Whether you’re healing muscle tissue or trying to bulk up, protein is an important part of an active lifestyle. Protein makes up the building blocks for our bodies, especially muscle. We need protein to heal, to grow, and to strengthen muscles and damaged tissue.
But if you’re already eating a balanced diet, it can be difficult to pack more protein in without overeating. Fortunately, there are a ton of tricks to add protein and prioritize protein in your daily meals and snacks.
Add One Egg White to Breakfast
Eggs are a great way to start your day, and you don’t need to eat a million for that protein-rich boost of energy. Most great egg breakfasts start with two or three eggs per person. Boost the protein count without the core eggy calories with one extra egg white. Doing this is easier than you might think. Simply crack one more egg into the bowl, then use the shell or a spoon to scoop out the extra yolk.
If you’re making a protein-boosted breakfast for multiple people, add one extra egg white per person. This is a great trick because eggs are healthy, affordable, and it doesn’t change your routine or recipe.
Try Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is also an excellent source of healthy protein. Fat-free Greek yogurt is creamy and very low in calories for the nutrient benefits. Flavored Greek yogurt makes a good snack all on its own, and mixes beautifully into parfaits. Greek yogurt is a good liquid and thickener for smoothies and can even make a protein-boosting substitute in baking.
Cottage Cheese and Fruit Anytime
Cottage cheese, ideally non-fat, is a delicious dairy product that mixes well with sliced fruit. Eating cottage cheese and fruit is a light, low-calorie snack or dessert that is packed with protein. Try it with pineapple for a citrus bite or with pear for a softer flavor. Cottage cheese is great with both fresh fruit and canned fruits. If you eat cottage and canned fruit, pour a little fruit juice into the bowl and enjoy the sweet, healthy resulting mixture.
Some also use cottage cheese as a replacement for other soft cheeses like ricotta. A healthier lasagna, for example, can include cottage cheese as a rich, creamy flavor in between the layers while still providing that unique curd texture.
Top with Chopped Nuts
Chopped nuts are a common topping for everything from fillet to ice cream. Chopped almonds, pecans, and peanuts are the most frequently used but almost any protein-rich nut makes an excellent topping. If you like nuts or don’t mind a little nutty flavor, start adding chopped nuts into most recipes. Top your salads with nuts. Sprinkle nuts on your cereal and mix them into your yogurt. Use nuts like a crunchy all-purpose topping and you’ll also be adding protein to every meal and snack. Not to mention simply snacking on salted nuts between meals.
Choose a Protein-Rich Bread
Bread can be good for you, and full of protein, but you won’t find that kind of bread without looking. Normal bread made with pulverized and bleached flour is empty calories. It turns straight to sugar in your system. Whole grain, complex, and ancient breads, however, have more beneficial qualities. Ezekiel bread, whole grain breads, breads with sprouts, and other recipes with unprocessed natural ingredients are often rich in protein and provide the benefits of complex carbs.
Stir Nut Butter Into Oatmeal
If you enjoy oatmeal or similar morning grains, try adding nut butters. Peanut butter and similar spreads are absolutely delicious when stirred into oatmeal and milk. It’s like eating a bowl full of chewy peanut butter cookie. Pick your favorite protein-rich nut butter and try it with the oatmeal. Don’t be surprised if this inspires you to add crunchy chopped nuts, fresh fruit, and other additives. A complex oatmeal is a great way to start your day or provide an excellent afternoon energy boost.
Bake with Protein Powder
It’s amazing how many things you can add protein powder to. Smoothies, hot chocolate, cereal… you can get really creative with both flavored and unflavored powder. One great way to enhance your current meals is to bake with protein powder. Experiment with replacing a portion of your flour in each recipe with protein powder. This accomplishes a double-goal in fitness nutrition: remove empty carbs and add protein.
Snack on Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are one of the best foods for athletes available. They’re palm-sized, portable, and packed with essential nutrients; mainly protein and some healthy fats. A hard-boiled egg is a hunger-buster on the go, can easily be packed into a lunch, and can be eaten whole or sliced. They’re great on salads and travel well. We suggest hard-boiling a batch of eggs every few days. Peel them and keep in a small tupperware for a quick bite or carry in the shell for sturdier travel.
Garnish Salads with Extra Protein
Salads are an athlete’s best friend. There are so many nutrients you can pack into a salad while dodging the empty-calorie traps of bread, fried foods, and other temptations. But a salad isn’t just interesting leaves and colorful vegetables, it’s also an opportunity to pack on the protein. Add a handful of garlic-seasoned chicken or chopped nuts to the top of your salad. Garnish with a hard-boiled egg cut into wedges. Try hummus or peanut sauce as a dressing to pair your flavor with the protein boost.
Use Hummus as a Your Go-To Spread and Dip
Speaking of hummus, this strongly seasoned chickpea spread is an excellent way to sneak protein into all sorts of snacks and meals. Use hummus as a spread on your sandwiches or morning toast. Use hummus as a dip for vegetables and chips. Try some flatbread recipes that feature hummus as the sauce. Or use hummus as a salad dressing to add a delicious garlicky flavor to your leafy greens.
Experiment with Chia Seeds
Chia seeds, when wet, create a protein-rich gel much like gelatin. They can be mixed into smoothies as a thickener or used as an egg substitute in baking. Chia seeds are also relatively flavorless and can be prepared with a minimal impact on texture. This makes them a great addition to many different recipes that can tolerate a liquid thickening agent in the mix. In fact, if you have a sauce that needs thickening, chia seeds might be the perfect protein-packed solution.
Add Tofu in Various Forms
Last but not least, try tofu. Tofu comes in a range of consistency from near-liquid tofu to solid blocks. You can fry it like sliced meat or blend it into recipes. Blended viscous tofu adds a creamy texture with very little flavor, while chunks of pan-fried tofu are a protein-rich addition to stir-frys and other similar recipes. Tofu is not just a meat replacement, it works great next to meat or in recipes where meat could never be your protein source.
Getting more protein into your diet can be challenging, but it is absolutely possible. With a few tricks up your sleeve and measured substitutions, you can replace empty calories with proteins and slip a little extra protein into every meal and snack.
Browse the rest of our blog today for more great tips for athletes and active professionals.
*Please consult with a medical professional if you have any medical issues that may be affected by the suggested activities.