Protein is an essential macronutrient made up of amino acids that helps to build bones, muscles, cartilage and skin but it is also responsible for so much more. Protein plays a role in almost every process of a cell, from metabolic reactions, fighting infection, providing us with energy, repairing cells, etc.

There are 20 total amino acids with 9 of them considered essential since our body does not create them on their own; therefore we need to consume them daily. The amount of protein an individual needs is based on many factors and it is best to consult with your healthcare team before making any changes to your diet. Also, if you have kidney disease or other kidney issues,  you should consider that as well.

There are online calculators you can use to give you an idea of how much protein you should take in. Also, if you are an athlete, do strenuous exercise such as lifting weights, or are looking to put on weight or build more muscle mass, you may want to add more protein than the recommended amount.

Many people find it hard to fit in the recommended amount of protein per day. With a few tips and tricks, you can easily be on your way to meeting your protein goals.

Here are 5 ways to get more protein in your diet:

1. Start Your Day Off Right

Many breakfast foods are packed with protein which will keep you satisfied way past lunchtime. Experiment with egg omelets and muffins, protein pancakes, Greek yogurt or even a protein shake and you’ll be well on your way to hitting your daily protein requirement. My favorite protein shake to make is easy: 1 scoop of protein powder, 1/3 almond milk, 1/2 tin Greek yogurt, one tablespoon of your favorite peanut butter (or PB2 for less calories, carbs and fat), a drizzle of sugar-free chocolate syrup and blend with ice.

2. Plan Your Plate

When preparing your meal focus on having half your plate consist of a protein, 1/4-1/2 containing vegetables, and the other quarter for whole grains or other carbs if you so desire. If you’re watching your weight, it’s a good idea to focus on leaner proteins, like chicken and fish, as a lot of fat and calories can come along with some richer protein choices. Keeping this mentality will help you hit your protein goals and also keep you from eating empty calories.

3. Find New Options Online

There are so many health blogs and websites that offer delicious recipes for free. Have you ever had a protein ball? Some can contain as many as 10 grams of protein. It’s a great snack to take on the go, freezes well, and will keep your blood sugars in check too. Also, shop for specialty items, like low-carb flours online. Look out for promotions and special deals to buy in bulk, or save some money if it’s your first time buying — many online shops will offer such discounts!

4. Buy in Bulk

If you’re focusing on increasing your protein, you’ll likely need to add more lean meat, fish or other plant-based protein sources so buying in bulk will help you save money and allow you to meal prep too. Consider prepping and freezing too, it makes deciding what for dinner much easier. Whether you’re going to your local Costco, or finding a great deal on the internet (see above), buying staples in bulk is sure to save you some cash.

5. Preparedness Is Key

If you are actively trying to increase your protein, you are likely tracking what you eat. Preparing meals ahead of time allows you to customize your meals to the exact macros you set. This will also help avoid last-minute food runs that offer little to no nutrition at all. Some great apps to help you track your macros are MyFitnessPal and MyPlate.

Eating more protein will make you feel fuller longer, build and strengthen muscles, along with many other health benefits. Make sure to discuss with your doctor how much protein is right for you and you will be well on your way to a healthier version of you!

Do you find it hard to get in your daily recommended dose of protein? What tips and tricks can you share?

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