Before sea moss gel, green powders, and celeb-backed Erewhon smoothies (hi, Hailey and Bella) became the “it” superfoods, incorporating enough protein in your diet was the name of the wellness game. Derived from the Greek word for “primary,” meaning “first place” or “in the lead,” you could call it the OG of nutrition trends.
Hot take: Protein is making a comeback and for good reason. Eating the right amount of protein is a must for our muscles and bones to repair and grow. When protein is consumed, the body breaks it down into amino acids, absorbs it, and uses it to build muscles and organs, to make hormones and antibodies, and as an energy source. Bottom line: Protein is essential to keep your body in top-notch condition.
So just how much protein do you need to eat? While it depends on factors such as age and activity level, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for general health. For example, a person who weighs 165 pounds should consume an average of 60 grams of protein per day. Use that formula as a starting point, and then talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to find out how many grams you should aim for based on your needs, goals, activity level, and body.
While you may think that sticking to grilled chicken and hardboiled eggs is the only way to pack more protein in your diet, there are simple tricks to satisfy the proper macronutrient intake that aren’t so blah. Ahead are six simple tips to help you eat more protein. Spoiler: They deliver on taste and variety.
1. Meal prep protein into every meal
Planning your meals ahead of time ensures that every meal is built around a high-quality form of protein. Eggs or breakfast sausage may be the obvious picks for a make-ahead, protein-filled brekkie, but don’t sleep on high-protein breakfast burritos, casseroles, pancakes, and overnight oats. When it comes to lunch or dinner, season or marinate your go-to lean sources of protein, like chicken, fish, and tofu, and cook them up in bulk so you have them at the ready for bowls, salads, pasta, tacos, wraps, and stir-fries.
If you just can’t be bothered to prep large portions of protein ahead of time, make a little more than you need when you’re making dinner and save it for lunch the next day. To up your protein consumption, don’t forget to sprinkle any (and every!) meal or snack with nutritional yeast (a seasoning high in protein), chia seeds, or nuts, like almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts.
2. Add a protein powder to the routine you already have
From the ever-trendy collagen to the common whey and plant-based assortments (such as pea or hemp), you can take your pick of protein powders to give you a morning kick, afternoon zing, or post-workout recovery boost. Protein powders are one of the easiest ways to sneak protein into your routine because you can add them to pretty much anything: smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes, yogurt, and more.
Another easy way to seamlessly incorporate protein powder? #Profee, or protein coffee, ICYMI. TikTokers and wellness girlies alike are taking their morning cup of joe with protein powder to get a leg-up in protein for the day (insider tip: Starbucks fans can also take part with Protein-Blended Cold Brew–you’re welcome). Is matcha more your cup of tea? Whip up a matcha latte with a vanilla protein powder and milk of your choice for a healthy pick-me-up and hit of protein. Just make sure that the protein powder you choose is ideally organic or clean without additives and artificial sweeteners.
3. Have protein-rich snacks on hand
Snacks are there for us when we’re hangry, the munchies strike, or we need to increase our intake of protein. You want to get the most bang for your buck, so load up on high-protein snacks like a smoothie, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, sliced turkey and cheese, smoked salmon and avocado toast, apple slices with peanut butter, and roasted edamame (I could go on and on). Bonus points: They’ll also help keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent that all-too-familiar afternoon crash. If you’re always on the go, have handy snacks readily available that you can easily grab on your way out. Think: beef jerky, clean protein bars, and nuts or seeds.
4. Incorporate more legumes
They say good things come in small packages, and beans are no exception. Soybeans, lentils, and white beans are chock-full of protein, and not only do they serve up a good portion of plant-based protein, but they also help meet your fiber, iron, and vitamin requirements. Other protein-packed beans to add to your grocery list: split peas and the kidney, black, navy, and pinto varieties. Stock your kitchen pantry with these protein powerhouses for an inexpensive and easy way to whip up versatile meals and snacks. Eat them on their own or make them into a soup, dip (hummus, anyone?), or bean-based veggie burger, or toss them in an omelet or salad for a healthy dose of protein that’ll keep you full and satisfied. Another hack? Replace your processed carbohydrates with legume-based options, such as chickpea or lentil pasta.
5. Add protein to baked goods and desserts
You might think of muffins, bread, or cookies as a nutrient-void treat, but homemade options actually make for the perfect vehicles to add protein into the mix (literally). With the addition of protein powder, greek yogurt, beans, ground flaxseed, or a nut or seed butter, you can satisfy your sweet tooth and reach your protein goal in one swoop. Take a stab at these brownies complete with chocolate protein powder and almond butter, blueberry cake donuts that include almond flour, vanilla protein powder, and Greek yogurt, or red lentil cookies jam-packed with protein from red lentils, peanut butter, oats, and whole wheat flour (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!). And if no-bake desserts are more up your alley, try these lemon coconut flaxseed balls, peanut butter cups, or vegan cookie dough on your next self-care night in (now that’s my kind of multi-tasking).
6. Replace refined grains with whole grains
Food for thought: Whole grains are packed with important nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, and–you guessed it–protein. When we process grains (turning them into refined carbohydrates, like white flour), it strips them of nutrient goodness, including removing protein. For example, whole wheat ﬂour has 28% more protein than reﬁned wheat ﬂour. When purchasing bread, pasta, or other wheat products, look for whole wheat as the first ingredient for a range of benefits, including more protein.
Better yet, opt for grains in their whole form such as quinoa, farro, barley, bulgur, brown rice, or millet. Most grains have about 25% more protein when eaten in their whole form because the protein typically gets processed out. Add whole grains to salads, make a whole-grain side dish, or whip up pilafs, stir-fries, and bowls.