Why a high-protein lunch?iStock/Thinkstock
Because protein takes longer to digest than carbs and sugars, your blood sugar stays more even, giving you fewer mood dips and higher energy levels. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 46 grams of protein for women over age 19, and 56 grams of protein for men. Protein may also aid with weight loss, according to a review of studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, possibly because it helps maintain muscle mass. “Starting at about age 35-40, women start losing a significant amount of muscle as they become more sedentary,” said David Heber, PhD, professor of medicine and Director of the Risk Factor Obesity Program at UCLA, in an interview with WomensHealthMag.com. Less muscle means less calorie burn, and increased chances of weight gain. Here are six ways to eat more protein at your mid-day meal.
If you lunch on: Slice of pizzaiStock/Thinkstock
Up the protein: Choose toppings such as grilled chicken or ham (an ounce of each adds about 5 grams of protein), or tinned anchovies (one anchovy has 1 gram of protein). Consider adding an ounce of smoked lox slices on white pizzas (for 5 grams protein); one ounce grilled tofu for 3 grams; or one ounce cooked turkey bacon for 4 grams of protein. And always add extra veggies—like broccoli, mushrooms, or spinach—to increase fiber and vitamins with minimal calories.
If you lunch on: Grilled American cheeseiStock/Thinkstock
Up the protein: Make an Italian-inspired panini. If you trade one ounce of American cheese for mozzarella, you’ll add 3 more grams of protein per ounce. This Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Roasted Peppers on Whole Wheat Bread recipe from SkinnyTaste.com delivers nearly 17 grams of protein per sandwich, compared to the average grilled-cheese sandwich with only 11 grams.
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If you lunch on: Turkey sandwichiStock/Thinkstock
Up the protein: Turkey is already a great source of lean protein, but you can swap your mayo or mustard for two tablespoons of hummus, and you’ll add 2 grams of protein. Use high-protein bread to get about 3 more grams of protein per slice than regular whole wheat.
If you lunch on: Green salad topped with tons of veggies and a hard-boiled eggiStock/Thinkstock
Up the protein: A skimpy green that lacks protein will leave you feeling hungry again in a few hours. Top your bowl with a sliced hard-boiled egg for 6 grams of protein; or try a half-cup of chickpeas or other beans for an extra 6 to 9 grams.
If you lunch on: Vegetable soupiStock/Thinkstock
Up the protein: Add a half-cup of cooked beans, like black beans, kidney beans, or lentils for an extra 6 to 9 grams of protein, depending on the bean type. Overall, beans are also a good source of fiber and other nutrients.
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If you lunch on: Fruit, fat-free yogurt, and pretzelsiStock/Thinkstock
Up the protein: If you are often on the go or get a snack-ish lunch, start by swapping your plain yogurt for a serving of Greek to double the amount of protein. A 5- to 6-ounce serving of Greek plain nonfat contains about 15 to 18 grams of protein, while your regular yogurt has about 8 or 9 grams. You could also add an ounce of raw almonds to the mix for 6 grams of protein.