Protein sources – meat, fish, cheese, nuts, beans and greens.

Protein sources in food (© nadianb - stock.adobe.com)

Getting enough protein is important, whether you watch TV most of the day or you’re a bodybuilder. Protein is critical for all of our cells and helps the body to perform at the top of its game. For most people, daily recommendations fall between 50 and 175 grams. That said, many people may not realize that they need more protein intake.

There are other benefits to adding more protein to your daily meals, too. Research shows that a high-protein diet can promote weight loss, enhance muscle growth, and improve blood sugar stability.

So, what are some hacks to sneak a little more healthy protein into your everyday diet?

1. Snack smarter

Instead of grabbing the bag of chips, which is very low in protein, try snacking on some cheese or a cup of yogurt.

A typical string cheese will pack close to seven grams of protein per stick, and a standard non-fat Greek yogurt cup will fuel you with close to 15 grams. Since these snacks contain more protein than the typical pretzel, you will feel fuller and more stable, for longer.

2. Swap the morning muffin with eggs

Muffins are very high in refined sugar and carbohydrates, while low in fiber and protein. Bagels and cereal are also high in carbs, and low in protein. They can spike your blood sugar because of this, leaving you feeling hungry and unsatisfied just a couple of hours later.

A breakfast where eggs are the main component can help set your day off on the right foot. Per egg, you’ll get about six grams. You can add even more by mixing whole eggs with egg whites. In the egg whites of one large egg, you’ll find four grams of protein.

Sunny side up eggs
Photo by Ismael Trevino on Unsplash

3. Opt for Greek yogurt over regular yogurt

Greek yogurt has double the amount of protein compared to regular varieties. Why is that? Greek yogurt is made by removing whey and other liquids to create a richer and thicker yogurt with increased protein content.

Dietitian’s tip: Keep a large tub of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt lying around. The plain flavor is so versatile that it can not only be used for yogurt bowls but as a sour cream alternative or even as a base for a dip recipe. I often use it for taco and caramelized onion dips!

4. Think ‘protein first’ for every meal

Protein is often the main component of meals for a reason. It’s always “chicken and rice” and not the other way around. Whenever you’re thinking of a meal to eat, always consider what your source of protein will be first. Will it be turkey and cheddar on your sandwich? The beans on your taco bowl?

When you take a moment to figure out what your “base” will be and create a meal from there, you ensure you always have quality protein for each meal.

Bowl with teriyaki chicken, brown rice, carrots, and broccoli
(Photo by Panda Express)

5. Eat more canned fish

It isn’t the most glamorous source of protein, but in one small can, you can pack 20 grams of protein or more into your diet. No refrigeration is necessary, and it can be eaten anywhere and anytime (the smell will go away eventually). Not to mention, fish like salmon and sardines provide you with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation.

Bottom Line

Protein is important for everything the body does, but it isn’t always easy to eat enough of it. By making a few intentional choices like choosing less refined carbs and more whole food protein sources, you can start to build a better habit of including more in your diet.

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About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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