Do you often feel tired at work? Do you suffer from the so-called afternoon slump that leaves you reaching for sugar and caffeine to stay awake until the end of the day? Does it get hard to focus and get your job done? The reason you feel less than amazing might not be what you think. Another cup of coffee isn’t the answer. You actually might not be getting enough protein in your daily diet. Protein literally affects every single part of your body, from your cells to muscles, and you have to constantly eat more throughout the day because your body uses it up. Best of all, protein makes you feel full and we all know that being hungry zaps your energy like nothing else. There are many easy ways to include more protein in your diet every day. Follow these top 10 tips and watch yourself get through the day without yawning once.
1. Enjoy a Breakfast Protein Smoothie
Your morning smoothie can be a nutritional powerhouse if you include a combination of fruit, dairy or non-dairy milk, healthy fats and, most important of all, a serving of protein. Protein powders are the easiest way to make a breakfast smoothie that has the power to help you go the distance and stay full until lunchtime. Depending on your needs, you can add anything from vegan brown rice, pea or hemp protein powders, or whey protein powder if you are okay with dairy. One scoop is all you need and you can get around 15-20 grams of protein which is a good amount. This is a particularly smart idea if you are vegan or vegetarian since you might struggle to get enough protein in your diet. If you can handle whey, it’s a good choice for a protein powder since it has every amino acid your body needs, which means it’s a complete protein.
2. Fall in Love With Nut Butter
Nut butters are a two-for-one combination of protein and healthy fats, so they’re a good choice for breakfast and snacks. Whether you like peanut or almond or even cashew butter, it doesn’t matter – they all have similar nutritional profiles. That being said, however, almond butter has more fiber so it’s a good way to add more fiber to your diet if you don’t typically eat fiber-rich foods. One serving of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons and contains 8 grams of protein. If you enjoy some spread on whole grain toast along with two scrambled eggs for breakfast, you will consume at least 15 grams of protein thanks to the peanut butter/egg combo, not to mention a few grams from the bread. You can also take nut butter to work to enjoy with an apple or banana in the morning or afternoon. As a bonus, almond and peanut butters are very filling and creamy, not to mention a bit sweet, so you will feel like you are having a treat when in reality you are adding more protein to your day.
3. Eat Your Veggies
Good news for those following a plant-based diet: many vegetables contain protein. One cup of peas has almost 8 grams of protein. Take some pasta and peas for the perfect work lunch, and add some tuna or chicken if you’re a meat eater and want to boost the protein even more. Spinach has 3 grams of protein for 1/2 cup so it’s a good idea to enjoy a spinach salad for lunch along with a high protein source to get some more in. While many green vegetables such as broccoli do contain protein, it’s not more than 2-3 grams per serving, so it’s a good idea to enjoy these veggies with other forms of protein.
4. Eat Less Red Meat
In order to maintain a healthy diet and get enough protein, you need to eat less red meat -both a smaller portion and less meat in general. We typically consume way too much steak at a time because restaurant portions often include 8 oz or 12 oz of red meat when a proper serving is actually 2 to 3 ounces. So enjoy less at any meal and try some protein sources other than beef, such as chicken, fish, turkey, eggs and beans.
5. Get Fishy
Fish is an amazing source of lean protein and thankfully it’s pretty easy to bring to work for healthy lunches. Just add a piece of salmon to a salad. You might not want to pack a tuna sandwich because as we all know, tuna can smell pretty bad, but salmon is a good choice. Fish is thought to have about 22 grams of protein so it’s always a good high protein choice. Make some salmon for dinner and enjoy the leftovers for lunch to make things easy.
6. Eat Protein at Every Meal And Snack
Hands down, the easiest way to consume enough protein every day is to add some to breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Easy snack protein ideas include nut butter, edamame, cashews, almonds, roasted chickpeas and hummus. Enjoy a variety so you get protein from different sources every day, and to ensure that your diet is as varied as possible, too.
7. Enjoy a Bean Salad
Bean salads are a common fixture of summertime barbeques, often involving several kinds of beans from black beans to kidney beans. Use the same idea for a new spin on a healthy work lunch, and add some red pepper, corn and tomato for added vegetables and nutrients. You can also enjoy some baked beans on whole grain toast for a healthy snack or dinner, or make a bean-based vegan chilli for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. Beans also contain fiber so that’s another good reason to enjoy some.
8. Don't Forget Grains
Beans and meat may be the go-to protein sources, but grains have protein, too. Quinoa is the high-protein superstar of the whole grains world, even though it’s technically considered to be a seed. You can get 8 grams of protein from one cup of quinoa. It makes an amazing work lunch with some veggies, beans or meat added for a more interesting and filling take. Another high-protein grain is millet which can be enjoyed the same way. Both are great alternatives to brown or white rice for dinner sides or along with chilli for a hot lunch that beats a cold salad any day of the week.
9. Go Italian
Pasta may not be thought of as the healthiest food but it does contain some protein. You can go even healthier and buy whole-wheat versions or gluten-free pastas made of corn or quinoa. You’re looking at 7-8 grams of protein for one cup of pasta, which is how much pasta you should actually be eating -even though many of us consume way more in a single sitting. Add another protein source whether it’s meat sauce, strips of chicken, shrimp or even black beans and you’ve got a smart meal.
10. Don't Be Afraid of Cheese
Unless you’re lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, you can include cheese as a form of protein in a healthy diet. Cheese is a great snack to enjoy at your desk along with some nuts or apple slices, and some goat cheese is an amazing salad topper.
You may not be getting enough protein in your diet and it may be affecting your concentration and energy levels, not to mention your hunger levels. Follow these top 10 tips for eating more protein and you will feel better than ever.