If you’re watching your weight, you may have cut high-calorie meat, cheese, and other “don’ts” out of your diet.
But you’ve also taken away some of the richest sources of protein. High-protein foods take more work to digest and metabolize, which means you burn more calories processing them, according to WomensHealthMag.com. And since they take more time to leave your stomach than simple carbs, it’ll take longer for you to feel hungry again. We’ve identified healthy protein sources that are often low in fat or contain nutritious unsaturated fats to boost your energy levels and quell your hunger.
Add beans to soups.
Keep a variety of canned beans in your pantry as a go-to source of versatile, shelf-stable, healthy protein. Toss half a cup into low-calorie soup for a heartier dinner. Add a half of a cup to rice (and trim your typical rice serving in half) for a protein- and fiber-rich side dish. Swap beans into your main meals to replace meat, like in these recipes: Bean Bolognese, Black Bean Enchiladas, or Vegetarian Chili. One cup of beans adds 13 to 18g of protein, depending on the type.
Make oatmeal with milk.
If you’ve been mixing your oatmeal with water to save calories, add milk back to the bowl. Not only will you be adding healthy protein, you’ll also make your oatmeal creamier and more filling. A great ratio is equal parts milk and water, according to Slate.com. Make a 1/2 cup of uncooked oats (5 grams of protein) with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup fat-free milk (4 grams of protein).
Top salad with an egg.
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Your average egg contains about 6 grams of healthy protein. “Regardless of how you cook it, adding an egg to a salad instantly transforms it into a rich, satisfying meal that fills the belly,” wrote blogger Sarah Kagan on Epicurious.com. She recommends starting with hearty greens to help balance the egg’s creaminess, like radicchio, frisée, arugula, butter lettuce, or black kale. Kagan suggests hard-boiled eggs for larger pieces, and soft-boiled or poached to allow the yolk to mix in with the dressing. The egg will function a bit like oil, she says, adding texture without strong flavor.
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Pair fruit with cheese.
If you’re going to enjoy an apple for a snack, pair it with a slice of low-fat Swiss cheese. One ounce delivers about 8 grams of healthy protein for only 50 calories and 1 gram of fat, making your snack a lot more satiating without padding your waistline.
Add peanut butter to smoothies.
If your morning smoothie is packed with your favorite fruits but no protein, you may find your stomach growling well before lunch. Add two tablespoons of peanut butter for 8 grams of healthy protein—and plenty of good-for-you monounsaturated fats—for 188 calories. Try Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Smoothie (23 grams of protein) or Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie (9 grams of protein).
Sprinkle seeds on dishes.
Seeds are a delicious way to add crunch and flavor to a healthy meal or snack while sneaking in healthy protein—all for around 100 calories a serving. Two tablespoons of sunflower seeds contains 3.5 grams of protein; the same serving of sesame seeds contains 3.2 grams; and pumpkin seeds deliver 5 grams. Add them to homemade trail mixes, salads, stir-fries, or couscous.
Snack on almonds.
Easy to add to salads, stir-fries, and snacks, nuts are a great natural source of healthy protein. One-quarter cup of almonds contains 8 grams of protein.
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Have yogurt for dessert.
Swap your nightly ice-cream habit for fat-free vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt and you’ll tack an extra 12 grams of healthy protein (per 5.3-ounce serving) to the end of your day.