Protein is a macronutrient found in certain foods. Most often you’ll find protein sourced from animals, whether that be the beef you pick up at the supermarket or the dozen eggs from a local farmer. Animal proteins are called complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids. That is amino acids that humans must get from foods because the body can’t make them. Few plant proteins are complete because most lack one amino acid or another.
Each gram of protein supplies four calories of energy. This is the same energy content as carbohydrates, another macronutrient. The final macro is fat and it contains nine calories per gram.
To break things down a little further, proteins are a collection of amino acids made up of things like hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen and carbon. You’ll often find amino acids called the “building blocks of protein” because without amino acids there would be no proteins.
Take the time to learn how to choose the least calorie-dense foods so you lose weight and get all the protein you need without extra calories with Noom’s food category system.
Why Do We Need Protein?
To really get a feel for how important protein is, we must recognize the fact that “every cell in the human body contains protein.” There are trillions of cells and every one contains some form of protein or another.
To be specific, protein helps to build, repair, oxygenate, digest and regulate. But, what does that mean exactly?
If we take a look at a reference provided by Piedmont Healthcare, we find the purpose of protein explained perfectly. According to the organization, protein works to:
“Build. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. In fact, your hair and nails are composed mostly of protein.
Repair. Your body uses it to build and repair tissue.
Oxygenate. Red blood cells contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. This helps supply your entire body with the nutrients it needs.
Digest. About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aids in digesting food, and making new cells and body chemicals.
Regulate. Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.”
What is the US RDA or DRI for protein?
From the ages of one to 13, males and females need the same amount of protein, according to the DRI.
- Children up to three: 13g/day
- Children four to eight: 19g/day
- Adolescents nine to 13: 34g/day
This is where the road forks and males and females start needing different amounts of protein based on how the body uses the macronutrient.
- Female teens 14 to 18: 46g/day
- Male teens 14 to 18: 52g/day
Then, after 18, your total protein recommended protein intake is calculated by multiplying 0.36 by body weight, in pounds. For instance, if a person weighs 150 pounds they would need, based on the DRI, 54g of protein per day.
Here’s where things get a little iffy with protein intake. If a person who weighs 250 pounds is trying to lose weight, they don’t necessarily need to consume 90g of protein each day. The more a person weighs, the more protein this basic calculation is going to suggest, so that’s where lean body mass comes into play, because eating too much protein can cause weight gain and other health issues.
When calculating lean body mass, you plug a few body measurements into a mathematical equation to find a closer approximation of protein need. We’re going to tell you from the get-go that using an online calculator is much easier than working with a math equation, but we love the challenge. So, here are the equations for men and women.
Note: Height and weight are measured in cm and kg, respectively, for this calculation. One pound equals 0.4535 kg and one inch equals 2.54 cm.
- Men: (0.32810 X weight) + (0.33929 X height) – 29.5336 = lean body mass
- Women: (0.29569 X weight) + (0.41813 X height) – 43.2933 = lean body mass
Now, let’s go back to the 150-pound person. In both cases, the male and female had an average lean body mass of 48 pounds. At a suggested 1g protein/pound of lean body mass, that puts the recommended intake around 48g per day. That’s just slightly off from the standardized suggestion of 54g.
Should protein intake change with age?
The short answer to this question is yes. Protein intake for both men and women increases with age. Some estimates come in at as much as 1.5g/kg of protein or around four ounces a day for a 180-pound adult.
Older people are at increased risk of muscle loss from about age 50 onwards. Increasing protein intake can help facilitate muscle growth and recovery while minimizing muscle loss due to age.
Do men need more protein than women?
Yes and no. If you’re going based on standard protein suggestions, men need about 5 to 10g more protein each day than women, but this is an extremely variable component.
For instance, women who exercise regularly need more protein than sedentary men who don’t workout. So, it’s best to find YOUR best-recommended intake that fits your personal situation than to depend upon generic measurements.
Can protein help with weight loss?
Yes, protein can help with weight loss and science agrees. According to research shared in a 2018 edition of Frontiers in Endocrinology, “dietary protein is effective for body-weight management, in that it promotes satiety, energy expenditure, and changes body-composition in favor of fat-free body mass.”
Can protein help with muscle growth and recovery?
