Oh protein — it’s the magic maker of the macronutrients. Not only does it aid in lean muscle gain and fat loss, but it also supports your metabolism and the stability of your blood sugar (aka helps keep you from reaching for the office cookie jar mid-afternoon slump). When you’re not eating enough protein, your body actually starts to break down muscle and other tissues to get the amino acids it needs. This also can decrease your immune system’s functions and make you more prone to injury. That’s the last thing we busy ladies have time for!
The problem is, it can be difficult for us all to get an adequate amount day-to-day. There’s still debate and confusion over what an average person needs, but a person’s daily need truly depends on their goals, their activity levels, and their health conditions. The general minimum protein RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for the average, untrained or sedentary adult in normal health is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This equates to about 54 grams for a 150lb person. Keep in mind though that this is the minimum to prevent deficiency, and it is not for optimal levels for people who workout, hard regularly. For those trained individuals, the recommended protein intake goes up to 1.3-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which is about 95-135 grams for a 150lb person.
While there is no one size fits all recommendation, the plain ol’ truth is that not enough of us are getting enough quality protein.
Adding more protein to your diet doesn’t have to be restricted to monotonous grilled chicken and protein bars. There are plenty of ways of sneaking in handfuls of quality protein throughout the day without much extra effort! Here are my five favorite tips I share with my training and nutrition clients.
1. Start with it
I always tell my nutrition coaching clients to eat your protein and veggies first, then your carbs. If you fill up on it first, you’ll be sure you get enough before you fill up on other less nutrient-dense items, like eating all the roasted potatoes before getting to finish your wild salmon.
Here is a little cheat sheet for you of some of the most common protein sources for your meals, so you can figure out how much you are currently having (and if you might need to add in more!).
- Plain Greek Yogurt: 23g per 8 oz serving
- Eggs: 6g per 1 large egg
- Chicken + Turkey Breast: 24g per 3 oz serving
- Steak: 23g per 3 oz serving
- Ground Beef: 18g per 3 oz serving
- Pork Chop: 26g per 3 oz serving
- Tuna: 25g per 3 oz serving
- Salmon + Halibut: 23g per 3 oz serving
- Lentils: 9g per ½ cup serving
- Peanut Butter: 8g per 2 tbsp serving
- Tofu: 12g per 3 oz serving
- Quinoa: 8g per 1 cup serving
- Navy Beans: 15g per 1 cup serving
- Chickpeas: 15 g per 1 cup serving
- Peas: 7g per 1 cup serving
2. Easy Add-Ins and Boosts
Nowadays there are plenty of little quick add-ins that can boost the protein content of practically anything you’re eating.
This super boost is trending for a reason — it’s odorless, flavorless, and adds 11 grams of protein in two tablespoons. Its amino acid-rich nutritional makeup makes it easy for the body to absorb and use quickly. Add it into smoothies, soups, coffees, or matcha lattes for bonus protein boost you won’t even taste.
Seeds like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. In one tablespoon of these seeds you can get about 2-4 grams of amino acid dense protein. Sprinkle them on your toasts, salads, smoothies, and in soups!
Plant-based Protein Powders
For those who keep plant-based or vegan, protein-dense foods can be tough to get enough of. It’s tough to rely on legumes, tofu, grains, and nuts as main sources of protein, as they can get calorically dense due to the higher carb and fat content that comes with an adequate serving of protein. For instance, in order to get 15g of protein through chickpeas, you’d have to eat an entire cup, which also holds 45g of carbs. It’s helpful to supplement with some pure, quality, plant-based protein powders like pea protein powders in things like smoothies. Just make sure it’s free of fillers, artificial sweeteners, and flavorings!
3. Prep your grab + gos and opt for protein-rich swaps
I hardboil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week to have on hand. Slice it up and add it on top of avocado toast, in your salads, or enjoy as a little snack with some himalayan pink salt. It’s an easy six quality grams of protein per egg, and a wonderful source of healthy fatty acids.
Nuts like almonds, cashews, and pecans are great sources of protein on the go. Just watch your portions, as they are also very fat and calorically dense!
Cook up a big pot of protein-rich grains at the beginning of the week, and keep it in the fridge for easy add-ins or to make quick dinner bowls. Toss a handful of quinoa or amaranth to make a whole grain salad for some additional protein and to make it more satiating. Or a fun dinner idea? Put the grains in a bowl and top with veggies and a lean protein like fish or chicken for a buddha bowl.
Greek yogurt is an amazing source of protein. One cup can contain upwards of 20g of protein, so top that with some nuts and seeds and you’ve got yourself the perfect breakfast to start the day!
Grain-free, protein-boosted noodles
In place of traditional pasta for pasta night, try swapping to chickpea-based pasta for 14g of protein per serving, or almond and egg-based fresh pasta for 6g of protein and low carbs.
4. Smoothies and Soups
I love smoothies and soups because they are basically a blank canvas that you can add so many delicious and nutrient-dense ingredients to. Use Greek yogurt to thicken up a smoothie or soup, add in seeds for nutrition, and sprinkle some collagen in there for an extra boost.
5. Don’t forget your veggies to switch up your protein sources
Don’t forget that there are some vegetables that are high in protein value. A cup of cooked spinach or broccoli adds in 6g of protein to any stir fry, soup, or omelette, and a cup of cooked asparagus gives you 10g of protein. Mix this up with some cauliflower rice or quinoa for a quick weeknight stir-fry.
Also, chicken and salmon are not the only meat and fish protein options. Try experimenting with fish like cod, shrimp, scallops, and calamari or meats like turkey and lean pork tenderloin.