I’ve been pretty lax with my healthy eating lately due to a few different reasons. One, I wanted to enjoy Mexican food as much as I could before I left Oaxaca to come back to Philly so I went a little hard on the tortillas and cheese. Then, I came back to the U.S. and was distracted by looking for a new apartment, getting settled in, and then enjoying having Daniel visit me for a few weeks in July/August. Now, I have no excuses and I’m ready to get serious.
One of the things I always focus on when I’m trying to lose a few pounds and get fit is making sure I’m eating enough protein. Protein is SO important for fat loss and muscle gain (not just the bulky kind of muscle but the lean kind too). When I was tracking my macros (post to come soon about my experience) last year I realized how much protein you really need to see serious progress. It’s kind of shocking!
I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to sneak in as much protein into my diet as possible without having to eat pounds of plain chicken at every meal. Here are a few of my tricks:
1. Befriend Cottage Cheese and Greek Yogurt
If you’re not vegan, of course, cottage cheese and greek yogurt can be your best friends. Low fat versions are high in protein and low in calories. I like adding them to recipes, as well as eating them plain with some fruit and granola. Cottage cheese is particularly great added to smoothies to make them thicker, to pancakes to make them fluffy (this is my favorite recipe from Ambitious Kitchen), and to cheesy pasta dishes like Cottage Cheese Baked Macaroni and Cheese or Cottage Cheese Cornbread. I also love mixing some cottage cheese into my scrambled eggs to make them extra fluffy and protein packed. Or, want a protein packed dessert? Then these Mini Protein Cheesecakes with Raspberry Sauce are perfect for you!
Greek yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, or whipped cream like I used it on top of these Honey Roasted Peaches. Of course, greek yogurt is a great breakfast option and can be layered with fresh fruit and granola… a la Honey Roasted Fig Parfaits. It can also replace some of the fat in baked goods. But don’t just limit greek yogurt to sweet treats, it can be savory too like in this Vegetable Gratin.
2. Peanut flour vs. peanut butter
Peanut flour is a great way to cut down on fat while still getting the flavor and protein of peanut butter. And boy, do I love peanut butter! You can use peanut flour in any place that you would use regular flour, and it’s a great way to spruce up some Banana Oatmeal Bites. If you’re a peanut butter addict like me then add peanut flour AND natural peanut butter to a recipe for even more flavor and more protein…hey there Copycat Juice Generation Peanut Butter Split Smoothie.
3. Find your favorite protein powder
I found my favorite protein powder when I started getting serious about fitness and healthy eating at the beginning of college. In addition to adding it to protein shakes, I love adding 1/2 scoop to 1 scoop of it to hot or iced coffee, which usually replaces the need for sweetener. This is best if you are using whey protein powder (here’s my favorite brand– Vanilla Ice Cream and Double Rich Chocolate are great!) since it dissolves much better than vegan options. If you’re adding it to hot coffee make sure to add it once the coffee is hot since the whey has a strange texture if you microwave it afterwards. I also like adding a scoop of protein powder to overnight oats, baked goods, microwave cakes, or banana protein soft serve. I’m trying a little dairy-free experiment so I bought a jar of Vega Sport Performance Protein vegan protein powder to see if I like it. Have any good recipes?
4. Add egg whites to everything
Egg whites pack such an amazing protein punch. Did you know that when a baked good recipe calls for an egg, you can replace it with two egg whites for the same ratio and more protein. Mug cakes are a lighter option for a healthy dessert and I like using egg whites to make them fluffy, like in this Strawberry Peanut Butter Cup Microwave Cake. Don’t get me wrong, the fat in egg yolks is great for you and I often pair a few whole eggs with liquid egg whites for a balanced meal.
5. Green veggies have protein!
Green veggies are packed with protein and are a super low cal way to get in some of your most important vitamins and minerals. Have a Fall Za’atar Salad for lunch, add broccoli to some Vegetarian Mushroom “Meatloaf” Cups, or throw some spinach or kale into your smoothies, like I did in this Protein Shamrock Shake (which is delicious any time of the year)!
6. Lentils are high in protein
Lentils are surprisingly high in protein- about 18 g per 1 cup serving, which is higher than many other beans! I love making Lentil Hummus on Sunday as a snack during the week or prepping a big Potato Lentil Salad with Cilantro Pesto for lunches and dinners. Lentils are great in winter stews and chili too!
So there you have it- just some of my favorite tips to get eek in as much protein as you can. Don’t underestimate how much you need and do your research to find out the exact amount according to your goals.
What are your favorite ways to pack in a little extra protein? I can’t wait to hear your tips!