Probably one of the most interesting things about exercise is that it alters the protein concentrations in the body and, after you finish exercising, your duty is to supply lean, available protein to feed muscle growth and recovery. This is particularly important in the hours following a workout because that’s when the body is revved up and making changes the most.
What does a serving of protein look like?
Here’s the question that tops them all. If you need a whopping 50g of protein each day, how are you going to get in that much, right? Well, you may be surprised to find out that animal sources of protein are densely packed with the macronutrient, so you need less than you think.
Chicken contains about 8g of protein/ounce, so a 3-ounce serving, which is about the size of the palm of your hand, contains 24g of quality, lean protein. That’s more than half the DRI for adult women. You can get the same 8g of protein from one ounce of:
- Roast beef
- Sirloin steak
- One egg
Now that we’ve answered the most important questions, let’s move on to the easiest ways to up your protein intake.
Foods to Up Protein Intake
Did you know that Greek yogurt is nothing more than regular yogurt that’s been allowed to drain longer? As more whey drains, the yogurt becomes thicker and more protein-dense. Just one 170g container of Greek yogurt contains 17g of protein, but how can you slip this food into your diet to easily up your protein intake?
Sour Cream: Greek yogurt tastes quite similar to sour cream, so the two can be used interchangeably. The huge difference is that you’d have to eat a cup of sour cream, or nearly 500 calories worth, to get just 5g of protein.
Smoothies and Shakes: Tired of your smoothies being a little too watery or are they tasting more like a slushy with crushed ice? Freeze Greek yogurt cubes and use those in place of ice in your next smoothie. You’re getting 100% more protein than water and you gain a smooth, thick texture.
Swedish Meatballs with Greek Yogurt Recipe
To start, choose your favorite meatball recipe or pick up some prepared meatballs at the local supermarket – whichever works best for you. Then, when it comes time to make your Swedish gravy, try this recipe.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup unbleached flour
- 2 cups stock, vegetable stock will work, but make sure to season well
- 2 cups milk, nut milk will work
- ¾ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
- Other seasonings, to taste
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms and cook until onions are translucent. Add flour and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Pour milk and stock into the skillet and whisk together until the mixture thickens. Add Greek yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary and other seasonings to taste and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add meatballs to the gravy and serve with pasta or rice.
This recipe can easily be changed up to match a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, so don’t be afraid to experiment with Greek yogurt in gravies and sauces of all kinds.
Trying to lose weight or up your protein intake without the extra fat? You can find tons of healthy Greek yogurt recipes with Noom. Check out the lifestyle app today.
You may not have heard of nutritional yeast before, but it’s a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets. The yeast takes on a cheesy taste when added to foods, so you can mix it into eggs, mashed potatoes, potatoes, pasta, rice, salad, and tons of other foods. We love the idea of baking the nutritional yeast into muffins and bread, if you’re the type who likes to spend time crafting amazing baked foods.
For every ¼ cup of nutritional yeast you’re getting 8g of protein, 3g of fiber and 60 calories. For ¼ cup of shredded cheddar you get 7g of protein, 0g of fiber and around 100 calories.
The biggest difference between the two is in sodium and cholesterol. Nutritional yeast contains no cholesterol and, in most brands, less than 50mg of sodium. Cheddar cheese contains about 175mg of sodium and 30mg of cholesterol. It also helps that nutritional yeast is a great source of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, folic acid and pantothenic acid.
Protein-Rich Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
This recipe takes no time at all, but you do have to pay attention to your pasta because of the unique way of cooking the dish.
- 2 cups stock, could be vegetable, beef, chicken, or whatever you like
- 2 cups plus ¼ to ½ cup milk, higher protein nut milk can be used in place of dairy
- 1 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cup shredded cheese, harder cheese tend to have more protein so we like cheddar
- 1 pound of your favorite pasta
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 or 2 dashes of hot sauce
- Seasoning to taste
Place 2 cups stock and 2 cups milk in a large saucepan. Add the hot sauce and seasoning to taste. We like garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Next, bring the liquid to a boil and add the pasta. Stir well.
You’ll need to watch your pot and stir often. When almost all of the liquid is absorbed, remove from the heat and add nutritional yeast, unsalted butter, cheese, remaining milk (starting with ¼ cup) and additional seasoning, if desired. Stir well.
Place the pot back on medium-low heat and continue to cook for approximately two to three minutes, stirring often to ensure your macaroni and cheese doesn’t stick to the pan.
