Whether you're not a fan of chicken breast or just have an affinity for carbohydrates, sometimes it can seem hard to eat a well balanced diet that's full of protein. Luckily, not every dish has to contain a steak as its main course, and there ways to sneak protein into your diet. Protein comes from more than just animals or beans and legumes, and you may be surprised to find how many different ways you can include it in your meals.
So why exactly do we need protein? "Protein is an important part of every cell in our body," says Rebecca Lewis, RD of HelloFresh over email. "We use protein to help form bones, muscles, cartilage, hair, skin, nails, and blood."
It seems as if we often hear about loading up on the nutrient, but when it comes to exact amounts, the USDA recommends that women ages 19-30 should consume 5.5 ounces of protein per day, and men ages 19-30 should consume 6.5 ounces of protein per day. Clearly this doesn't mean we need to load up on a huge chunk of meat at every meal, but eating a balanced amount of protein throughout the day can help keep you energized and satiated.
If you need to increase the amount of the nutrient you eat in every meal, try these six clever ways to sneak more protein into your diet.
1. Add Nut Butters Into Your Smoothies
If you're a fan of morning smoothies, go for more than just fruits and vegetables. "Add peanut butter (or another nut butter) into smoothies for an added boost of protein," says Lewis. "Just make sure it does not have added salts or sugars or hydrogenated oils." One tablespoon of peanut butter contains four grams of protein alone, which can be a great supplement to your drink and give it lasting power.
2. Substitute Greek Yogurt For Cream
Not all of us like to eat Greek yogurt as its own snack, but it can be used a substitution for a variety of other less healthy foods, which can help boost your dish's protein content. "Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for recipes," says Lewis. "The fat is lower, and the protein is higher." You can also use Greek yogurt as a replacement for heavy cream in baking and as mayonnaise in sandwiches and dressings.
3. Use Nutritional Yeast Instead Of Cheese
If you're not familiar with it already, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast with a nutty and cheesy flavor. It contains a number of vitamins and minerals, including fiber and protein, and it is completely vegan. "Sprinkle nutritional yeast flakes instead of butter, salt or cheese on popcorn," suggests Lewis.
4. Dip Your Veggies (Or Even Chips) In Hummus
If you're one to snack on carrots and celery — or maybe you're more of a chips and dip kind of gal — switch to hummus instead, which contains a fair amount of protein from the chickpeas. "This option have more protein than salsa or guacamole," says Tiffany Newenhouse, RD over email. "Any vegetable that is strong enough to withstand a dip pairs well, such as cucumber, bell peppers, carrots, or celery."
5. Cook With Pesto
Pesto makes a great sauce for pastas, a topping for eggs, or even a dressing for salads. Adding nuts into your pesto can add some protein to your dish without changing up the texture or flavor. Opt for nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pistachios, which contain the highest amount of protein.
6. Add Egg Whites
For added protein without the strong flavor of eggs, consider adding egg whites to dishes that you can thoroughly mix them in. "Add egg whites into oatmeal for an extra protein boost, without an overpowering flavor," says Lewis. One large egg white contains 3.6 grams of protein, making it a good addition for pastas, rice bowls, and more.
Add these little foods into your daily meals, and you'll be sure to be eating an adequate diet filled with a good amount of protein.
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