Easy Ways to Add More Protein Into Your Diet


Wondering how to eat more protein? We spoke to experts to find out how you can get more of the essential nutrient into your diet — without overcomplicating meals.

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or maintain your health, protein is essential to a healthy diet, no matter how you reduce it. According to a 2019 JAMA Network study of over 43,000 American adults, about 42 percent of their calories came from low-quality carbohydrates, while only about 16 percent came from protein.

Although that number falls within the current USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (which states that 10 to 35 percent of your calories should come from protein), some people may need more in their diet. Depending on your level of physical activity, age, fitness goals, and overall health, you may need to increase your protein intake.


So how do you know if you’re eating enough protein? Here, experts break down protein needs and share tips on how to eat more protein.

How much protein do you need?

According to general dietary guidelines, to keep your blood sugar stable, build or maintain muscle mass, and promote weight loss, you should consume 0.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight at each meal, says Tia Glover, RD, inventor Try Tia . So if you do the math, that’s about 27 grams of protein per meal for a 150-pound person.


However, some people need a little more protein than others.

Adults over 65 years old

For example, adults over 65 should aim to consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily to maintain muscle mass, says Glover. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to consume between 82 and 136 grams of protein daily.

Increasing your protein levels as you age helps fight age-related muscle wasting, also known as sarcopenia. According to a 2014 report in Current Opinion in Rheumatology, research suggests that people start losing muscle mass and strength as early as their 40s and can lose up to 50 percent by their 80s.


menopausal women

Menopausal women often don’t get enough protein, says Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, a registered dietitian, NASM-certified personal trainer, and co-founder of Step Bite Step. “This is problematic because the decrease in estrogen during this time (and aging in general) leads to a decrease in muscle mass,” she says.

Athletes or highly active people

If you are an athlete or exercise frequently, your protein requirements are similarly higher than the average person. You should also aim to get 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily to support muscle growth and recovery, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine, Glover says .

Pregnant and lactating women

“Pregnant and lactating women need at least 71 grams of protein per day to support baby growth and breast milk production,” says Glover.


The benefits of protein

protein benefits

Eliminating or restricting protein from your diet entirely can have devastating effects on your health. Worried you’re not getting enough protein? These are just a few reasons why you should consider increasing your intake.

It keeps you fuller longer

Protein curbs hunger because when it’s consumed, your body releases certain hormones and enzymes that create feelings of satiety, says Glover. So eating mediocre amounts of protein means you’re more likely to feel hungry shortly after your meal or snack and have cravings and less energy.


“The benefits of adding more lean sources of protein to your diet are plentiful. First, protein has a satiety factor, which means anchoring your plate with protein can help you feel fuller until your next meal,” says Rodriguez.

It will help with weight loss

Being hungry all the time can make weight loss efforts less sustainable. Eating a high-protein diet that keeps you satisfied can lead to easier weight loss, says Glover.

Not only does protein keep you fuller for longer (which means you’ll snack less and overeat), but protein also has the highest thermic effect of the three macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat), says Rodriguez. This means that your body needs more calories to break down protein than carbohydrates and fat.

“Your metabolism usually slows when you lose weight, so a high-protein diet is important to maintain your metabolic rate and prevent weight-loss plateaus,” explains Glover.

In fact, research shows that including a little more protein in your diet than is normally recommended can aid in weight loss and prevent you from regaining the pounds.

A 2020 review in the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome compared the effects of a high-protein diet versus a standard protein diet on weight loss. The standard protein diet group consumed 0.55 to 0.88 grams per kilogram of body weight daily (16 to 21 percent of total caloric intake), while the high protein diet group consumed 1.07 to 1.60 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily consumed (27 to 35 percent of total caloric intake).

People who followed a high-protein diet lost more body weight and fat mass, and significantly increased lean mass and resting energy expenditure than those who followed the standard protein diet.

It helps maintain and build muscle mass

Weight loss pumps the breaks into your metabolism due to the loss of muscle mass. To keep your metabolism running and increase your calorie burn, you need to exercise more, according to the Mayo Clinic. It also means you need to eat more protein — because a high-protein diet helps maintain muscle mass while you lose weight. Protein also repairs muscles after a workout so they grow back bigger and stronger.

“This is especially important because muscle burns more calories than fat, so you want to maintain as much as possible during a fat-loss phase,” says Glover.

How to eat more protein

How to eat more protein at dinner

1. Find your protein goal

When setting your daily protein intake goals, Rodriguez suggests following the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR), which recommends that up to 35 percent of your total daily calories come from protein. If you are older or an athlete, you should consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.

2. Split protein between meals and snacks

Make sure you spread your protein intake throughout the day and don’t eat too much at one meal. A 2018 review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that if you spread your protein intake to 0.4 grams per kilogram of bodyweight at each meal, your body can use protein more efficiently over four meals a day.

For example, if you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet and the upper protein limit, then 700 of those calories would come from protein, and if you split that across three meals and two snacks, you’d be consuming about 35 grams of protein in each serving.

3. Choose your protein sources wisely

The bulk of your protein intake should ideally come from animal sources, since they’re the most bioavailable, and then supplemented with plant sources as needed, says Rodriguez. Of course, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are many healthy plant-based protein sources to choose from.

“Rather than looking for products with more protein, look at what you’re currently consuming and add more of that protein to meet your goals,” she says. For example, if you eat chicken for dinner and don’t reach the allotted amount at that meal, just eat a little more chicken.

Glover recommends sticking to leaner protein sources, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. “This includes chicken breasts, 93 percent lean ground beef, pork loin, or seafood. Also, plant-based protein sources like beans, nuts, and seeds can be beneficial because they’re high in fiber, which also increases feelings of fullness,” she says.

Some of the best animal protein sources are:

  • Cheese
  • eggs
  • beef
  • Chicken
  • pork meat
  • Turkey
  • fishes
  • yogurt

Some of the best plant-based proteins include:

  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • seitan
  • Soy milk
  • beans
  • nuts and seeds
  • Edamame

Whole protein sources are best, but if you need a supplement, Glover says you can use protein powder to cover your daily intake. Here are some other quick and easy ways to squeeze more protein into your diet from Glover and Rodriguez:

  • Protein shake or smoothie: try Core Strength by HUM Nutrition, which contains 20 grams of protein per serving from peas, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • beef or turkey
  • Add hard-boiled eggs, beans, cheese, or canned tuna or salmon to your salads
  • Spread nut butter on pancakes, waffles, toast, or add to oatmeal and yogurt and/or desserts
  • Sprinkle roasted nuts and seeds, like chia or flaxseed, on your salads, oatmeal or yogurt
  • Snack on steamed edamame
  • Use cow’s milk or soy milk (which has a higher protein content than other plant-based milks)
  • Incorporate beans into tacos, soups and casseroles

4. Add carbohydrates and fat

Although your goal is to increase your protein intake, remember that combining protein with other macronutrients is the ultimate winning combination. Combining carbohydrates with protein and fat in your meals helps balance your blood sugar levels. “This will help slow down the digestion of the carbs, leading to balanced blood sugar. For example, instead of eating an apple on its own, pair it with some almond butter and deli chicken breasts,” says Glover.

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