When people think of changing their eating for weight loss, they think it all comes down to restricting calories and cutting out so-called “junk.” However, probably the most underappreciated, yet critical, way to lose weight hinges on what you add to your diet. What is that thing? More protein. Protein is the king when it comes to weight loss because it helps control your hunger, plays a role in boosting your metabolism and can help you keep weight off after it’s lost.
This is because out of all three macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat, protein causes the most satiety. Satiety is the feeling you get after eating when you feel satisfied and no longer hungry. Because of protein’s chemical makeup, it breaks down slowly and hangs out in the stomach longer. So, when you eat a meal that’s high in protein, you can wait even longer before your next meal or snack. This is a game-changer when your goal is weight loss because it is way easier (and more pleasant) to maintain a calorie deficit needed for weight loss when you don’t feel deprived or starving. That’s why we recommend you include at least 30 grams of protein in your main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) when weight loss is your goal. Here are some examples of how to get there:
- Scramble: 2 eggs + 1 chicken sausage link + 1 ounce parmesan cheese + 3 cup spinach
- Parfait: 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt + 1 ounce walnuts + 1/2 cup blueberries
- Smoothie: 1 cup strawberries + 1 cup soy milk + 1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder
- Turkey Sandwich: 4 ounces deli turkey slices + 1 oz Jarlsberg Lite cheese + 2 slices wheat bread
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese + 1 cup canned peaches
- Lentil Salad: One 14-ounce can brown lentils + 1 cup quinoa + ¼ cup red onion + 2 cups spinach
- 4 ounces salmon + 2 cups roasted vegetables + ½ cup brown rice
- Shrimp Pasta: 5 ounces cooked shrimp + 1 cup broccoli + 1 cup whole grain pasta
- Vegan Burrito: 16 ounces roasted tofu + ½ cup black beans + ½ cup pico de gallo + ¼ cup salsa + 1 wheat tortilla
The bottom line? Eating enough protein is a critical part of a weight-loss strategy, so including at least 30 grams in your meals and 15-20 grams at snacks will help keep you satisfied and keep your metabolism going. However, keep in mind that one of protein’s benefits is helping to keep you in a calorie deficit. If you overdo it and eat too many calories over time, weight loss will not happen. So you still have to watch your portions!