10 Simple Ways to Eat More Protein

You do grilled salmon or chicken a few times a week, you get creative with eggs, you opt for nonfat milk and yogurt…we hear you. The protein conversation never ends—we all want to up our protein intake, and with good reason.

Protein is linked with energy levels, a healthy immune system, toning muscle, and weight loss. Whether you eat meat or not, there are tons of ways to add more protein to your diet. Since we all slip into food routine ruts, read on for some creative ways to boost your lean protein intake and mix things up a little.

1. Snack on pumpkin seeds. An ounce has almost ten grams of protein! Combine with cranberries and almonds for a yummy trail mix. Or stir in yogurt or sprinkle on salads for a healthy boost at breakfast or lunch.

2. Bring back the canned tuna. We know it’s a far-cry from foodie-worthy, but with about 16 grams of protein in a three-ounce can of light tuna in water, it’s a low-fat protein star. Plus, it’s easy in a pinch. Dress it up with chopped olives and a little drizzle of balsamic and olive oil, and that tin can image will fade pretty fast. Add a chopped hard-boiled egg to up the protein count even more.

 3. Choose your cheese wisely. Low-fat mozzarella is a great lean source of protein with about 9 grams per slice. Low-fat Swiss is another great source with 8 grams per slice. Low-fat mozzarella string cheese is a great on-the-go option.  Try to stear away from the processed individually wrapped cheese.

 4. Love your beans. Black, pinto, kidney, cannellini, white—they all have that amazing high protein-fiber combo that make you feel full longer and they’re a super-nutritious way to up your protein intake. Toss white beans in your salad, opt for black beans and brown rice, or go veg for taco night. Try spreading refried beans onto a whole-wheat tortilla for a protein and fiber-rich snack. Or whip up a quick black bean dip.

 5. Dabble in quinoa. We know you’ve heard of it…it’s hit the trend radar. As it should—it’s one of very few plant-based foods that qualify as a complete protein source (containing all nine essential amino acids).  It’s simple, just simmer in water like you would rice. Mix it with seasonal veggies or legumes. Also try adding it to a salad for an extra dose of protein.

 6. Chickpeas, garbanzos, whatever you call them—learn to love ‘em. Low in fat, high in protein and fiber, you can sprinkle on salads, mix into rice or quinoa dishes or enjoy as a side. And hummus? Yep, the yummy puréed cousin counts too. Just try scooping out a single serving (usually about 2 tablespoons) of that addictive spread, and opt for dipping veggies rather than pita chips.

 7. Don’t be afraid of flaxseed. Choose ground flaxseed because it makes it easier for your body to absorb all the benefits of this wonderfood. Next time you’re baking, sub ground flaxseed for half the amount of butter or oil called for in a recipe. You’ll kick up the protein, not to mention the omega-three fatty acids and fiber content.  Try adding a dash to smoothies or simply sprinkle on your cereal or oatmeal in the morning for a nutty flavor and added lift.

 8. Befriend edamame. Pod or no pod, these boiled green soybeans are popping up everywhere, and we’re glad. Just a half-cup serving of shelled edamame contains 11 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber and only 2.5 five grams of fat. Talk about a powerhouse snack!

 9. Get creative with plain non-fat Greek yogurt. Use it as an alternative for sour cream, mayo and cream (think: low-fat, protein-boosted Alfredo sauce? Yes, please!). Experiment with yogurt-based dressing recipes, or pair with berries and a drizzle of honey for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Plain non-fat regular yogurt is also a great option, but with double the protein content (18 grams vs. 9 grams in a six-ounce single serving) we get the Greek craze.

 10. Go retro: low-fat cottage cheese. We know it’s not the hippest snack on the block, but cottage-cheese devotees are onto something. A single six-ounce single serving boasts a surprising 24 grams of protein. Pair it with apple slices or cut up cukes and add a dash of lemon juice and pepper for a refreshing summer salad. Get creative and sub for the buttermilk in your pancakes, or the oil or butter in baking recipes for an equally moist, protein-enhanced treat.