Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Protein Up Your Diet!

The other day, a friend of mine asked me how to drop 5 pounds by following a better diet. Among many things including snacking more frequently and adding more whole grains, I suggested she add more protein to her diet. Many young women today simply don't get enough protein, potentially derailing their overall weight loss efforts. I know so many girls who swear off meat thinking it's evil, and others who chose to follow a vegetarian diet (which is OK) but aren't making up for that loss of protein. Then there is a whole other group who take part in the "Special K" diet or fruit and cereal only. Don't even get me started with them. . .

Adding more lean protein to your diet is known to satisfy your hunger much longer than carbs and other foods can, repair muscles after a long workout, as well as help you shed those last few pounds.

I'm not saying to cut out all other foods groups and go protein-crazy. I'm just saying to be aware of a more balanced diet, getting a good amount of healthy, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fruits, good fats like Olive Oil, and lean proteins.

I'm here to tell you how to add more protein to your diet, the healthy way, since many people struggle with this particular area.

1. Beans, beans, beans! The silly rhyme says beans are the magical fruit, the more you eat. . .(well, you know the rest) but beans actually can be magical! They are a super protein, particularly great for those vegetarians out there who swear off meat. Try adding a variety of beans (garbanzo beans, black beans, Lima beans, lentils) to your soups, salads and everyday meals to get the extra protein boost!

2. Lean meats: Yes, eating a ton of red meat every day may not be so good for your health, leading to heart disease and other risky health problems. But, lean turkey and chicken are great to add into your diet. Try slicing up grilled chicken into your salads, adding turkey or chicken into your favorite winter soups, or simply eating them plain in wraps and sandwiches! Turkey bacon is another great option to eat aside a morning omelet or inside a "BLT."

3. Play around with nut butters: Try different nut butters, like almond butter, natural peanut butter and sunflower butter! Make sure to get them all natural, with no added sugars or other crap. Nut butters taste wonderful on a a slice of toast in the AM, or on top of apples, pears and other fresh fruits!

4. Go egg-white crazy! Who said you have to eat the whole egg? While sometimes you may want the whole egg, other times try just the egg white. It'll save you a load of calories and cholesterol, while still giving you the protein benefits! Try an egg white veggie omelet for breakfast, or slice up some hard boiled egg whites into an afternoon salad.

5. Tofu: Tofu is great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Lightly saute some up into your stir-fry dishes, or bake it in the oven with some fresh herbs and olive oil to give it a yummy, crunchy taste. You can even scramble some up for morning "scrambled eggs", and add some veggies, herbs, salt and pepper to taste!

6. FIsh: Choose lean fish once or twice a week for dinner. It has wonderful healthy proteins, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids that are great for your skin, hair and nails! With fish, you can lose weight and look great at the same time!

7. Yogurts/Low fat Dairy: Add in some low fat cows milk to your morning cereal, and bring a healthy yogurt with you for the day for snacking! Try plain Greek yogurt, or any that doesn't have a ton of added sugars! Check the label to make sure you're getting your protein. Grab a stick of low fat string cheese for snacking to, which has the calcium and protein you need to stay healthy!

8. Soy Products: In addition to tofu, try soy milk, soy cheese or any other soy meat substitutes, especially if you're lactose intolerant.

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