Did you know that eating a little more protein can help with weight loss and weight maintenance? Recent studies suggest that getting more protein into our diet (particularly at breakfast time) can preserve lean muscle mass and help us with eating fewer ultra-processed foods throughout the day.
Here are answers to common questions about protein, tips on how to get more in your diet, and a few recipes!
Why do we need protein? What does it do?
- Protein is an essential nutrient that has many different functions. Protein helps build and repair cells, triggers important chemical reactions (such as digestion and muscle contraction) and boosts immune health. Foods containing high amounts of protein digest more slowly than foods high in carbohydrates so they keep you feeling full longer. Recent research on weight loss has shown that people who consistently eat more protein (instead of ultra-processed foods that are often high in carbs) are more successful in losing weight and keeping it off.
How much protein do I need?
- Protein needs are based on your weight. As a minimum, you need a little less than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, recent research suggests that a little more (between 1-1.5 grams) may be even better. So for someone weighing 150 lbs that would be about 68-100 grams protein per day.
Where does protein come from? Are some kinds better than others?
- Animal sources of protein (eggs, meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk) are considered the highest quality protein because they contain all the essential amino acids. However, with a little planning, you can get plenty of protein from plant foods. Soy proteins (found in tofu, edamame, meat substitutes) are especially good as they also have all the amino acids.
I thought meat and other animal products were high in saturated fat and should be limited?
- Many animal products are high in calories and saturated fats. Try to avoid processed meats and cheeses such as bacon, sausage, and cheese spreads. Choose lean proteins such as skinless chicken breast, tuna packed in water, pork tenderloin, shrimp or fish containing healthy fats (such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines). Keep meat (fish and poultry) portions limited to about 3-4 ounces for an entrée or to an ounce for a snack.
TIP! Eating a breakfast that’s high in protein can particularly help people trying to lose weight. A recent study showed that people who ate low levels of protein in their first meal ate more at later meals and tended to eat more ultra-processed foods (which have been shown to lead to weight gain) throughout the day.
Ideas for including more protein in your meals & snacks are below. The bolded options are those that we included recipes for further down.
Sesame Tuna Salad
This Asian inspired variation on traditional tuna salad reduces calories by omitting mayonnaise. Put a scoop on a salad or sandwich, or eat with sliced veggies & crackers.
- Serves: 2
- Serving size: ½ cup
- Calories: 109
- Carbs: 5g
- Protein: 14g
- Fat: 3.5g
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 2.5 oz can of chunk tuna in water
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and sesame seeds. Drain the tuna well, then add it to another bowl. Add the diced and sliced green onions and mix. Pour the prepared sesame dressing over the tuna and vegetables in the bowl. Carefully fold the ingredients together until everything is coated in dressing. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Healthier Deviled Eggs
Instead of mayo, we use plain Greek yogurt – which also gives an extra boost of protein!
- Serves: 2
- Serving size: 2 halves
- Calories: 82
- Carbs: 1g
- Protein: 7g
- Fat: 5g
- 2 eggs, hard boiled & peeled
- 1 Tbsp Greek Yogurt
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- Optional flavorings: salt, ¼ tsp garlic powder, dash hot sauce, fresh chopped chives, pinch salt, fresh ground black pepper
- Cut the eggs in half. Put the yolks in a small bowl and mash well with a fork. Stir in the yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, and seasonings. Combine until very smooth.
- Using a spoon, stuff back into the egg. Garnish as desired.
Herbed Whipped Cottage Cheese
Many people don’t like the texture of cottage cheese. When blended, this smooth and herby dish makes a great spread on crackers or dip for veggies!
- Serves: 4
- Serving size: ¼ cup
- Calories: 52
- Carbs: 3g
- Protein: 6g
- Fat: 2g
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to add a few teaspoons of water if the mixture is too thick to blend.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
These are great crispy additions to salads, or even mixed dishes such as soups and stews. Enjoy them as a snack, too! They’re best eaten the day they are made. Try different spices including smoked paprika, chili, or curry. Store at room temperature.
- Serves: 5
- Serving size: 2 Tbsp
- Calories: 109
- Carbs: 0g
- Protein: 5g
- Fat: 3g
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, a pinch or two
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.
- Spread chickpeas on a dish towel and gently pat dry. It’s key to make sure they’re totally dry before you toss them with the olive oil as damp chickpeas won’t crisp up in the oven. Discard any loose skins from the outside of the chickpeas.
- Transfer chickpeas to a parchment-lined baking sheet and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil and generous pinches of sea salt & pepper. Spread evenly on the baking sheet.
- Transfer the baking sheet to a preheated oven and roast until crispy. Start checking at 20 minutes, but it can take up to 30 minutes for them to become really crisp. Remove from the oven and, while the chickpeas are still warm, toss with pinches of your favorite spices.
White Bean Hummus
This can be used as a sandwich spread or as a creamy dip!
- Serves: 12
- Serving size: 2 Tbsp
- Calories: 78
- Carbs: 8g
- Protein: 3g
- Fat: 4g
- 1 can cannellini beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed
- 2 heaping Tbsp tahini
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 lemons juiced (and zested if you like extra lemon flavor)
- 1 clove garlic minced, or ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- Dash or two of sea salt or kosher salt
- Optional flavorings to add: ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp Dijon mustard, herbs like chives or basil
- Place all ingredients in a food processor, except water, and blend. Taste for flavor and add anything more to your liking. Blend again.
- Add water (1 Tbsp at a time) if a thinner consistency is desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 1 ½ cups.
Diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to help many people reach a healthier weight. Medical treatments are needed to address the biological changes happening in our bodies that can drive weight regain. To find a physician near you who specializes in weight management, click here.
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This article was sponsored by Novo Nordisk Canada. All content is created independently by My Weight – What To Know with no influence from Novo Nordisk.