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Better digestion, a healthier heart, weight loss—all of these things begin with making smarter choices about the foods we eat, and protein is an important part of every healthy eating plan. Not only is protein considered an important building block for the body, but including plenty of lean protein in your diet can help you feel more satisfied throughout the day and less likely to experience those pesky cravings that can steer you off course.

A good rule of thumb, outlined in Brenda Watson’s Love Your Heart Eating Plan, is to eat 12 portions of protein daily from sources such as lean poultry, meat and seafood; low-fat cheese and yogurt; eggs; tofu; tempeh; and nuts. Eating protein at each meal and snack will help keep your appetite under control, so 12 portions a day will look something like this:

  • Breakfast: 2 portions
  • Snack: 1–2 portions
  • Lunch: 3–4 portions
  • Snack: 1–2 portions
  • Dinner: 3–4 portions

Protein for Breakfast Helps with Carb Cravings Later
Studies have found that a high-protein breakfast not only helps you feel full longer after eating, but also helps avoid carb cravings later on. Ever start your day with cereal or a muffin and wonder why you’re craving more carbs mid-morning? Try beginning your day with protein and low-sugar fruits and veggies instead.

Portion Quick Guide
In most cases, 3 to 4 portions of protein would make up a standard serving. For example, a standard grilled chicken breast fillet added to a salad is 3 to 4 ounces—or 3 to 4 portions. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started:

Protein
Poultry, meat, seafood, cheese
Eggs
Tofu
Tempeh
Nuts
Nut butters
Low-fat Greek yogurt
Portion
1 ounce
1 egg or 2 egg whites
3 ounces
1 ounce
1 ounce (handful)
2 tablespoons
3 ounces

 
Tip: Take Your Protein to Go!
To make things easy, incorporate protein snacks into your day by preparing them ahead of time and storing them in containers for easy-to-grab snacks when you need them.

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lady-walkingExperts at the National Institutes of Health believe depression is likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors that together may trigger a range of symptoms from sadness, fatigue and loss of appetite to headaches, digestive problems and difficulty concentrating.

For many people, the change in seasons can bring on depressive symptoms—especially in fall and winter when colder temperatures and shorter days (meaning less light) leave them feeling gloomy and drained of energy. But while we’re often tempted to stay indoors and hibernate during these months, a new study from the University of Michigan says we should do just the opposite.

Results of the study, published in the journal Ecopsychology, reveal that depression may be greatly reduced simply by taking a walk in nature. They recruited nearly 2,000 participants and found that those who engaged in weekly group nature walks showed fewer signs of depression and stress and instead enjoyed enhanced mental health and improved overall well-being—even if they had recently experience a traumatic life event such as a illness, unemployment or the death of a loved one.

Studies tell us seasonal changes affect women more often than men, and women are also 70% more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. In addition to walking outdoors, a healthy diet also supports mental health. Because a diet high in inflammatory foods such as sugars, refined and starchy carbohydrates, processed meats and trans fats has been linked to a 41% higher risk of depression in women according to Harvard researchers, fill your plate instead with anti-inflammatory foods such as low-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats and plenty of protein.

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