We’re quite sure that almost all of our readers are fully aware of the importance of adequate protein intake, both for achieving the desired body composition and for maintaining general health. Not only the growth of our muscles but also the normal development of all body functions depend on an adequate intake of proteins from the diet, especially with regular physical activity. Therefore, it is not surprising that meals rich in this macronutrient are first on the “must-do” list of those who strive to live an active and healthy lifestyle.
Foods such as meat and fish are the most common choice when it comes to proteins, primarily because they are complete sources of protein, i.e. they contain the entire spectrum of amino acids and ensure their sufficient intake in smaller amounts. This makes the creation of meals simpler and more affordable, which is to some extent desirable, but such a practice also has its negative sides. Namely, it is not difficult to get into the circle of monotony in the choice of foods, mostly out of a desire to make it easier to maintain a certain regime. Such a principle can work for a while, but over time it can lead to various nutritional deficits, the sensitivity of the body to certain foods, or pure satiety.
If any of this is happening to you right now, don’t worry – the solution is hidden in something very simple and does not require an increased dose of will and motivation. You simply have to look for a few creative ways to spice up your meals with something different from what you’re already familiar with. Below we share 8 practical ideas on how to enrich your meals with protein.
Great ways to sneak more protein into your diet
Find out how you can incorporate these 8 protein-rich foods into other dishes and thus increase their protein content. Here’s how to get more protein easily.
1. Whey protein powder
Whey protein with all its different forms and flavors is not only intended for those who train and want to develop their muscle mass. It is also intended for everyone who is looking for a simple, quick, and practical way to increase protein intake in their diet. Contrary to some opinions, you do not have to lift weights intensively to take advantage of the numerous benefits that this dietary supplement brings you. You just have to find interesting ways to include it in your daily menu.
The ways in which you can enrich your meals with protein powder are numerous. They extend from breakfast to dinner. Whey protein powder goes well with morning oatmeal or smoothies, fresh cheese or yogurt for dessert, or a light dinner. It turns your favorite pancakes, muffins, and other well-known “forbidden” sweets into a super-fit food.
If none of the aforementioned, it can serve as a simple addition to any meal by mixing it with water or milk to complete the meal, giving you the opportunity to take a break from any protein source you’ve had your fill of.
One scoop of protein powder with 20-24 g of protein will replace 100 g of meat or fish, and you can play around with the amount depending on the combination of other foods and your own needs.
Yogurt, especially the one with probiotic cultures, is not only good for the health of our digestion, but can also serve as a good source of protein that we can add to various morning or evening porridges, liquid meals, salad dressings, but also use it for a light snack with nuts, fruits and/or seeds during the day.
Greek yogurt is often mentioned as a valuable source of protein. However, it takes a lot of effort to really find the type that offers a good nutritional profile. Be careful and read the declarations. The Greek yogurt you buy in supermarkets usually contains much less protein and more fat, which diminishes the aforementioned benefits.
There are many protein yogurts available today that can serve as a better choice.
With a glass of plain yogurt, you can provide yourself with about 7 g of protein, which you can additionally enrich with other mentioned foods, such as whey protein, chia seeds or nuts, and a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese.
3. Chia seeds
These tiny seeds, rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, are so neutral in taste that they can be added to almost everything – from dairy products to various salads. As such they offer the perfect opportunity to increase the intake of plant sources of protein and break nutritional monotony.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds will enrich each of your meals with 4-6 g of protein with additional benefits in the form of fiber and healthy fats, which will further help you to fill up until the next meal.
The relatively high proportion of proteins puts legumes in an interesting place because they can be prepared as an independent meal, main dish, stew, or side dish.
We often unfairly forget chickpeas, beans, peas, soy, and lens despite the fact they are such a valuable source of vegetable protein and fiber that they can be an independent dish. Although they are not considered a complete source of protein, in the correct combination with certain foods, for example with rice, they can become so, so they are often used as such in various forms of plant-based nutrition.
However, this does not mean that you should not eat them on their own or in other combinations such as bean salads or various tasty stews without meat. More important than how much protein you eat in one meal is how much of this essential macronutrient you eat on a daily basis. However, if you really cannot imagine such a meal without something meaty, add a piece of meat as desired – just reduce the usual amount.
5. Choose quinoa over rice or pasta
Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids we need. The seed (most people think it’s a grain) is packed with about 8 grams of protein per cup. This is more than twice the amount found in the majority of standard grains. Swap quinoa for rice or pasta, or, add it to soups, salads, or even muffins and pancakes for extra nutritional value.
6. Fresh cheese
Is there anyone who hasn’t tried fresh cheese yet? This is certainly one of the favorite protein foods for many. Those same people don’t even need anything more than a spoon to enjoy it. On the other hand, there are those who simply can’t stand this food or those just looking for new ways to refine it.
Fresh cheese is not only a convenient addition to oatmeal and other whole grains, fruit, nuts, various seeds, and omelets, but it can also be a great way to enrich your wholemeal pasta or rice with protein. Also, you can treat yourself to healthy pancakes filled with fresh cheese for dessert. And not just for the dessert – a cup of cottage cheese can provide 24 g of additional protein to your pancake batter and/or filling, making them a complete meal, easily portable, and convenient for any time of the day.
And if you get hungry before going to bed, there is no better food that you can treat yourself to. The casein that cottage cheese contains will ensure that your body is supplied with valuable amino acids even while you sleep.
It is probably not necessary to write much about eggs. A quality source of protein, easy to prepare, carb free – eggs are perfect and definitely one of the most popular protein foods.
Although many eat them for breakfast, by themselves, or in combination with vegetables, the egg with its 6 g of protein per piece can also be a great addition to some other foods. So you can use it to make super healthy salads, and delicious sandwiches with wholemeal bread, enrich it with avocado, serve as an addition to a piece of meat or tuna, and you can even prepare eggs as a protein supplement to pasta or rice.
Or you can just keep them hard-boiled in the fridge as a super practical snack.
Practical, portable, tasty, and nutritionally rich, they go well with many foods. These are just some of the many benefits of nuts. Although they are known for their healthy fat profile, nuts also contain protein. With approximately 30 grams of nuts, you will provide your body with 6 g of protein (depending on the type).
Oatmeal, salads, smoothies, dairy products such as yogurt, fresh cheese, and even whey – all these foods enjoy the company of nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, which not only make them tastier but also nutritionally richer.
Increasing the protein content of your existing meals is not rocket science. Proper nutrition requires much more than knowing and properly combining protein foods, but the above can be an excellent first step towards healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits. Just make sure you don’t fall into the monotony trap – diversity in food sources is an essential component of a healthy life, and will make it easier for you to stick to your chosen diet in the long term.