Getting enough protein is important for your health.
For this reason, the daily value for protein is 50 grams per day.
However, some researchers believe that many people should be eating significantly more than this amount.
A high protein intake offers several potential health benefits and could help increase weight loss, enhance muscle growth, and improve your overall health.
Here are 14 easy ways to eat more protein.
1. Eat your protein first
When eating a meal, eat the protein source first, especially before you get to the starches.
Protein increases the production of peptide YY, a gut hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied.
In addition, a high protein intake decreases levels of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” and increases your metabolic rate after eating and during sleep.
What’s more, eating protein first can help keep your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising too high after a meal.
In one small study, people with type 2 diabetes were served identical meals on different days. Blood sugar and insulin rose significantly less when they consumed protein and vegetables before eating high carb foods, compared with when the order was reversed.
Summary: Eating protein first at meals can help you feel full and keep your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising too high.
2. Pick cheese as a snack
Snacks are a good way to get extra protein into your diet — as long as you choose healthy ones.
Many common snack foods, such as chips, pretzels, and crackers, are very low in protein.
For example, a 1-cup (30-gram) serving of plain tortilla chips has 142 calories but only 2 grams of protein.
In contrast, a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of cheddar cheese contains 7 grams of protein, along with nearly 30 fewer calories and 6 times as much calcium.
Additionally, cheese doesn’t seem to raise cholesterol levels much, even among people with high cholesterol. Some research suggests that cheese may even benefit heart health.
Try enjoying a cheese stick between meals or pair your favorite type of cheese with whole-grain crackers, tomatoes, or sliced apples for a healthy and satisfying snack.
Summary: Choose cheese for a filling snack that’s high in protein and calcium and may improve heart health.
3. Replace cereal with eggs
Many breakfast foods are low in protein, including toast, bagels, and cereals.
Although oatmeal contains more protein than most cereals, it still only provides about 5 grams in a typical 1-cup (240-gram) serving.
On the other hand, 3 large eggs provide 19 grams of high-quality protein, along with important nutrients like selenium and choline.
What’s more, several studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast reduces appetite and keeps you full for several hours, so you end up eating fewer calories later in the day.
According to one older study, eating whole eggs can also modify the size and shape of your LDL (bad) cholesterol particles in a way that may even decrease your heart disease risk.
Summary: Replacing cereal with eggs boosts protein consumption, makes you feel more full, and helps you eat fewer calories.
4. Top your food with chopped almonds
Almonds are incredibly healthy.
They’re high in magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, yet low in digestible carbs.
Almonds also contain 6 grams of protein in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving, which makes them a better source of protein than most nuts.
And although a serving of almonds contains around 170 calories, studies have shown that your body absorbs only about 133 of those calories because some of the fat isn’t digested.
So sprinkle a few tablespoons of chopped almonds over yogurt, cottage cheese, salads, or oatmeal to increase your protein intake and add a bit of flavor and crunch.
Summary: Almonds are high in several nutrients and can boost the protein content of a meal or snack.
5. Choose Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is a versatile, high-protein food.
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It’s made by removing whey and other liquids to produce a richer, creamier yogurt that’s higher in protein.
A 7-ounce (240-gram) serving provides 17–20 grams of protein, depending on the specific brand. This is about twice the amount of traditional yogurt.
Research shows Greek yogurt increases the release of the gut hormones glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY, which reduce hunger and make you feel full.
In addition, it contains conjugated linoleic acid, which has been shown to promote fat loss in some studies.
Greek yogurt has a tangy flavor that goes well with berries or chopped fruit. It can also be used as a substitute for sour cream in dips, sauces, and other recipes.
Summary: Greek yogurt contains twice as much protein as traditional yogurt and can be eaten alone or added to other foods.
6. Have a protein shake for breakfast
Many smoothies contain a lot of fruit, vegetables, or juice, but very little protein.
However, a shake or smoothie can be a great breakfast option, especially if you choose nutritious ingredients.
Protein powders make it easy to create a healthy, high-protein shake. There are several types on the market, including whey, soy, egg, and pea protein.
Whey protein powder has been studied the most and seems to have an edge over the others when it comes to helping you feel full.
One scoop (28 grams) of whey powder provides about 17 grams of protein, on average.
Here’s a basic whey shake recipe:
Whey Protein Shake
- 8 ounces (225 grams) of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop (28 grams) of whey powder
- 1 cup (150 grams) of fresh berries
- stevia or another healthy sweetener, if desired
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) of crushed ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
To boost the protein content even further, use extra protein powder or add peanut butter, almond butter, flaxseeds, or chia seeds.
Suggested read: 10 best breakfast foods for people with diabetes
Summary: Having a protein shake for breakfast helps you start the day off right. Whey may be the best type to use.
7. Include a high protein food with every meal
When it comes to protein, it’s not just the total amount you take in every day that matters. Getting enough at each meal is also important.
Several researchers recommend consuming a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein at each meal.
Studies show that this amount promotes fullness and preserves muscle mass better than smaller amounts eaten throughout the day.