Think about it, 100% of the liquid was absorbed by the pasta. That means, the protein in the stock and milk are both now part of the pasta. Then, you added nutritional yeast, milk, and cheese, which increases the protein content even more. In a bit we’ll talk about specialty high-protein pastas. Add those into the mix and you have about the most protein-heavy macaroni and cheese you could ever imagine and it tastes great too.
We could tell you to sprinkle some nuts on top of your salad or throw a handful in a snack bag to eat between meals, but that would be boring. You’re looking for easy ways to up your protein intake and we’re looking to give you the most unique and useful ways possible. So, what’s new that you can do with nuts?
Nuts contain between 2 and 6 grams of protein per ounce. The highest-protein nuts are almonds at 6 grams of protein per ounce. Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts come in second with 4g of protein per ounce. Macadamia nuts and pecans are the lowest in protein at 2g and 3g per ounce, respectively.
Use as a Coating: Throw nuts into a grinder or food processor and process until small, but not powder. After dredging food in your liquid, whether that be milk, buttermilk, mayonnaise, eggs, or other dredge, coat the outside with ground nuts or a mixture of ground nuts and bread crumbs. Just one tablespoon of almonds has two grams of protein and you can easily coat two to three tablespoons on the outside of foods like potatoes, cauliflower, chicken, pickles, green beans, and anything else you can coat, bake and enjoy.
Use as a Topping for Baked Casseroles: Does your family love your famous macaroni and cheese, but you want to give it a protein boost without changing the taste? First, refer to the nutritional yeast section above. Mix it into the pasta before baking and they’ll never know. But, we’re here to talk about baked casseroles. Back to the macaroni and cheese.
If you’re used to topping your baked mac and cheese, and other casseroles, with breadcrumbs, grind up some nuts and mix with them before sprinkling on top. If that’s not your normal thing, take this chance to try something new.
We can’t talk about upping protein intake without talking about nut milks. Soy milk contains about the same amount of protein as dairy milk at 8g per cup. Specialty nuts and alternative milks like almond and cashew can contain 10g of protein or more per cup, so there’s at least some benefit to making the switch if you want an easy way to get more protein in your diet.
There’s also the fantastic cashew that tastes eerily like ricotta cheese. Simply boil cashews and grind for the perfect vegetarian and vegan cheese replacement that’s packed with tons of lean, healthy fats and protein.
Cashew Ricotta Recipe
Making cashew ricotta is as simple as soaking your cashews and blending them with a few simple ingredients. You want to soak your cashews for around 4 hours, but if you’re impatient, try soaking them in boiling water for about 5 minutes, that works too.
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews
- ½ cup water
- 1 large lemon
- 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste
After you’ve drained your cashews, throw them into a food processor with all ingredients above, aside from the lemon. Squeeze the lemon into a separate container to prevent seeds from dropping into your processor. Add the juice of one large lemon to your cashews and blend until smooth. Use exactly as you would ricotta cheese, but with a ton more protein.
This recipe results in 2 cups of cashew ricotta, which packs a whopping 39g of protein. That’s around 5g of protein per ¼ cup of cashew ricotta.
What about people who are allergic to nuts? Well, you may not be able to use ground nuts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use ground seeds.
Seeds (Chia, Flax, Hemp)
Chia, flax, and hemp seeds are three of the healthiest seeds on the planet. Hemp seeds have the highest protein count at about 6.5g of protein per ounce (2 tablespoons). Chia and flax seed both have about 4g of protein per ounce.
You don’t need much of these nutrient-rich foods as they carry about 100 calories per ounce due to high fat and fiber content. However, take note that the fats found in hemp, chia, and flax seeds are fatty acids that help protect heart health and provide other health benefits.
Now, just like with the nuts, you can use ground seeds as coatings and toppings. If you’re vegetarian and making homemade veggie burgers, throw in some ground seeds to turn it into a superfood burger. Seeds are rich in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and folate.
If we can focus for one minute on chia seeds, we’d like to touch base on chia pudding. This unique breakfast/dessert is the perfect way to up your protein intake, but not everyone can take the gelatinous feel that happens when chia seeds absorb liquid. Solution? Blend your chia pudding after allowing it to sit in the refrigerator overnight. Really blend it to get rid of any chia granules that are forcing you to skip this amazing protein-rich food.
