Monday, September 10, 2007

Creative Ways to Get More Protein in Your Diet

Anyone who lifts weights or is trying to eat healthy needs to get adequate protein in their diet. But doing so can often be challenging, or we can get into a rut with very little variety.

For a full explanation of how protein works, why we need it, and how much of it we need, please see this article by John Berardi, PhD. -- Protein Super Feature: What You Need To Know About Protein and Growth. This is geared toward bodybuilders, but the information is useful for anyone seeking to be fit and healthy.

With that foundation, here some easy ways to get more protein in your diet.

Whey protein. Whey is one of the best sources of protein, and it is also one of the cheapest. You can get 5 lbs of pretty good protein for around $30 on the internet. It is easily digested, making it the perfect source of post-workout protein. It is also mostly lactose free, for those who are sensitive to lactose.

~ You can add a scoop of whey (or two) to your morning bowl of oatmeal. Vanilla is best for this, but chocolate also works. Stir it in after cooking the oatmeal.

~ You can add a scoop of protein to 1 cup of milk (use a shaker bottle) if you eat cold cereal. Pour as much as you need over your cereal then drink the remainder.

~ You can put a scoop or two into a zip-lock snack bag to have a protein drink at work or between classes. All you need is a shaker bottle and a cup of cold water or skim milk. For extra bulk that will keep you full longer, you can add a tablespoon of ground flax seed or ground psyllium to the mix. Most people don't get enough fiber anyway, so this will help with that. Any flavor of protein will work for this.

Cottage cheese. This is one of my personal favorites. Cottage cheese is a great source of complete protein. Add some berries and it's a nice treat.

~ For a thick protein shake, use 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1 cup of frozen berries, and 1 to 1.5 cups of cold water. Mix it in a blender and it's a great meal in a glass.

~ Mix a cup of cottage cheese with some spicy salsa and spoon into a whole wheat wrap. Makes a tasty meal.

Tuna Fish. This is an old favorite of young bodybuilders because it's so cheap. But it gets old fast. It's still a good source of protein, but should be kept to no more than five or six cans a week to avoid mercury issues. Always get tuna packed in water, not oil.

~ Mix up a can of tuna with fat-free mayonnaise and add a tablespoon of hot curry powder. I swear it almost makes the fishy taste go away.

~ Another approach is to mix a can of tuna with spicy salsa and use a whole wheat wrap. Makes a good fish burrito.

~ One approach that I like is to mix a can or two with some non-fat mayo and add some pepper and Lawry's Seasoned Salt. I t
hen spoon the tuna onto some low-fat Triscuits for a quick snack.

Chicken. Most of us who are trying to eat well eat a lot of chicken. But like tuna, chicken can get old quickly. To make it more affordable, buy family packs and trim the fat by hand -- it only takes a couple of minutes. Cook all six breasts at once (25 minutes at 375 degrees) and you have six meals waiting for you in the fridge.

~ There are a lot of low-calorie marinades that can make chicken a lot more tasty. I use Lawry's garlic and herb, but then I add several teaspoons of curry powder and mix it well. I also let the chicken sit in the marinade for a day instead of thirty minutes. Curry chicken is my favorite.

~ I sometimes buy pre-marinaded chicken, again garlic and herb is my favorite. Cook and serve. Easy. But to make it better, cube a cooked breast and spread it over a big bowl of spinach, add some Newman's reduced fat Italian dressing and you have great (garlic-rich) salad.

~ If you need new ideas, check out Busy Cooks - Chicken, Quick! for some new recipes that are fast and easy.

Meal replacement bars and packets. If all of the above ideas don't work for you because you are just too busy, then pick up a box of meal replacement packets or bars. It doesn't get any easier than this, and the protein is mostly good quality. [Look for hydrolyzed gelatin or just plain gelatin in protein bars (sometimes also listed as collagen) -- this stuff is filler. It's good for your joints but won't do anything for your muscles.]

If you have some good ideas, pass them along in the comments.

No comments: