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Foods That Aren't As High in Protein as You Think

If you've ever followed any sort of dietary plan or worked towards a health and fitness goal, you've likely been told to add more protein into your diet. Having a diet with enough protein is a good rule of thumb for basically any weight goal as it helps you to build and maintain muscle mass and is also highly satiating. In fact, it's the most satiating macronutrient (meaning it keeps you fuller and is more satisfying than carbs and fats). In general, most people should aim for about 0.8g-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you'll want to eat between 120-150 grams of protein per day.

The problem with adding more protein to your diet or trying to eat a diet rich in protein is that we sometimes have some misconceptions when it comes to foods that are actually high in protein and/or are adding a decent amount of protein to our daily intake. When we look at foods high in protein, it's important that the protein content outweighs the carbohydrates and fats to some extent, for the appropriate serving size. What does that mean? Let's get into it.

We're going to assess these foods per an approximate 100 calories so they're all about equal. A quick disclaimer before we begin: these are all good foods to include in your diet. They will add to your protein intake for the day. However, they shouldn't necessarily be relied upon as a single source of protein. You're not going to end up with enough. Combining multiple lower protein foods to increase the protein content of your meal or including them alongside higher protein sources can be a great way to increase your protein intake all around.

1. Peanut butter: Peanut butter is delicious. But it isn't a good source of protein. In one tablespoon (16 grams) of peanut butter (about 100 calories/1/2 a serving), you'll get about 4g of protein and about 8g of fat, along with a few carbohydrates. While 4g of protein isn't bad for a little tablespoon, it isn't a lot for 100 calories of peanut butter. Comparatively, in 70g of chicken breast (also about 100 calories), there is 19 grams of protein.

2. Nuts: It may seem like cheating to include nuts right after peanut butter but technically, peanuts are not nuts and are instead legumes. Similarly to peanut butter though, handfuls of nuts are not a good source of protein. In a little more than a 0.5 ounce serving of nuts (about 10 mixed nuts), there is about 3 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat. You'd have to eat a lot of nuts to pack in any protein which is also going to pack a lot of calories into your day.

3. Eggs: Now, eggs are not a poor source of protein but, you have to eat a decent amount of them to pack a protein punch. A single egg has about 6 grams of protein alongside about 5 grams of fat within a little 70 calorie egg. That means that 2 eggs has about 12 grams of protein with 10 grams of fat which isn't bad, but not extremely protein dense either. To up the protein here, adding extra egg whites to 1-2 regular eggs is a great way to increase protein content without increasing fat and in turn, extra calories to get that protein.

4. Quinoa: Quinoa is a great source of fiber and a good grain all around, but when you consider the quantity you need to get a decent amount of protein, it's a lot. A 0.5 cup serving of quinoa is about 100 calories, almost 20g of carbohydrates and only has 4 grams of protein. So that means for 1 cup of quinoa, you're getting about 40g of carbs with only 8 grams of protein. That's really not enough protein to keep you satisfied and doesn't make a large dent towards your daily intake.

5. Beans: Similarly to quinoa, beans are a great source of fiber and a good all around food. They don't pack as much of a protein punch as you would think though. In 100 calories of black beans, or about 0.5 cup, you only end up with about 7 grams of protein and almost 20 grams of carbohydrates. Just like the other foods here, you'd have to eat a lot of beans and/or combine them with other foods to get enough protein.


Some ways to combine foods to maximize your protein intake and still include these foods that you enjoy!

-Spread peanut butter on whole grain toast with some hemp or chia seeds sprinkled on top. Alternatively, mix peanut butter with some cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and eat alongside toast.

-Have a snack of some nuts, some Greek yogurt and some berries

-Have two eggs, a slice of turkey bacon and a piece or two of whole grain toast

-Cook your quinoa in chicken or beef broth then serve with a protein of your choice and some vegetables

-Make a burrito bowl with some beans, rice, cooked vegetables and another protein source like meat or tofu.

There are endless ways to include foods that you like, and get enough protein into your day!

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