Easy Chia Pudding Recipe
You can’t get much easier than a 3-ingredient chia pudding.
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon of sweetener (agave, honey, sugar)
Mix all ingredients together and store in the refrigerator overnight. When you’re ready to east, blend the chia seed pudding to create a smoother texture. You can add fruit or Greek yogurt to up the protein content even more. Your pudding will have about 6g of protein.
Let’s head on to grains and talk about quinoa. When you look at the nutritional facts for one cup of quinoa and one cup of whole wheat pasta they look nearly identical, aside from the fact that quinoa is packed with magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. Where the real magic happens is in the quality of the protein. Quinoa is one of the few plant-based proteins that offers sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids to be called a complete protein. Whole wheat pasta is not a complete protein and sometimes the quality of the protein is just as important as the quantity.
Now, if you’re a rice type of person and you want something with a little protein and nutritional kick, try wild rice. Each cup of wild rice supplies about 7g of protein for only 166 calories. Compare that to one cup of white rice which has about 200 calories and only 4g of protein.
Dairy is known for having a high protein content, but cottage cheese is one of the most versatile cheeses because you can eat it alone for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One cup of lowfat cottage cheese contains 183 calories, 24g of protein, 250mg of calcium, and 282mg of potassium.
You can also add cottage cheese to fruit, nut butter, smoothies, batters, muffins, pasta, and more.
Next, we’re going to touch on a few beans that lead the ranks in protein content. Lentils is a relatively tasteless protein-rich food, which makes it perfect for adding to any well-spiced dish without changing the taste. For instance, you can add lentils to spaghetti sauce, veggie burgers, fritters, and soups of any kind.
What’s super cool about lentils is that they are simple to cook, never have to be soaked overnight, and you get about 1g of protein per tablespoon, or 18g per cup.
1-2-3 Lentil Ground Meat Recipe
Getting enough protein is exceptionally hard for some vegetarians and vegans, so we wanted to include recipes that tailor to the tastebuds of herbivores as well as carnivores.
- 1 medium onion, diced lentil sized
- 2 cups carrot, diced lentil size
- 3 cups cooked lentils
- Cooking spray or 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ½ cup water or stock
- Spices to match the meal you’re preparing
Heat your frying pan over medium heat with oil or cooking spray. When hot, add carrots and onions and all the spices you’ve chosen for your ground meat and cook until the onions are translucent.
Add ½ cup stock, nutritional yeast and lentils to the pot and stir well. Turn the heat down to simmer and allow it to heat through. You don’t want your lentils to turn mushy.
High-Protein, Recipe-Specific Ingredients
For this recipe, you will choose spices and seasonings based on the type of meat you’re looking to replicate. For instance, adobo and chili powder are perfect for lentil taco meat, while Italian seasonings like oregano and basil work for pasta sauces.
Black beans pack a hefty 15g of protein per cup. That’s around the average for most beans, but what makes black beans unique is that you can add them to baked goods without altering flavor and turn an otherwise nutrient-lacking food into one loaded with both protein and fiber.
We’ve seen recipes that used black beans in cookies, brownies, cakes, and protein bars. Not to mention all the smoothies and shakes that have been turned into superfoods with the addition of beans.
We included edamame, or soybeans, on the list of easy ways to up your protein intake because it’s one of the most nutritious whole foods. Each cup of soybeans contains 17g protein, 3g polyunsaturated fats, 2g monounsaturated fats, 676mg potassium, and 8g fiber. They also supply 9% of calcium, 10% of vitamin B6, 15% vitamin C, 19% iron, and 24% magnesium.
So, how can you slip this protein-rich bean into your diet to up protein intake. We like to eat them straight out of the steaming pod with a little salt, but you can also choose to top salads, add to soups, or air fry for a crunchy snack.
You get a ton of nutrition, protein, and healthy fats from edamame, which is why Noom’s experts love this food so much. Learn how to choose the most nutritious foods with the least amount of calories with Noom today.
The incredible, edible egg has been one of most versatile sources of protein in the human diet for centuries. Humans have learned how to use eggs from the tiniest to the largest in size for a wide range of recipes, but how exactly can you use eggs to up your protein intake when you don’t want to eat an egg?
We want to specifically touch on egg whites, which are nearly 100% protein. One large egg white contains 17 calories and 4g of protein. At 4 calories per gram, you can see that 16 calories are from protein in each egg white. You won’t get more concentrated protein per calorie than that.
