Diet experts and fitness trainers all stress the importance of getting enough protein into your diet, in order to lose more weight and get lean.
But this is easier said than done. Odds are you won’t find chicken breast or rib eye in your local vending machine next to the Hostess. Having to prep it all the night before and carry it around isn’t appealing to everyone either, nor the thought of snacking out of a tuna tin. And many people just don’t want to consume a diet high in animal foods. Meat-heavy diets are associated with harmful additives, synthetic hormones, chemicals, saturated fat, constipation, low energy, mental sluggishness, and higher rates of illness, cancer and disease.
So how can you take advantage of the slimming powers of protein without the inconvenience, cost and health risks of eating more meat? Check out some of these easy meal hacks to get more meatless protein into your day.
4 Simple Ways to Eat More Meatless Protein:
- Plant Protein. Nature provides protein in all sorts of packages. Plant-based foods not only offer your body the building blocks of protein, but also pack loads of other weight-loss friendly nutrients – like fiber, water and phytonutrients – without the saturated fat and cholesterol of meat. Plant-based protein foods are also energizing and easier on the food budget. Legumes, nuts, seeds, corn, whole grains and leafy greens can be combined in an infinite number of delicious ways to provide your body with all its protein needs. These also make for excellent one-pot meals that can be prepped in advance and heated up for a quick after-work family dinner; think vegetarian chili, quinoa casseroles, Mexican bean and corn salad, earthy soups [link to recipe for minestrone soup] or crisp every-color-of-the-rainbow salads next to crusty whole-grain bread. Plant-based foods can be mixed and matched to offer your body the complete set of protein building blocks it needs, helping you shed weight quickly while strengthening your health and longevity.
- Shake it up. For the days when you had to be on the train to work twenty minutes ago, or can’t spare more than a minute for a snack break – hello smoothie! Smoothies are a great way to compress an entire meal’s worth of protein and nutrients into one lidded cup that you can dash away with and sip on-the-go. Throw a scoop of protein powder into your blender along with whatever fruits and veggies you have on hand, add yogurt, milk, non-dairy milk or water, and your impromptu weight loss meal is complete. Or you can enjoy even more smoothie freshness (and a couple more a.m. slaps of the snooze button) if you prep your smoothie ingredients and protein powder into a zip-lock the night before, grab it from the fridge in the morning on your route out the door, and whir it up in a single-serving smoothie blender that you’ve stashed in your desk at the office.
- Powder Power. Here’s a nice set of tricks for those of us who want to get more protein into the day without changing our current eating habits all that much. The versatility of a high-quality protein powder makes it incredibly easy to add a discreet protein boost to foods you’re already eating. Stir a scoop of protein powder into oatmeal, yogurt or pudding. Swap out some of the flour in your favorite pancake, muffin, cake or cookie recipe for a scoop of protein with a ½ cup of water, or look for new protein powder batter recipes online. You can get fancy by making protein powder fudge (read: whip out your fancy bowl and spoon to stir together cashew butter and chocolate protein powder) or turn your morning cup-a-joe into a high protein café mocha (just wait until the coffee’s cooled off somewhat before stirring in the protein powder). Or you can just keep it simple and pull off the good ol’ protein powder no-brainer: Take water bottle. Add water. Add protein powder. Cap. Shake. Swig. Swallow. Finito.
- Don’t Skip the Dip. Swap out high-fat, highly sweetened and highly processed salad dressings and dips for healthy high-protein dips and dressings that pair perfectly with raw veggie sticks for the ultimate women’s weight loss snack. You can go with traditional hummus, or you can try countless other high protein bean-based dips, like smoky black bean, white bean ranch or asian-inspired edamame dip. Nut butters also make for tasty dips and easy ingredient add-ons to healthy salad dressings. The combinations are endless.