You know that eating well requires you to include veggies, whole grains, and fruits into your diet, but do you get enough protein? Typically, protein is found in foods such as eggs, meat, chicken, fish, and beans — but not all of us are getting enough of it. Not to get all scientific, but our bodies naturally produce non-essential amino acids (amino acids are the building blocks of protein), but they aren't enough to maintain the body daily. As a result, we need essential amino acids found in protein-based foods to fulfill that quota.
Amino acids help with cell growth and repairs within the body. They keep our hair long and healthy, give us strong nails, and feed our muscles. Not to mention they keep you fuller longer and kicks cravings to the curb. According to Lynette Pettinicchi, NLC, nutritionist, and founder of Nutrition By Lynette, adults — especially women — should be aiming to consume 50 grams of protein on a daily basis.
In fact, if you have a protein deficiency, the side effects are not pretty. “When our bodies have a protein deficiency we experience fatigue, unexpected weight loss, brittle nails and hair loss,“ says Pettinicchi. Eating too much isn’t good either because it can lead to constipation, affects the kidneys, and may even remove calcium from the bones. But if you’re looking to lose a few pounds or get tone up, a healthy amount of protein aides with muscle recovery and repair in addition to helping build lean muscle (even when you're not active, too).
Getting the protein you need sounds more complicated that it actually is. There easy ways to seamlessly fulfill your protein quota without it being a daunting task. Make an effort to sneak in more protein into your diet with these ideas below.
If you’re in a
time crunch, Greek yogurt is a good quick meal to kickstart your morning. On average, it contains 11 grams of protein per six ounces and can be mixed with fruit and pumpkin seeds for an added
protein boost. However, if you have a little more time on your hands, whip up a
veggie omelette with a side of avocado or whole wheat bread to get your fill.
You can’t go wrong with a salad topped off with a lean protein such as grilled chicken, fish or beans. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it may be harder for you to fulfill your protein quota because you have a tendency to eat more incomplete proteins. Therefore, it’s important to combine your meatless options with the right stuff. Pettinicchi suggests if you choose beans as your protein, to pair them with rice because it can help the body absorb all of the amino acids it needs to function. Have peanut butter on whole grain toast or toss in a half cup of soybeans to your meal for an added 15 grams of protein.
The best time to
eat protein is after a workout when your muscles are feigning for it and need it
to build and repair muscles. Reach for hard-boiled eggs, almonds, peanut
butter, nuts and seeds as protein-friendly snacks. Some other ideas include
smashed avocado on whole wheat bread with a cheese stick on the side or chopped
up strawberries and mozzarella on whole-wheat crackers. If you have a hankering
for something sweet, Pettinicchi suggests experimenting
with some black bean brownies, which will fulfill your sweet tooth and protein
Some of the best protein options you can make for dinner also make great leftovers for lunch the next day. Whip up a stir-fry with beans, lean meat (or tofu), and veggies with brown rice for a protein-friendly meal. Experiment with quinoa (another meatless protein-based food), and add some grilled salmon and veggies or baked/grilled chicken strips with sweet potato and lemon slices with a spinach side salad.