In a pinch, many people may eat pasta with vegetables or a bowl of cereal at the end of a long day and call it a meal, neglecting to consume any substantial amount. While there is some protein in pasta and in the milk added to cereal (and some grains have protein added), experts recommend eating at least one protein-rich food at each meal (via Healthline). This does not have to be meat — vegetarians and vegans can rejoice and be as simple as beans, lentils, or tofu (via Harvard Health).
Some protein powders are not loaded with garbage, and you can use them to make your own healthy shake if you do it right. Look for protein powders with ingredients that you can pronounce and use to make a shake by blending them in with fruit and even some vegetables (via Self). You will get a burst of nutrition from the protein, fiber, and micronutrients in the shake and may find that your entire day is more productive (via Healthline).
Who doesn’t love peanut butter? Unless you are allergic, adding more peanut butter is a great way to enjoy that smooth, creamy texture and get more protein. Peanut butter has many health benefits, including aiding in weight loss, making you feel full, and lowering blood sugar (via Eating Well). Start adding peanut butter to what you already eat, such as apples, crackers, and even oatmeal. A dab of peanut butter rather than regular butter on a slice of toast will boost the flavor and nutrition level, including protein (via Healthline).
You don’t want to derail your overall health in the quest to get extra protein, but many people make precisely that mistake by confusing it with meat (via Healthline). When you eat meat (and you do not need nearly as much as you probably eat), opt for leaner cuts and choose chicken and fish over red meat (via Men’s Journal). Chicken and fish are not only leaner and all-around healthier, but they are also better for the environment than red meat.
Cottage cheese is very high in protein, a full 23 grams in a one-cup serving! If you rush in the mornings and don’t have time to prepare a plate of eggs, try preparing cottage cheese the evening before (via Eating Well). Cottage cheese can make you feel as full and satisfied as a plate of eggs, and studies have shown that it can help you lose belly fat. Make a bowl with fresh fruit and cover it up so you can take it out the door with you (via Healthline).
Jerky can be a great way to add more into your diet, as long as you are not buying the kind made with a lot of extra sodium and other chemical preservatives. Look for jerky created from grass-fed, free-range animals, as this kind will have higher nutritional value and be less likely to contain all of the nasty chemicals you cannot pronounce (via Self). Again, be careful not to overdo the meat you consume, and eat jerky as an occasional treat (via Healthline).
Think again if you felt that edamame was the same as a soy-based meat alternative. Edamame refers to the unripened soybean in its whole form before being processed into soy-based meat and dairy alternatives. Soybeans are exceptionally high in protein, with 19 grams per serving (via Eating Well). Edamame can make a great snack or a filling addition to a healthy meal. It is also a good salad topper, adding in some extra flavor, texture, and, of course, protein (via Healthline).
Many people instinctively reach for processed white grains, which have almost all nutritional content removed. Whole grains have a pretty decent amount of protein, with amaranth boasting nine grams per cup (via Healthline). Brown rice, whole-wheat bread, steel-cut oatmeal, and couscous are all whole grains that have not had their nutritional content stripped and are pretty high in protein. Switching out white toast for whole-wheat toast in the morning can amp up your intake without much effort (via Self).
We all know that fish is healthy (as long as it is not loaded with mercury, like tuna and swordfish), but we struggle to eat as much as we would like. Eating canned fish is a great way to increase your intake because it is portable and does not require refrigeration (via Healthline). Bring a can of salmon to work with you, and during your lunch break, add some mayo and make a sandwich with some whole-wheat bread. You can also add it to a healthy salad that includes edamame and almond slivers for extra protein without the carbs (via Eating Well).