Probably the easiest ways to up protein intake with egg whites is with cakes, and no we’re not talking about the kind with sugar, flour, and icing. Take a can of salmon and add breadcrumbs and egg white to make salmon cakes. Or try the same with a can of chicken or tuna. Now, these foods all already contain protein because they are made with meat, so how can vegetarians take advantage of the high-protein content of egg whites? Why not try a potato cake?
2-2-2 Easy Potato Cake Recipe
There’s nothing easier than throwing together a few ingredients for a protein-rich potato cake in as little as 10 minutes.
- 2 cups smashed potatoes
- 2 egg whites, beaten well
- 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- Seasonings and spices to taste
- Cooking spray or oil, as needed
Throw all the ingredients, aside from cooking spray or oil, into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat (may need adjusting based on your stoves heating temperatures). With the oil or cooking spray in place, drop ¼ cup of potatoes onto the skillet. Wet a spoon or small spatula and press out the potato cake to a thin layer. Grill until deep brown, about three to four minutes, flip and repeat. You can even add cheese to your potato cakes for even more protein. Each cake has about 2.5g of protein and very few calories.
If you love a plate of spaghetti, but you want to get more protein punch, take a look at the nutrition label on the pasta you’re using. Today, there are tons of higher protein varieties of pasta made with bean flours.
You can find specialty pastas made from edamame (soybeans), chickpeas, lentils, and almond flour. Edamame pasta tops the list with some brands reaching as much as 24g of protein per serving. Lentils come in next at around 20g of protein per serving with chickpeas and almond flour at 14g and 6g of protein, respectively.
The pasta brand Barilla even offers a ProteinPLUS variety that supplies 17g of protein and 7g of fiber per serving.
Smoothies are a quick and easy way to up your protein intake, whether you’re at home or out and about. At home, you can throw together some high-protein ingredients like Greek yogurt, milk, and protein powder with frozen fruits to create a protein smoothie.
If you’re on the go and you don’t have the time to make a smoothie at home, there are tons of smoothie shops popping up all over cities. Many offer protein powder to give your drink a little protein punch.
In talking about protein powder and smoothies, let’s broach the topic of powders, in general. There are three main forms of protein powder being milk-based, plant-based, and grain-based. Whey, a milk-based protein, is the most commonly used protein powder.
Now, you may already know that protein powder is a quick way to up protein intake, but you may not like the taste so you avoid using this tactic. That’s what we’re going to tackle right now.
If you’re looking to mask the taste of protein powder, you need to mix it with something that complements the flavor while covering it. For instance, we love to mix vanilla protein powder with blue raspberry or orange sports drinks. Maybe you want to mix vanilla with orange juice to create a creamsicle flavor. Coffee is another fantastic option. Throw chocolate protein into iced coffee for a mocha-flavored beverage.
There are also clear proteins just coming out that taste like juice, which makes it even easier to mask the flavor so you can get some easy protein without hating every second of it.
Along the same lines as protein powders, but not as well known, are protein shots. Some supermarkets and vitamin shops sell protein shots that are around two to three ounces and contain upwards of 40+ grams of protein per serving. If you can’t find these handy protein shots, try making some of your own.
Protein Shots Recipe
- 1 box sugar-free gelatin mix
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 to 2 scoops of protein powder, of your choice
Throw all the ingredients into a shaker cup or mason jar with lid and shake vigorously. Alternatively, you could use a hand blender. The mixture will be thick and taste strong, but that’s exactly how protein shots taste.
Easy to Follow Methods of Upping Protein Intake
Eat your protein first.
If you’re looking to up your protein intake, you may need to switch things up with how you eat your meals. Start with the protein-rich food first, so you don’t grow full before reaching your protein. Getting more protein isn’t about overeating. That’s never the right idea. You want to get more protein in your diet naturally and safely without forcing yourself to eat.
Pick your plants wisely.
