Updated: Sep 22, 2020
One of the most common questions I get as a nutrition coach is, “how do I increase my protein?”
Many clients are surprised with how far off their protein goal they are when they actually start weighing, measuring and logging food.
Yes, beans and lentils contain protein, but you’ll probably need more than just those food sources to come close to optimal levels.
Some clients find cooking meat or fish for lunch or even breakfast is tough with busy schedules... enter the idea of meal prep! It really does not take that long to precook some protein. Having meat/poultry/fish ready for a few days in advance can save you so much time and energy in the kitchen.
Need a quick lunch? How about a chicken salad sandwich made with last night’s chicken breast?
Looking for a tide-you-over snack.. try a roast beef wrap.
When the meat is waiting there, ready for you, healthy whole food meals and
snacks become a whole lot easier. The emphasis here is also on whole food sources of meats. Yes, deli lunch meats are convenient and tasty. No, they are not whole foods. Why does this matter? Because these lunch meats typically contain a lot less protein and a lot more of the stuff we don't want to be eating on the regular, like nitrates, sodium and other additives. The same goes for the ready made meats in the frozen section of your grocery store.
So my best piece of advice is cook more meat than you are going to eat for dinner and store the rest for meals later in the week. If you are baking or barbecuing chicken breasts it takes next to no time to add a few more breasts to the pan or grill. If you're making a big Sunday roast, chances are, you're going to have a lot of leftovers. That's fantastic! Put them to good use in stews, soups, sandwiches, salads, bowls and casseroles. Once you have prepared your meat, you've taken half the work out of making your next meal.
What about protein rich snacks?
What? You don't want to just gnaw on meat all day?? LOL.
Here are some protein snacks I enjoy:
Greek Yogurt (you can make a homemade dip for veggies and parfaits and I add this in a LOT of recipes to substitute heavy creams and in some baked treats too)
Cottage cheese (add some fresh or frozen berries for quick treat)
Canned tuna and salmon (easy for a quick healthy tuna salad snack)
Hard boiled eggs (enjoy on their own or make a homemade egg salad)
Homemade egg bites or egg muffins
Homemade bean, lentil or quinoa salads
Cheeses (I like Babybel Cheese and Laughing Cow which I love spreading on rice cakes. You can also enjoy regular cheese but the fats will be high so watch how much you eat. Low fat cheese slices or shredded cheese can be great for quick adds to sandwiches and wraps)
Whole food sources, ideally from a local farmer or butcher, are the optimal choice for upping protein intake but you also might find a protein powder or bar very helpful.
The most important things to look for in a protein powder are:
A short ingredient list
20g+ of protein per serving
If you like Whey choose an isolate rather than a concentrate
Avoid added artificial sweeteners or sugars
Probably choose a basic vanilla or chocolate to start so you can bake with it if you want and add it to shakes rather than some odd flavour that you might get sick of
Get samples! The most important thing is that you actually like how it tastes. Many health food stores and good companies will provide sample packs for you to try.
Finally, remember all macro nutrients are important. Yes, protein helps you build muscle, transform body composition, feel satisfied and aids in immune function but you ideally want to eat it in balance with carbohydrates, fats and fibre. Overeating protein can result in your body converting the molecules into sugar or fat. If you need help determining just how much protein is optimal for you, send me an email or DM and I’ll share more about the nutrition coaching services I offer!