7 easy ways to up your protein intake


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 2, 2024

There has been a lot of buzz around the benefits of a “high protein” diet recently, from boosting your metabolism to improving your workouts. But how much protein should you be having each day and how can this help you reach your health and well-being goals?

The importance of protein in our diets

Whether it’s in the form of lean meats, dairy or protein bars, protein is an essential part of building lean muscle and aiding recovery after workouts.

Protein also plays a vital role in supporting our immune system, stabilizing our blood sugar, strengthening our hair, skin, and nails, balancing our hormones, keeping us feeling full throughout the day and boosting our metabolism. But despite its importance to our health and well-being, a combination of the typical Western diet and our busy lives means that we often miss these goals.

How much protein should we be eating?

It is essential to make sure you’re getting adequate protein in your everyday diet. The amount of protein that you should aim for each day varies based on your age, gender and physical activity. 

Protein intake is also based on different factors in your life such as your activity level, health goals (if you’re strength training or exercising regularly, you may need more) or life-changing events such as pregnancy. During pregnancy, women need to increase their protein intake to support the baby’s growth and development.

To determine your recommended daily protein intake in grams, you can multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36 or use a protein calculator. So, if you weigh 145 pounds, you should aim to have around 52 grams of protein each day.

Try to include at least 25-30 grams of protein per meal and 10-15 grams of protein in your snacks. Our bodies on average only absorb 30 grams of protein in a sitting, so it’s important to spread out our protein intake throughout the day in your snacks and meals.

What foods and drinks are rich in protein?

Eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to ensure you’re hitting your protein goals each day and natural protein provides your body with healthy amounts of fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals.

The key to eating sufficient high-quality protein is to incorporate a variety of foods, rather than relying on only one source. Protein-rich foods include:

  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Lean meats and fish
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Soy products such as tofu and tempeh

Many people like to incorporate protein bars into their diet, but it’s essential to choose one that is full of both protein and fiber. Protein bars and shakes can be a simple, quick way to hit your daily protein goal, but getting your protein from a well-balanced diet is important and can help fill your body with other essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. 

7 simple ways to up your protein intake

It can be easier than you think to ensure you’re hitting your daily protein goals. 

  1. Start your day with protein

    Set yourself up for success by starting your day with protein. Focus on high protein breakfast options such as eggs, milk, protein smoothies, turkey bacon or dairy products such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. If you’re looking for a plant-based option, you could try soy products such as tofu or tempeh.

  2. Eat your protein first

    Prioritize your protein before diving into starches (like potatoes) or other items on your plate. Starting with protein ensures you eat it before feeling too full.

  3. Have protein-rich snacks on hand

    If you’re on the go or have a busy workday, having a protein-rich snack on hand can help ensure you meet those goals. Rather than reaching for chips or sweets when you’re hungry, try stocking up on healthy protein bars to grab when you’re busy or adding an easy protein like nuts, edamame or cheese to your afternoon snack.

  4. Add collagen to your coffee or tea

    Collagen peptides are flavorless and can be added to any beverage. They have multiple jobs in the body, from building collagen and other proteins to protecting already existing collagen from damage. Although research is ongoing, some benefits of collagen can include skin health, wrinkle prevention, hair and nail growth, bone health and reduced cancer risk. There are typically 18-20 grams of protein in a serving.

  5. Make simple swaps in your everyday recipes

    Look for easy ways to add or substitute proteins into the recipes you already know and love. Swapping rice for quinoa or using Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt are just two easy ways you can do this. There are also many protein-rich options out there that are delicious and good for you, such as chickpea pasta noodles.

  6. Add protein supplements

    Supplements are a quick and convenient option that can be useful if you’re struggling to eat enough protein. There are a variety of protein supplements you can try, including whey protein, casein protein and soy protein. These can be added to smoothies, yogurt or even just water.

  7. Prep your meals for the week

    Prepping your favorite protein options ahead of time will help you stick to your healthy eating goals throughout the week. Meal prepping is a fun and tasty way to consistently enjoy well-balanced meals, even when you’re busy or tired!

What happens if we don’t get enough protein?

Protein plays a very important role in our bodies and a protein deficiency can lead to several health conditions or concerns:

  • Feeling weak or fatigued
  • Higher risk of bone fracture
  • Increased hunger
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Swelling in the body
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as iron or vitamin B12
  • Weakened hair, skin and nails

Being proactive about your health and diet will ensure you’re living well for years to come. As protein is a key nutrient in our diet, incorporating more of it can make a significant difference in your day-to-day life and overall well-being.

If you’re unsure of how much protein you should be eating or if you need advice on how to properly fuel your body, a registered dietitian can develop a nutrition plan that is tailored to you and your life. Our dietitians can work with you to meet your goals. Find one near you.

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