So you want to lose weight. You pick out an exercise routine and commit to eating healthier. You read that getting enough protein is the #1 secret to weight loss (at least as far as your diet is concerned). Then you read in order to get enough protein, 25-35% of your daily calories needs to come from this important macronutrient. How much protein is that? And how are you going to make sure you hit that goal?
The Basics of Getting In Enough Protein
If you eat around 2000 calories a day, this means between 500-700 of your calories need to come from protein. As a macronutrient, protein has 4 calories per gram. This translates to eating between 125 and 175 grams of protein per day. The Average American gets 16% of their calories from protein, which is the equivalent of eating 80 grams of protein a day. Jumping from 80 grams to 125 or 175 is a pretty big difference! It might seem impossible to get that much protein a day, but with a little knowledge, you can strategize your meals and snacks to hit that goal and get enough protein! Here are some ideas on where to find protein in your food:
Lean Beef – A steak is probably the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word “protein.” Lean beef is a good place to get protein, as well as iron. Stats: 184 calories, 22 grams protein = 53% protein in one 3 ounce serving of cooked beef or 111 calories, 18 grams protein = 65% protein in one 3 ounce serving of 95% lean ground beef.
Pork – Another healthy and often inexpensive meat, pork is as lean as chicken while still delivering a healthy dose of iron and B vitamins. Stats: 137 calories, 26 grams protein = 76% protein per 3 ounce serving of boneless pork chop.
Poultry – Chicken and turkey are both lean meats that have a high protein content with little fat. Taking off the skin removes excess calories and fat. Stats: 284 calories, 53 grams protein = 80% protein in 1 chicken breast or 146 calories, 24 grams protein = 70% protein in 3 ounces turkey breast.
Seafood – Seafood is a delicious way to get your protein and other important nutrients it’s hard to get elsewhere through your diet, like Omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna is the all-star at 94% protein, but salmon (46% protein), shrimp (90% protein), and halibut (58%) also score high. Stats: 179 calories, 39 grams protein = 94% protein in 1 cup.
Eggs – Nutritious for many reasons, eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fats. Most of the protein is found in the egg white. Stats: 78 calories, 6 grams protein = 35% protein in 1 egg.
Nuts – Watch out for the calories, but nuts make a good snack that fills you up and provides protein. You’ve got options, too: a few standouts are almonds (13% protein), cashews (11% protein), peanuts (16% protein), and pistachios (13% protein). Stats: 163 calories, 6 grams protein = 13% protein in 1 ounce of almonds.
Cheese – Not all cheese falls in the category of being a good protein source, but there are some that do. Cottage cheese (59% protein), parmesan (38% protein), and mozzarella (29% protein) are good options. Stats: 194 calories, 27 grams protein = 59% protein in 1 cup of 2% cottage cheese.
Greek Yogurt – This dairy all-star is high in protein and is a great source of probiotics. A word of warning, though, is to watch out for added sugar in certain brands. Stats: 100 calories, 17 grams protein = 48% protein in 1 6-ounce serving of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt.
Whey Protein – For easy an easy way to get a large serving of protein, whey protein powder is the way to go. Properly sourced, it provides high-quality protein that’s easy to eat or drink in a variety of ways. Baking with it is a simple way to make your treats more nutritious, and making a morning shake is a great way to start the day right. Stats: 90 calories, 15 grams protein = 67% protein in 1 scoop of 310 Shake Healthy Meal Replacement.
Quinoa – Considered a superfood, quinoa is a complete protein, a rarity in the world of vegetarian proteins. Stats: 222 calories, 8 grams protein = 15% protein in 1 cup cooked quinoa.
Milk – In addition to protein, milk is a good source of calcium and other important nutrients. Stats: 149 calories, 8 grams protein – 21% protein in 1 cup of whole milk.
Beans and Legumes – Tasty and easy to add to your dinner place, beans and legumes are high in protein and do a great job of helping you reach your daily fiber goal. Black beans (26% protein) and navy beans (31% protein) are good bean options. Stats: 230 calories, 18 grams protein = 27% protein in 1 cup cooked lentils.
Green Vegetables – You might be surprised to see vegetables on a list of high-protein foods, but certain veggies are actually high in protein. Broccoli (20% protein) and Brussels sprouts (17% protein) are two examples of leafy forms of protein. Stats: 31 calories, 3 grams protein = 20% protein in 1 cup broccoli.