Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week
Protein is second only to water as the most abundant substance in the human body, so it’s easy to see why it’s an important component of a healthy diet. Protein is key to building muscle, which helps you look fit and toned. It also helps you stay full after a meal because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, and we all know that less mindless snacking means a smaller waistline. One study found that dieters who ate eggs for breakfast lost 65% more weight than those who didn’t, even though they ate the same number of calories, probably because the egg breakfasts were higher in filling, quality protein. That’s proof for the point that consuming a protein source at each meal is extremely important for weight loss. And if looking younger is on your wish list, protein will help by providing collagen to the connective tissues of the body and to the tissues of the skin, hair, and nails.
In my new book, Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week, I recommend that a good, lean source of protein be consumed with every meal and snack as protein promotes staying-power, lean muscle mass, and healthy weight loss.
When it comes to protein at meals, I suggest eating lean beef once a week, going for a meatless protein day at least once a week (enjoy beans, eggs and nut butters), and eating fish at least twice a week. On other days, enjoy lean poultry. Fish is an extremely important protein to consume on a weight loss plan, as studies have shown that women who eat fish, especially oily fish like salmon and tuna, two to four times each week have the lowest levels of body fat.
To give your snacks staying-power try to include a protein source with them as well. Snack time is a great opportunity to enjoy lowfat dairy sources of protein like milk or yogurt. Or you may want to try plant-based protein such as soy or nuts.
It is especially important to have a protein-packed meal or snack after a hard workout since protein helps lean muscle to rebuild and recover. Want some great protein-rich snack ideas? These snacks are all 200 calories or less, have a good source of protein and are perfect whether you are trying to refuel after a workout or quell the afternoon munchies:
¼ cup nuts (like peanuts, almonds, pecans)
1 small banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 LUNA Protein Bar (try the brand new flavors out this month: Chocolate Coconut Almond—my personal favorite healthy way to satisfy a chocolate craving-- and Lemon Vanilla!)
8oz. lowfat chocolate milk
6oz. Nonfat Greek Yogurt topped with ½ cup berries and a drizzle of honey
Need another reason to include protein in your regular eating routine? If your New Year’s Resolution involves getting lean and trim, protein is absolutely essential. In fact, in a recent study, dieters who cut calories over a month without increasing their protein intake lost 7 pounds, but the catch was that 58% of that was lean muscle mass—yikes! On the other hand, those who doubled their protein intake lost the same amount of weight with less than a third of it coming from muscle! That’s the power of protein!