to time. Most popular burrito joints such as Chipotle or Qdoba have the ability to make burrito bowls, and you really have the power over what goes in there. These options generally range from 500 to 800 calories, and around 40-80g of protein (or 30-40% protein). You can always eat half and save half for later if the calorie numbers are high for your needs! There are also some decent protein rich options from Subway, namely the Blackforest Ham wrap, Oven Roasted Chicken Wrap, and the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki wrap, both coming in at around 500 calories and 30-40g of protein. there are certainly other options out there, so feel free to look them up and do the math for yourself as shared above.
2) Start swapping out higher fat protein sources for leaner ones. Most people don’t realize that the difference between 80/20 and 93/7 ground beef, or skinless versus with-skin chicken can be enormous. For example, a 6oz hamburger patty using 80/20 ground beef comes out to 427 calories and is only 27% protein (saturated fat makes up the rest), whereas a 6oz 93/7 patty is only 250 calories and 54% protein. Looking at chicken, chicken with the skin is around 2-3x more calorie dense that simple boneless, skinless chicken breast! Thus, a diet rich in higher fat protein sources will wind up being much more calorie dense, and also less protein rich, than a diet focusing mostly on leaner protein sources. Now, this isn’t to say you should never have a fried chicken or a fatty greasy hamburger, it’s just that it should be a treat, rather than the norm. Below are some lean protein sources that could replace higher calorie and fat items.
- Instead of 80/20 ground beef.. opt for 93/7..
- Instead of Chicken w/ skin.. opt for boneless skinless chicken breast..
- Instead of pork chops.. opt for pork or turkey tenderloin..
Other good options include:
- Low to moderate fat fish such as salmon, tilapia, and cod
- Ground turkey
- Canned tuna
- Firm tofu
3) Add a protein rich snack to your day. If you tend to snack a lot between meals, replacing these snack foods with something more protein rich can be a great option. This is where a protein supplement like a bar or shake could be a good idea as they are quick, easy, and have more protein than most other snacks will have. You can check this thread out here for more information on protein bars and shakes. Other protein rich snack options might include:
- Low sodium beef jerky
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Low fat mozzarella cheese sticks
Alright, well here you have it.. some tried and true suggestions for bringing that protein intake up. That said, these options are far from exhaustive, so don’t feel like you can’t go about this your own way.