Protein is essential to well-being. The very origin of the word protein first appeared in scientific literature in 1838, derived from the Greek word “protos” – meaning “first rank or position,” in recognition of how important protein is to life. Every cell in the human body contains protein and it is needed to repair and make new cells.
“Protein in our diet is crucial because it is needed to support the health of your hair, nails, bones and muscles,” says dietitian Susan Bowerman, Herbalife Nutrition, senior director. “Protein also helps you feel full longer, which can help you avoid mindless eating and keep weight in check.”
Bowerman says it’s important to start the day off with protein in your breakfast in order to feel full and satisfied until lunchtime. However, she stresses that protein is a key element for all meals and snacks to ensure optimum nutrition.
Many people think of meat, like chicken and beef, when they think of foods that contain protein, but there are many more options for getting this critical nutrient throughout your day. In fact, Bowerman says many people are proactively seeking products that feature plant-based proteins to help maintain a healthy diet.
Plus, with shifting eating habits – where traditional meals are no longer the default and people are eating breakfast for lunch or breakfast for dinner – it’s the perfect time to get creative in your kitchen. According to research, half (46%) of consumers enjoy eating breakfast foods at non-traditional times, especially at dinner (56%).
“As a dietitian, one of the top questions I get from people is how to add more protein to their diet,” says Bowerman. “When I tell them some of my own favorite ways to eat protein throughout the day, they are often surprised at how simple it can be.”
Bowerman shares four of her favorite ways to increase protein intake:
Stock up on nuts
Nuts like almonds, pecans and walnuts are a great way to add protein to any meal. Try adding a handful of nuts on top of your salad, oatmeal, yogurt, smoothie bowl or other dishes for a healthy crunch. Nuts are also great for a quick, filling snack that satisfies your cravings for crunchy food, but unlike chips, you can feel good about reaching for this food.
Swap in Greek yogurt
Swap in Greek yogurt for traditional yogurt for a tasty and versatile protein boost in your diet. One single-serve container of nonfat Greek yogurt has roughly 14 grams of protein. To maximize the versatility of Greek yogurt, consider buying the plain variety. That way you can use it whatever way you want, from adding fruit and a drizzle of honey for a wholesome snack, to using it as an ingredient for a delicious dressing or sauce.
Use beans in recipes
Beans and legumes are wonderfully filling because they are protein-packed, yet many people overlook their potential in daily nutrition. First, stock up on convenient canned varieties such as lentils, kidney beans, white beans, and black beans. Then experiment using them in different ways. Adding to soup is easy, but beans are also great on salads and pasta. Make a healthy no-bake salsa by draining and mixing the contents of a can of beans, low-salt corn, and diced tomatoes with chiles. You can even swap in beans and have a tasty and wholesome meatless taco night.
“Protein is an essential nutrient that can support your overall well-being and help you feel your best,” says Bowerman. “Taking a few simple and tasty steps every day will help you meet your protein needs so your body can function at its best.”