Examples of foods high in protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and soy products like tofu or tempeh.
You can also select foods from this list of delicious high-protein foods to make sure you meet your needs at every meal.
Summary: Include a high-protein food at each meal to get what you need to feel full and maintain muscle mass.
8. Choose leaner, slightly larger cuts of meat
Selecting leaner cuts of meat and increasing portion sizes slightly can significantly boost the protein content of your meal.
What’s more, your meal may even end up being lower in calories.
For example, compare the nutritional value of a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of these two steaks:
- T-bone steak: 21 grams of protein and 250 calories
- Sirloin steak: 26 grams of protein and 150 calories
Summary: Choosing leaner cuts of meat and slightly larger portions is an easy way to increase your protein intake.
9. Add peanut butter to your diet
Peanut butter is delicious, high-protein food with a creamy texture that pairs well with a variety of ingredients.
Studies suggest that peanut butter may be associated with several health benefits and could decrease appetite, increase fat burning, and reduce blood sugar levels.
Peanut butter can also boost the flavor and nutritional value of firm fruits like apples and pears, which are rich in fiber and antioxidants yet low in protein.
Spreading 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of peanut butter on sliced fruit can boost the total protein content by 7 grams.
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Peanut butter also works well with a wide range of other ingredients, including oatmeal, celery, whole-wheat toast, or yogurt.
Summary: Adding peanut butter to your diet can boost your protein intake. It may also help decrease appetite, improve heart health, and lower blood sugar.
10. Eat lean jerky
Lean jerky is a quick and convenient way to get more protein into your diet.
However, it’s important to choose a healthy type.
Many types of jerky contain sugar, preservatives, and other questionable ingredients. They’re also frequently made from low-quality meat.
Some jerky and snack sticks come from grass-fed beef, bison, and other free-range animals. Choosing jerky from grass-fed animals will provide better quality meat with higher amounts of healthy omega-3 fats.
Lean jerkies or snack sticks contain about 9 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams).
They can often be stored for several months without refrigeration and are also portable and ideal for travel.
Summary: Lean jerkies and snack sticks are good sources of protein. Choose high-quality types that come from grass-fed animals whenever possible.
11. Indulge in cottage cheese at any time
Cottage cheese is a tasty food that’s also very high in protein. A 1-cup (210-gram) serving contains 23 grams of protein and 176 calories.
A 2015 study found cottage cheese to be as filling and satisfying as eggs.
What’s more, full-fat varieties are a good source of conjugated linoleic acid, which may promote fat loss and lead to improved body composition.
One older study followed women who ate a high protein, high dairy diet while exercising and reducing calorie intake. They lost more belly fat and gained more muscle mass than women with moderate intakes of protein and dairy.
Cottage cheese is delicious on its own. You can also try it with chopped nuts or seeds, cinnamon, and stevia for a quick and easy breakfast.
Additionally, smaller amounts of cottage cheese make a great snack between meals and can be added to fruit salads or smoothies to bump up their protein contents.
Summary: Cottage cheese is a versatile, high-protein food that makes you feel full and may help improve body composition.
12. Add edamame to your diet
Edamame is the term for steamed soybeans in their unripened form.
Soybeans have more protein than other legumes and are popular among vegetarians and vegans.
One cup (155 grams) of edamame has almost 19 grams of protein and about 188 calories.
Edamame is also high in an antioxidant known as kaempferol. Mouse studies suggest it may reduce blood sugar and aid weight loss.
Edamame can be purchased fresh or frozen and makes a great snack. It can also be added to stir-fries, salads, stews, and rice dishes.
Summary: Edamame is a good source of plant protein and may have other health benefits.
13. Eat canned fish
Canned fish is a fantastic way to boost your protein intake.
It requires no refrigeration, so it’s wonderful for travel. It can also be enjoyed as a snack or with a meal.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of canned fish contains about 19 grams of protein and just 90 calories.
Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can fight inflammation and improve heart health.
Ideas for serving canned fish include combining it with healthy mayo, serving it on top of a salad, eating it straight from the can, or adding it to an omelet, croquette, or pasta dish.
Summary: Canned fish is a convenient source of high-quality protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
14. Enjoy more whole grains
Whole grains are rich in important nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
What’s more, they could also help ramp up your intake of protein.
For instance, a 1-cup (185-gram) serving of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, whereas cooked amaranth provides over 9 grams of protein per cup (246 grams).
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This is significantly more than refined grains like white rice, which contains just 4 grams of protein per cooked cup (158 grams).
Other examples of protein-rich whole grains include buckwheat, couscous, wild rice, millet, and teff.
Try swapping these ingredients for refined grains in recipes like pilafs, stir-fries, and grain salads.
Summary: Whole grains are highly nutritious and can bump up the protein content of many dishes when used in place of refined grains.
Getting enough protein in your diet is very important.
A high protein intake can offer numerous benefits, including helping you lose weight, gain muscle, and improve your body composition and metabolic health.
Fortunately, this is easy to do if you follow the simple tips above.