Protein is very important to a healthy lifestyle. It is one of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) that is necessary to survive. It builds and maintains muscle while losing fat. Whether you are just trying to obtain a healthier lifestyle or you are a regular gym fanatic, protein is essential to your daily nutritional needs.
All too often, we reach for the protein powder to meet our daily intake requirements. However, we should focus on getting as much protein from food as possible before resorting to supplements to take up the slack. Below are ten lesser known sources of protein. Enjoy!
“Eat your oats!” Your mom always tried to get you to eat that slimy stuff, although the amount of sugar you put into it as a kid probably outweighed the health benefits. However, if prepared correctly, one half cup of dry oatmeal is 6.75 grams of protein. Don’t make the mistakes you made as a kid by avoiding adding sugar as much as possible. To make it more palatable, try adding your favorite fruit. Honey is also a healthy option for adding sweetness. Eating it by itself is not the only option. Consider making a batch of a healthy version of oatmeal raisin cookies (again, think less sugar, or using an alternative source, like honey or fruit). Adding raw oatmeal to smoothies is a great option for sneaking in some oatmeal based protein if you don’t care much for the texture or taste because you will barely notice it in the thick consistency.
9 Leafy Greens
For those salad lovers out there, great news! All leafy greens are excellent sources of protein, while having the added benefit of being light to eat. Leafy vegetables are one of the few things you can eat a large quantity of without dealing with nutritional repercussions. Salads are excellent for eating before a meal for a nutritional filler so that you do not overeat during the main course on higher calorie food. There are several greens you can choose from. Spinach is sweet tasting and has 1 gram of protein per cup. It can be added to a salad, serve as a stand alone green in a salad, or added to any Italian dish fresh or cooked in. Kale is often an overlooked option, with 2 grams of protein per cup. Argula has .6 grams of protein per cup, however it is a slightly more bitter tasting green. Of course you can’t forget the most common greens used for salads: Iceberg and romaine lettuce, which offer .5 gram and 1 gram of protein per cup respectively.
Jerky is an old American snacking favorite. Many people enjoy munching on Slim Jims or other jerky favorites. Since it is meat based, it is one of the best sources of protein you can find for a healthy snack. Everyone tends to simultaneously group ‘beef’ with ‘jerky’ but don’t forget there are many other meats to pick from. Here is a by-brand list of some of the most popular jerky and their protein content: Slim Jim Original Beef Stick: 1 package is 6 grams. Jack Link’s Teriyaki Beef Jerky: 1 ounce is 14 grams. Great Value Peppered Jerky: 1 ounce is 14 grams. Oberto BBQ Pork Jerky: 1 ounce is 10 grams. So the next time you are on that road trip and you stop to fill up the tank, think twice before you grab that bag of chips. Jerky is one of the healthiest snack options you can find, because it will satisfy you while fulfilling your nutritional needs instead of just being empty calories.
When most people think of cereal, they think sugar. Take a walk down the breakfast aisle, and you will find it filled with bright boxes that contain sugar filled morsels in every shape to entice a child’s imagination. Re-think the cereal you ate as a child, and probably still eat. Though not popular, that small little section of whole grains is where you need to be headed. Don’t groan with discontent just yet; the Raisin Bran your grandma eats to get her fiber isn’t where it ends. Take a look next time you go to the grocery store and you will be surprised. There are two brands that are favorites of mine that both contain a high amount of protein in all their products. Post Great Grains cereal has two specific protein cereals; one of which is a blend of honey, oats and seeds, and the other is a cinnamon hazelnut mix. Both offer 8 grams of protein per cup. They offer other various tasty flavors, which have 4-5 grams of protein per cup. Another favorite brand is Kashi GOLEAN Original Cereal, which has 13 grams of protein in a cup.
Go nuts! In a good way, of course. Nuts are another common snack that are completely overlooked in the protein department. Peanuts offer 7.3 grams of protein per ounce.Cashews contain 4 grams per ounce. Almonds have 6 grams per ounce. Also, think of nut based products, such as peanut butter and almond milk. Nuts are great for munching on around the house or taking to work with you, but remember portion control. Don’t sit around with the whole container because it is very easy to overindulge. It is better to divide them into serving size portions in zip lock bags or small airtight containers. In matters of serving size, think of a child’s size handful. Nuts are also excellent for individuals on a diet because a small quantity will fill you up very quickly. Nuts also help with queasiness that occasionally comes with dieting. In other words for the dieters of the world, nuts can help you keep from going nuts and assist you in sticking to your nutritional goals.
