February 21st, 2019
3 Ways to Sneak Protein into Your Diet
By Katie Abbott MS, RDN, INHC
Clinical Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Ornish Lifestyle Medicine™
When our parents told us we needed to eat protein to be big and strong, they weren’t just making it up. After all, protein is a key building block for our body.
Protein provides energy and helps repair and build cells. It’s a component of skin, nails, hair, muscles and internal organs. Protein is essential for blood clotting, fluid balance, the immune system, vision and hormone production. It can also make you feel full longer.
Protein comes from plant and animal sources. Here are some choices:
- Soy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products
- Grains in vegetables
Amino acids bind to form protein and are classified into three groups. One of these categories, “essential amino acids,” can only be supplied by food. The body does not make these.
Sneaking Protein into Your Diet
If some of the sources of protein don’t appeal to you or a family member, here are some clever ways to sneak more protein into your diet.
- Sprinkle nutritional yeast on everything – Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that has a nutty, cheesy, savory flavor that can be sprinkled on anything from brown rice to a fresh salad. Two tablespoons contain about 6 grams of protein.
- Lentil pasta – Instead of using whole grain pasta, cook lentil pasta. Lentil pasta can contain up to 20 grams of protein per serving. Cooking time of about 8-10 minutes is perfect for a quick and easy meal.
- Black bean brownies – It sounds gross, but you can’t even taste the black beans. Use a whole grain brownie mix to pack even more protein, fiber and nutrition. First, rinse and drain the black beans. Add the black beans back to the can and add enough water to cover the beans. Add beans and water to a food processor and process until smooth. Mix pureed black beans with your favorite brownie mix in a bowl (no need for adding oil or eggs). Lastly, follow baking directions on the box.
All of the protein listed above are plant-based proteins. When you eat meat, you also add saturated fat and cholesterol to your diet. Plant-based proteins are also beneficial because they contain fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
The amount of protein you should consume is based on your height, weight and activity level. You can find a protein calculator online or speak to your doctor or registered dietitian about the right amount for you.
Taking too many protein supplements, such as protein shakes or bars, can lead to health problems, such as kidney stones. So be sure to stay within healthy limits.
Katie Abbott graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a master of science in public health nutrition. She is certified by the Commission on Dietetic Registration as a registered dietitian nutritionist and is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group. She also participates in many community organizations that focus on healthy eating. Katie enjoys going to work every day knowing that she is guiding patients on a life-changing journey towards health and wellness.