Not all plants have the same protein content, so if you’re focusing on protein, you need to pick those plants wisely. According to EatingWell magazine and EatThis Not That, the highest-protein vegetables are:
- Green Peas: 8.6g/cup
- Cooked Spinach: 5.2g/cup
- Collard Greens: 5.2g/cup
- Artichokes: 4.8g/cup
- Corn: 4.7g/cup
- Avocado: 4.6g/cup
- Asparagus: 4.3g/cup
- Sweet Potato: 4g/cup
- Brussel’s Sprouts: 4g/cup
- Cooked Mushrooms: 4g/cup
- Broccoli: 3.7g/cup
- Kale: 3.5g/cup
- Potatoes: 3g/cup
- Cauliflower: 2.3g/cup
- Zucchini: 2.1g/cup
All of the above-mentioned foods have very few calories per serving, which makes them perfect for upping protein intake without upping calorie intake. These are the types of foods we love on Noom. Take the app for a test drive today.
Get ancient with your grains.
One cup of white rice supplies about 4g of protein. What if all you had to do was go back to ancient times to get more protein bang for your buck? Let’s look at the nutrition profiles of some of the oldest grains on record and you’ll see why switching things is one easy strategy. All the following grains can be used in place of things like couscous, rice, and traditional wheat flour when ground.
- Freekah: 16g/cup
- Farro: 12g/ ½ cup
- Barley: 11g/ ½ cup
- Kamut: 10g/cup
- Amaranth: 9g/cup
- Quinoa: 8g/cup
- Cracked Wheat (Bulgur): 8g/ ½ cup
- Millet: 6g/cup
- Teff: 4g/ounce
- Sorghum: 3g/ounce
Tahini and vinegar anyone?
Did you know that tahini works perfectly in place of oil in homemade salad dressings and it provides protein that oil doesn’t with fewer calories and less saturated fat. Tahini is nothing more than toasted sesame seeds that have been ground into a paste. You can purchase tahini in most supermarkets.
One tablespoon of oil supplies 0g of protein, but a single tablespoon of tahini packs in nearly 3g.
Ease up on tofu hating. (add soft tofu to protein shakes and smoothies or learn how to prepare firm tofu)
There’s no way we could compile a list of ways to up your protein intake without talking about tofu. This soybean product supplies lean protein with very few calories and it’s packed with vitamins. However, some people generally dislike tofu because of the texture. Well, we’re here to tell you that you can get all the nutrition this food has to offer and never worry about the texture again.
First, try adding soft tofu to a smoothie or shake. It has very little flavor, but adds an amazing, silky texture. You get 2g of protein per ounce of soft tofu, on average.
Now, we can’t forget extra firm tofu. This versatile food has a soft texture, until you prepare it. That’s the texture some people don’t like, but they sell tofu presses for a reason. To prepare tofu, you must press all the water out of the soybean. You can do this with a press or by placing tofu slices about ½ inch thick between paper towels and weighing it down. Replace the paper towels as needed until the tofu is flat and most of the liquid is removed. From here you can season and grill, fry or bake your tofu slices, but you can also place the tofu into a marinade, which will reconstitute it slightly, then cook for better flavor.
Jerky is a concentrated source of protein that doesn’t take up much space in the stomach, so you can really up your intake. However, watch the sodium content of prepackaged jerky. One serving can contain more than 50% of the total recommended daily intake of salt.
Waffle you waiting for?
Anything you make with a batter – whether that be a waffle, pancake or muffin, can be transformed into a protein-rich snack. For starters, you can add protein powder to the mix and use milk in place of water. In place of the oil you can throw in Greek yogurt, ground flax seeds, cottage cheese, ricotta, or even pureed fruits or vegetables. All have more protein than oil, which has none.
Shop specialty items.
At the end of the day sometimes all we want is convenience. More high-protein convenience foods are available today than ever before. You can find bean pasta, sprouted bread, tortilla chips with chia seeds, and many more. There are even candies that offer a quick punch of protein for fewer than 200 calories.
While we focus on suggesting whole foods and naturally increasing protein intake via those foods, we understand that life pulls us all in different directions sometimes. If convenience foods can take away a bit of stress once in a while, go for it.
How to Make Upping Your Protein Intake Even Easier
We’re not finished yet. We have a couple more tips that will make increasing your protein intake even easier.
Learn to really read labels and understand what they mean.
The nutrition labels for prepackaged foods are there to give you a look at what’s supplied per serving and per package, in some cases. The label includes calories, fat, carbohydrates, and yep, protein. Now, the reason you want to check the nutrition labels and learn how to read them is that you may actually be getting more protein than you think you’re getting.
For instance, if you eat four protein cookies and one serving is two cookies, you have eaten 2x the total protein shown per serving. If one serving supplies 10g of protein, you’ve just eaten 20g.
