Watch the nightly news for long enough and a story about the dangers of eating too much sugar, salt, fat, or processed food will likely appear. Too much of anything can be bad for you, but you never hear the about the dangers of eating too much protein because most of us aren’t going overboard on a daily basis. Chances are you might not be getting enough, especially if your diet doesn’t contain meat.
Protein plays a vital role in feeling your best every day! In fact, every cell in your body contains protein and it is necessary for helping your body repair cells and make new ones. Not to mention it helps you avoid “sugar crashes” and feel fuller. It’s important to have plenty of protein throughout the day, but don’t worry—you won’t have to even think about it when you learn how to sneak an extra bit into your meals.
They may be little, but seeds are major sources of nutrients and protein. Chia, hemp, and flax seeds are all mildly flavored seeds that can be mixed into foods such as smoothies, baked goods, and granola without altering the flavor too much. Hemp seeds pack 10 grams of protein into just one ounce and can be easily ground up in a blender or food processor and mixed with food or sprinkled on top for an added crunch. Sunflower seeds are one way to get your salty snack fix that will give you 17 grams of protein in just a half cup. And don’t wait until October to start munching on pumpkin seeds—they have almost 20 grams of protein per half cup and are delicious all year round.
Nuts are probably your go-to when looking for a protein filled snack but, don’t forget, they are delicious when added to meals. You can make nut based sauces for pasta, slather a nut butter onto fruits and veggies, or add sliced nuts to side dishes. If you are worried about fat content, try cashews (high in protein but low in fat).
To make sure you are getting enough protein when not eating meat with your meal, make sure you are choosing whole grains instead of white pasta and bread. Brown rice has more protein than white. Quinoa, a complex carb, has more protein than couscous, which is a simple carb. Quinoa can be mixed into salads and brown rice pairs well with vegetables to make for a satisfying meal. Oatmeal is also whole grain that will give you with plenty of protein to start the day off on the right foot.
Lentils and Beans
Lentils and beans are a well-known source of protein that can be added to soups, vegetarian chilis, salads, and other meals with ease. But did you also know that beans and lentils are a very inexpensive source of protein? To shave a little money off your grocery bill and get all the protein you need, load up on any kind of bean and lentil that will satisfy your taste buds.
Eggs and Dairy
Don’t relegate eggs to just breakfast. A savory breakfast burrito with cheese and beans wrapped in a whole grain burrito is a protein powerhouse. Eggs can also be baked into quiches or added to Asian inspired noodle dishes. Hard boil eggs at the beginning of the week to add to salads or to eat for a quick and easy breakfast on-the-go. The same goes for your elementary school staple, the cheese stick. Throw one in your purse for an easy on-the-go snack or eat it with some of those boiled eggs and fruit for a simple and healthy lunch.
If all else fails and you need a really quick protein boost you can always add protein powder to a smoothie or oatmeal for a double boost of protein. But before you buy protein powder, make sure you are choosing one without too much added sugar. We like Kashi’s GOLEAN Plant Powered Shake protein powder—it’s soy free and even includes probiotics for good gut health.