Beans are known for their fiber content, however they are also an amazing source of high protein. Boiled white beans (also known as ‘great northern beans’) have 17.4 grams in a cup. Pinto beans (also known as simply ‘brown beans’) offer 15.4 grams per cup. Lima beans have 14.6 grams per cup. Kidney beans offer 15 grams per cup. Many southern style home cooked meals feature beans as either a main or side dish. Popular recipes include white beans (flavored to taste with butter, salt, pepper, and onion), pork and beans, ham and beans, and brown beans (which can be flavored the same as white beans). Chili is also a popular dish that features kidney beans and pinto beans. Kidney beans are also good for adding to leafy salads, or you can specifically make kidney bean salad.
4 Greek Yogurt
You might have noticed commercials for yogurt and the advertising might have mentioned the protein factor. However, walk past the regular yogurt and pick up the greek yogurt. It is slightly more expensive, but worth the difference in price. Greek yogurt is essentially regular yogurt that has been drained and condensed, therefore it contains more protein. Because it is condensed, it is also thicker, richer tasting, and less runny than other yogurt. Greek yogurt contains 15 grams per 6 ounces. Yogurt is very convenient for eating right out of the container as a snack or part of your breakfast. Or you can mix in some protein rich cereal for a granola effect. Some salad recipes also call for unflavored protein. Yogurt is a great additive to smoothies for a thicker consistency. Frozen yogurt is also great for those with a sweet tooth who are looking for a healthier alternative to ice cream.
Technically hummus could have been included in the beans section (it is derived from chick peas), but this tasty treat deserves it’s own highlight. Hummus has 19.8 grams per cup. There has always been a standing debate about whether hummus has a Middle Eastern or Greek origin. It is not popular in all parts of America, so you might not have heard of it. I had heard of it but never really thought about trying it until I spent some time in the Middle East and personally found it to be absolutely delicious. You can make it homemade rather simply with a can of chickpeas, or you can usually find it near the deli section. It is a very healthy alternative to chips and dip. In the Middle East it is common to eat it with a warm pita-like bread. However, if you are counting calories it is better to use whole wheat or spinach tortillas.
If you appreciate the munching value of nuts, then it’s probably safe to say that you have eaten seeds at some point in time. Pumpkin seeds contain 8.46 grams of protein per ounce. Sunflower seeds have 5.48 grams per ounce. Even the sesame seeds that are sprinkled on your burger bun contain 1.6 grams per teaspoon. The poppy seeds on your muffins have a little as well: .5 grams per teaspoon. Keep in mind the same portion techniques for seeds as for nuts: a little goes a long ways. It is very common for people to crack endlessly on a bag of flavored sunflower seeds, but be mindful because the sodium content can be very high. When you are carving your pumpkin for Halloween this year, don’t throw out the seeds this time. Rinse them off well, season them to your liking (you can go sweet with brown sugar and honey or think salt and pepper or even lemon garlic), and spread them thin on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven on low heat until they are dry. Enjoy the free snack from a by-product of your decoration you would usually just throw out!
We see rice in so many meals that we eat. Whether you like brown or white rice, it contains 5.2 grams per boiled cup. There are so many options when it comes to eating this grain. You can prepare it similar to oatmeal, or add it to a stir fry. Keep in mind when eating fried rice that the protein content drops to 4.4 grams per cup. If you want to prepare a great breakfast wrap (or great for any meal), prepare scrambled eggs, then add onions, rice, and sliced almonds. Let it heat up together in the skillet for a few minutes, then wrap in a tortilla. Rice cakes are also a great snack to fill up on if you are looking for some crunch, and there are several flavors to pick from. The next time you go out to eat Mexican or Asian food, think of all the protein you are getting from the rice and the eggs that are cooked into it!
So next time before you grab your blender bottle, think again; and grab some protein filled food!