7 easy ways to add protein to your diet

Protein is essential for our health, but you may not be getting enough of it.

While not every day will be perfect, nutritional guidelines say the average adult should eat at least 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (PDF). For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kilograms), you should get about 55 to 68 grams of protein per day. One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re hitting the mark is to divide the required amount of protein by the number of meals you eat each day. That way, you’ll know how much protein each meal should include.

Active people, those who lift weights or those who compete in sports or have laborious jobs may find that they benefit from eating more protein than the recommended minimum. Older adults, especially those at risk for sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) may also benefit from eating more protein. To calculate how much protein you need, try this Dietary Reference Intake Calculator from the United States Department of Agriculture. CNET’s visual guide also shows you what 100 grams of protein looks like.

The number of grams of protein you should be eating on a regular basis can seem daunting, but having the right strategy and understanding can make it possible.

Here are seven simple strategies to increase the grams of protein you eat daily.

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1. Make protein a ritual

The adage “consistency is key” has become universal advice because it is true and applicable to almost anyone habit you want to start and keep — or any habit you want to break.

Ritualizing things (or attaching an action to another action) can help consistency, which eventually leads to habits. For example, if you’re trying to get more steps each day, you could say, “I’m going to walk for 10 minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.” Boom – that’s an extra 30 minutes of walking each day.

Try to ritualize proteins in this regard. Maybe you drink milk with breakfast every morning, or maybe you drink a protein shake and then protein becomes part of your breakfast ritual. With 20 to 40 grams of protein, a daily protein shake can quickly increase your total protein intake.

You can also ritualize protein by drinking a post-workout shake. It might sound like common sense, but trust me, it’s easy to forget your post-workout drink if you say, “Hey, I’ll drink it after dinner or after I shower.” Go ahead and do it as soon as your workout is over; drink it during post-workout stretches or cool down and it will become a ritual.

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2. Eat your protein first

When eating meals with protein sources, try to eat most of the protein before moving on to the other food sources on your plate, especially grains, which can fill you up quickly. Eating your protein source first ensures you eat it all before you get too full.

An added bonus: Protein can make you feel fuller, so if you’re trying to lose weight, eating adequate protein can help you reach your health goals.

Read more: Meal Replacement Shakes: Can They Help You Lose Weight Or Not?

3. Stir food with chopped nuts

Nuts aren’t necessarily the best source of protein by volume, but adding them to your meals throughout the day can give you a nice protein boost.

Try adding chopped walnuts (4.3 grams of protein per serving) to salads, chopped peanuts (6.7 grams per serving or almonds (six grams per serving) to oatmeal, and chopped cashews (5.2 grams per serving) to the stir-fries.

In addition to their protein content, nuts are also high in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, so you’ll be doing your health a favor in every way by adding nuts to your meals.

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Add nuts to salads, oatmeal, chips and more for a protein boost.

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4. Choose leaner meats

Leaner meats have less fat per serving, which means they have more lean meat, therefore more protein per serving. This is a very easy way to add more protein to your daily intake if you eat animal protein every day.

Leaner meats have fewer calories than fattier meats, and protein induces satiety, so this is a good tactic for anyone trying to lose weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, the leanest cuts of beef are:

  • Top loin fillet
  • Roast and steak on top
  • Roast and round bottom steak
  • Round roast eye and steak
  • Tenderloin fillet

If you’re looking for poultry, a good rule of thumb is to choose white meat over dark meat. For pork, the Mayo Clinic says the leanest cuts of pork are tenderloin, sirloin, and leg.

5. Choose brown rice or quinoa over white rice

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Quinoa contains more protein than white rice.

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This is an easy swap that you can use often to get more protein in your diet. Both quinoa and brown rice have more protein per serving than white rice and can replace white rice in most meals.

The texture is similar, although quinoa has a more earthy taste than rice. Each serving of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein per cup, while brown rice contains 5.3 grams per cup; white rice, on the other hand, contains only 4.4 grams of protein per cup.

Quinoa beats both white rice and brown rice in terms of protein, but brown rice still offers more protein than white rice and is a good option if you don’t like quinoa.

6. Add beans to anything

Beans are an often overlooked and underappreciated source of protein. They’re super easy to add to salads, pastas, tacos, and many other dishes, and depending on the type of bean, they can add up to 10 grams of protein per half cup.

This doesn’t compare much to animal sources of protein like poultry and eggs, but adding beans to meals can fill some gaps in your daily protein intake. In addition, beans are a great source of fiber and other nutrients.

7. Swap white bread for wholemeal

Bread is an unpretentious place to increase your protein intake, but some breads are high in protein: just as brown rice has more protein than white rice, whole-grain bread has more protein than white bread

That’s because whole foods keep all parts of the grain—the germ, bran, and endosperm—whereas the refining process strips grains down to just the endosperm, which doesn’t contain many nutrients.

Dave’s Killer Bread 21 Seeds and Whole Grains, for example, contains five grams of protein per slice. If you eat two slices for breakfast, that’s an automatic 10 grams of protein that you wouldn’t get from refined white bread.

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