This is especially important with foods with measurable serving sizes. Don’t estimate you’re adding one cup to your plate – measure. If there’s ½ cup, you are getting half the protein you thought, but if there’s two cups, you’re getting twice the protein.
You’ve just learned a ton of ways to up your protein intake quickly and easily so you’re getting all the nutrition you need for optimal health, muscle growth and recovery. So, the next time you need a protein boost, don’t skip it because you have no idea what to eat, use these tips, tricks, methods, and lists to make the process just a little bit easier.
At the end of the day, men can lose weight and increase muscle mass with the right foods and Noom’s available to help guide you through the process. Noom’s not just for women or weight loss, it’s for everyone and healthy living.
Checklist of High-Protein Foods For Easy Reference
Highest-Protein Meats & Seafood
(All are per 100g serving)
- Chicken Breast: 32g
- Pork Chops: 31g
- Tuna: 30g
- Skirt Steak (Beef): 29g
- Eye of Round Steak (Beef): 28g
- Tilapia: 26g
- Tuna: 26g
- Shrimp: 24g
- Mussels: 24g
- Turkey Breast: 22g
- Scallops: 21g
- Canadian Bacon: 21g
- Lobster: 18g
- Lean Ground Beef: 14g
- Mahi Mahi: 19g
- Lean Ground Turkey: 19g
- Eggs: 13g
Highest Protein Beans & Grains
(All are per cup serving)
- Tofu (Firm): 44g
- Edamame: 31g
- Lentils: 18g
- White Beans: 17g
- Cranberry Beans: 17g
- Split Peas: 16g
- Black Beans: 15g
- Chickpeas: 11g
- Kamut: 10g
- Teff: 10g
- Quinoa: 8g
- Whole Wheat Pasta: 7g
- Wild Rice: 7g
- Millet: 6g
- Couscous: 6g
- Soba Noodles: 6g
Highest-Protein Plants, Dairy, Nuts & Seeds
(All serving sizes are noted)
- Cottage Cheese: 25g (1 cup)
- Wheat Berries: 24g (1 cup)
- Seitan: 21g (⅓ cup)
- Low-Fat Greek Yogurt: 20g (7 ounces)
- Skim Milk: 16g (16 ounces)
- Non-Fat Milk-Based Yogurt: 14g (8 ounces)
- Parmesan: 10g (1 ounce)
- Green Peas: 9g (1 cup)
- Squash and Pumpkin Seeds: 9g (1 ounce)
- Nutritional Yeast: 9g (2 tablespoons)
- Spirulina: 8g (2 tablespoons)
- Sunflower Seeds: 6g (1 ounce)
- Almonds: 6g (1 ounce)
- Pistachios: 6g (1 ounce)
- Flax Seeds: 5g (1 ounce)
- Hemp Seeds: 5g (1 tablespoon)
- Cashews: 5g (1 ounce)
- Green, Leafy Vegetables: 5g (1 cup)
- Artichoke Hearts: 4g (1 cup)
- Walnuts: 4g (1 ounce)
Questions and Answers
Q: How can I increase my protein intake fast?
A: The fastest way to increase protein intake is to make a few switches to foods you already eat. If you like oil and vinegar-based dressings, try tahini. If you are a gravy person, try a high-protein nut milk instead of cow’s milk. Or, you can go the superquick root and try out protein powders.
Q: What foods are highest in protein?
A: Animal foods are highest in protein. Beans are second to meat with some grains coming in a close third.
Q: What happens if I up my protein intake?
A: If you up your protein intake and your body needs the extra protein, it will utilize it for cellular processes, muscle growth and recovery. If you eat too much protein, it will be stored for fuel, so you could actually gain weight.
Q: How can I increase my protein intake without fat?
A: You can increase protein intake with plants and beans, which contain little to no fat at all.
Q: What foods are pure protein?
A: Egg whites are probably the purest protein in whole food form. Protein powders would come in second.
Q: How much protein do I need in a day?
A: It is estimated that men need around 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day. For weight loss, it is estimated that 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass is more appropriate.
Q: How do you know if you are not eating enough protein?
A: Protein deficiency is very rare. If you’re not getting enough protein you’ll notice swelling of the extremities, changes in mood, hair loss, dry skin, fatigue, anemia, and basic hunger.