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:
Poultry, meat, seafood, cheese
Low-fat Greek yogurt
1 egg or 2 egg whites
1 ounce (handful)
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.
For the first time in history, experts tell us the next generation of U.S. children will not live longer than their parents, in part because of the nationwide prevalence of obesity. Two-thirds of American adults and a third of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese, contributing to a rise in heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes—but recently more than a dozen major food companies took a step in the right direction.
As part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, 16 food and beverage manufacturers including Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Nestlé USA, Coca-Cola and Pepsi pledged to remove 1.5 trillion calories from the market by 2015, and in fact they’ve already cut 6.4 trillion calories (mainly from sugary beverages, cereals and snacks).
The reduction in calories works out to about 80 fewer calories per person every day, according to Shu Wen Ng, an assistant professor of nutrition with the University of North Carolina and one of the researchers involved with analyzing the companies’ efforts. But, she and other experts point out that healthy weight management goes beyond just counting calories, and that more focus should be placed on evaluating the quality of those calories.
Because studies have shown a balanced gut (meaning the right amount of good bacteria vs. harmful bacteria) supports weight loss and long-term weight management, it is important to eat foods that promote that balance. Here are three simple ways to get started!
- Eat more healthy fats, especially those high in Omega-3
- Eat “living foods” every day to help increase your good gut bacteria (fermented foods, non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits)
- Eat plenty of protein at every meal and snack