If you are looking for new ways to get more protein in your diet, check out these top 10 protein food ideas!
Protein powder is a double edged sword. It can be an easy and tasty way to add protein to your diet, but when used too much can cause you to miss out on nutrients in other foods.
There is flexibility for both protein foods and protein supplement products. Finding the balance between the two for each person is important. I’ll share some tips to help you find your balance and recipes to use.
As a note to remember, protein still contains calories. A gram of protein has the same amount of calories as carbohydrates. If you’re eating extra protein just remember it’s still part of your caloric intake. It is important to eat enough protein, but once your body gets the protein it needs, any additional protein eaten will just be used as energy.
Let’s say I’m headed somewhere early in the morning and don’t want to eat before leaving. I might take a protein bar and a banana to eat on the way instead of a bagel. This simple swap will help me not get hungry as quickly.
Convenience plays a large role in diets. With daily meals and snacks we often eat foods that are easy to make and easy to eat such as a PB&J sandwich for lunch instead of a hot chicken and veggie rice bowl. I doubt this habit will change anytime soon so we need to be realistic in how we approach eating a balanced diet.
Favorite ways to get more protein
1) Protein Smoothies
What could be quicker than tossing stuff in a blender and mixing it up into a tasty drink? The varieties of smoothies or protein shakes are endless and can be made with protein rich foods and protein powders.
If you want a balanced smoothie I like to follow this general guide,
- a fruit, Any and all fruit could be added to a smoothie or protein shake!
- protein, This could be a protein powder, or foods like yogurt, milk, pasteurized egg whites, nuts, seeds, etc.
- fat. This could include nuts, seeds, milk, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, avocado, dairy, cashews, almonds, peanut butter, etc.
- liquid. This could include juices, water, or milk.
I like having a protein smoothie as a sweet treat.
Greek yogurt might just be one of my favorite foods. You can buy flavored ones, but be aware of the amount of sugar in them. I prefer to buy plain and add jam or sugar free Jell-O flavoring to it.
You can also bake with it or add some protein to pancakes or muffins with Greek yogurt. You can also make pizza crust with Greek yogurt that is quick and easy to make. Frozen yogurt popsicles are a fun way to have a prepped protein rich frozen treat.
3) Cottage Cheese
Similar to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese can be used in baked goods like muffins or pancakes. For a savory use, swap out some of the ricotta cheese in lasagna for cottage cheese. Or for a snack, mix ranch dip mix with cottage cheese for a dip with extra protein.
4) Eggs/Egg Whites
Whole eggs are a good source of fats and nutrients, so when I eat eggs I make sure to include whole eggs.
Egg whites can be helpful if you’re wanting to boost your protein intake. You can add egg whites with whole eggs like in this recipe for a veggie omelet. Adding egg whites to other dishes like pancakes, smoothies or other baked goods can add protein, but adding too much will change the taste and texture of the dish.
Make sure to mix well and follow a recipe if you’re unsure how much is too much. Need a quick breakfast that’s ready to go, try these baked oatmeal squares.
5) Beans and Lentils
Lentils, and beans are a good source of protein. I like adding beans to soups, tacos, dips, salads and more. Lentils and beans are quick and easy. I use canned beans if I don’t have time to make some, like in this chicken and bean soup. Lentils are quick to cook and great in flavorful dishes when cooked in the broth or sauce. Legumes have an interesting profile in that for Choose MyPlate they count as either a vegetable or a protein food. This is because they have protein but also have other nutrients commonly found in vegetable foods and are a good source of fiber.
Some might disagree, but I think of nuts and seeds as good sources of fat that also have protein. This helps me remember that they have fat and protein. Sometimes I think we forget that nuts and seeds have quite a bit of fat.
Don’t get me wrong, they have healthy fats, and it’s important to eat fat, but if you’re trying to eat a balanced diet it’s nice to know which foods have which macronutrients. Nuts make a great treat like these peanut butter protein bars or these coconut almond chocolate protein bites.
7) Whole Grains
To add protein to a meal, swap your refined grains for whole grains. Even if it’s just one slice of bread you swap for whole wheat bread those grams of protein can add up. Plus you get the extra vitamins in whole grains. Instead of breadcrumbs this recipe for meatloaf uses quinoa.
I feel like there are two ways of including meat in a meal.
The first is meat is a dish of its own like steak, grilled chicken or baked salmon. For these meals the meat dish is the centered part of the meal and the sides get added.
So what about combination dishes? That’s where the second way of using meat comes in, you can add meat to other dishes. Some examples are pasta, taco salad or even a sandwich. The meat mixed together with the other ingredients.
To help prep meat for these dishes I’ll cook extra chicken for example and use it on garden salad, in a pasta dish or with sautéed veggies.
Maybe you know the feeling when you look in your fridge of what to make and realize all the meat is frozen. Now you have to not only cook but also defrost before you can even start the meal. I still struggle with this, but have started cooking extra meat when I grill chicken or bake fish to use in salads or have as leftovers. This has made it easy to add meat to meals without having to cook meat for every meal.
Soy isn’t for everyone, but for those that do like it there are so many ways to use tofu. You can swap eggs for tofu and scramble it with veggies. You can add it to stir frys or even pasta dishes. There are even desserts made with tofu like this chocolate peanut butter pie.
10) Protein Powder
There are so many ways to add protein powder, smoothies, protein balls, oatmeal and more. There are lots of different types of protein powders. Whey, soy and egg based ones have a mild flavor while pea and rice have a stronger flavor.
Most protein powders today do not contain much sugar, but I like to check if they have added sugars. You can also find unsweetened ones if you don’t like the added sweetener taste. There are also so many different flavors. Vanilla is versatile and works for lots of recipes. If you need some new ways to use protein powder, try peanut butter protein pudding, birthday cake baked oatmeal or protein cookie dough.
Including protein in your diet can be done in many different ways. Depending on how you prefer to eat, maybe you want a meal with lots of protein or would rather have some protein in your meals and include snacks rich in protein.
To find what works for you, test it out and see how you feel. And how you feel preparing the food. Food preparation shouldn’t feel overwhelming. Test out ways to help find your balance between using protein foods and protein supplements.
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