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6 Ways to Get More Protein in Your Diet

Written on March 8, 2013 at 6:00 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post comes from Chris Howard. In addition to being a strength and conditioning coach, Chris handles nutrition consultations for all the clients at Cressey Performance.

In my work with clients at Cressey Performance I have noticed that people need to get more protein in their diets. Most of us are so carbohydrate focused, making sure that we get the Food Guide Pyramid’s recommended 6-11 servings of grains a day, that we neglect to get enough protein. This is unfortunate, not only because people are still using the Food Guide Pyramid for advice, but also because protein is such an important and essential nutrient. I find this is particularly true in our female clients, with whom I am always discussing ways to get more protein in their diets, as many tend not to be huge consumers of meat and animal products. In addition, I find that many of our high school kids who are looking to gain weight can benefit from eating more protein. Here are some of the tips that have really helped our clients.

1. Eat more eggs!

Eggs are a simple way to include more protein in your diet, particularly at breakfast. A large egg has 6 grams of protein in it. Adding a few of these in throughout the day can go a long way toward helping you achieve a protein consumption in grams equal to your body weight in pounds. As a bonus, there are numerous ways to cook eggs, so there is likely a method you will like even if you are not an egg person – scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, baked, fried, and many others. Add some veggies and spices for a more complete meal.

2. Switch to Greek yogurt.

Most of our clients eat yogurt frequently, but unfortunately most of it is the processed, sugar-added garbage that the commercials are telling them will help them lose weight. My suggestion for higher protein intake and a healthier body is to switch to Greek-style yogurt. Greek yogurt has over twice the protein of even plain traditional yogurt at 23 grams versus 10 grams per cup. Add some berries and flax or chia seed to your Greek yogurt for a healthy breakfast or snack idea.

3. Make a smoothie!

I think smoothies are a great option no matter what your nutritional goals are. You can easily incorporate additional vegetables as I mentioned previously. In this case, smoothies are a great way to up your protein intake by adding protein powder, greek yogurt, almond milk, or even egg whites. A lot of people don’t necessarily like the taste of protein powders or greek yogurt, so smoothies make for a more palatable way to incorporate these foods into your nutrition plan. Here is a great article by the folks at Precision Nutrition to get you started on your smoothie-making journey.

4. Increase your portion size.

I know this one sounds strange, especially to the fat-loss community. Think about it, though. If you are having chicken for dinner and want to increase your protein intake, just eat more chicken. Hey, no one said this was rocket-science. For most of our clients, I recommend aiming for 1-2 palm sized portions of protein at each meal, which will usually get them into the range of 1g/lb body weight. When I look at the portion sizes of many of our skinny high school kids and our adult fat-loss clients, they simply are not eating a large enough portion size of protein. Speaking of chicken, here is a dynamite recipe for chicken fingers from Metabolic Cooking. Add some vegetables for a complete meal.

5. Don’t forget cheese.

While I tend not to eat a ton of dairy food and a lot of people are switching to more paleo-style diets, let’s not forget about cheese. It can be used as an excellent source of not only protein, but also calories for those of you looking to gain weight. Now, I am certainly not suggesting that you sit around eating a block of your favorite cheddar every day, but I’m not opposed to throwing a little on an omelet in the morning or having some fresh mozzarella with your chicken and asparagus at dinner.

6. Look to your fat source for some extra protein.

Nuts and seeds are a great addition to any diet, mainly for the healthy fats they contain. However, nuts and seeds have the added benefit of providing some much needed protein. An ounce of almonds has 6 grams of protein, which when added to a snack of greek yogurt with blueberries can make for a significant protein punch. Both cacao nibs and chia seeds will provide an additional 4 grams per ounce. Two tablespoons of peanut butter with provide an additional 8 grams. While nuts and seeds won’t compare to chicken or beef in terms of the protein they contain, nuts and seeds provide the benefit of being portable raw food options that work well for snacks between main meals.

Wrap-up

In closing, give some or all of these ideas a try when you are planning out your next meal. I’ve heard countless clients talk about how much more energy they have and how much better they feel after increasing their protein intake. Please remember, you don’t ever need to completely overhaul your diet, but rather make small changes each day or week that will lead to large changes over time.

About the Author

Christopher Howard received his his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Massachusetts, and a Level 1 Certified Precision Nutrition Coach. Chris has been a strength coach at Cressey Performance since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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10 Responses to “6 Ways to Get More Protein in Your Diet”

  1. James Cipriani Says:

    I starting reading this thinking that I would end up adding something here that I felt was left out in the article.

    Nope…you pretty much covered it! :)

  2. Eric Says:

    My favorite way to increase my protein intake is to drink a 100g protein shake before bed.

  3. Bob TNH Says:

    Nice article Chris. What are your thoughts on protein drink mixes like the Special K Water mix?
    http://www.specialk.com/protein-water-mixes

    I’ve got a teenage female athlete with a busy schedule and she likes them during the day at school.

  4. JT Says:

    Hi Eric,

    I like your list. It reinforces what I have been doing and gives me encouragement to keep it up. One thing that I have added to my diet and wonder whether it deserves to be on the list is sprouts.

    What do you think?

  5. Dave Cudlipp Says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I particularly liked it since I am vegetarian and I am always looking for ways to increase my protein. One more I can recommend is whole milk — one of my go to source of protein.

  6. Nick Shaw Says:

    Hi Chris,

    slightly outside the direction of the article but you mention using smoothies to get more protein in. Do you feel it is important people do not become overly reliant on these as the insoluble fiber is sheared and reduces in effectiveness? Or have I understood incorrectly?

    Thanks,

    Nick

  7. RS Says:

    Chris,

    I make use of each of the points you outline above, though eating more chicken is something I have to work on. Not the biggest fan, but it is one of the absolute best protein options.

    I’ve recently started adding cheese to eggs and grass-fed beef, and love it.

    RS

  8. Donna Says:

    Hi there Chris and Eric.

    Thanks for the post. I really like that you’ve included eggs, especially since they are so maligned in the press. However, I personally dislike shakes being included on lists. They are usually far too calorie dense and often have too much sugar in them (in spite of the invitation to include vegetables).

    About cheese: I love it (and greek yoghurt) but have a dairy intolerance and again, it’s way too high in calories versus portion size. Plus, I would encourage anyone that has 20 mins or so, to listen to this podcast about the engineering of ‘food.’ Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist. Some interesting facts about cheese production in it. http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/ID/2341158069/

    No fish on the list? Too low in protein?

    Thanks for doing what you do!!

  9. Terri Chrisman Says:

    I’m a carb junkie and a Marathon runner. I get more protein by adding protein powder to pretty much everything with carbs in it. Breakfast oats with protein milk. Home made protein bars. Protein pancakes. Post run banana protein shakes. I getting hungry just thi king about it. Great article. Very succinct and easily incorporated into a healthy diet. I especially liked the bit about eating more chicken.

  10. Eric Cressey Says:

    Good stuff, Terri!

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