Protein is one of the three macronutrients — along with carbs and fats — the body needs to function properly. Each has its benefits and uses. For instance, people who want to promote muscle growth, lose weight and control their appetite naturally go for high-protein, low-calorie food options.
If you have the same nutritional goal, here are 11 ways to tweak your diet, change your body size and live more healthily.
Sugar is a carbohydrate. Every time you add a tablespoon to your coffee or tea, you increase the calories in your morning beverage. Reduce your intake so the carbs don't override your protein. Instead of a tablespoon, enjoy coffee with a teaspoon of sugar — or better yet, drink it sugar-free.
You should also avoid sugary beverages like cola, soft drinks and juices. They contain a heap of artificial sweeteners that are not good for your health and increase your calorie intake.
One gram of carbs has four calories, so giving up bread, pasta and rice decreases your count. Replace white bread with Ezekiel bread whenever you make a sandwich, and use lettuce for wraps.
Buy low-carb selections if pasta is your comfort food, such as shirataki, hearts of palm and chickpeas. Plant-made ingredients have lower carbs than noodles made of flour. You can also make homemade spaghetti using zucchini by cutting the vegetable into long strands.
Substitute white rice with brown rice, quinoa, broccoli and barley. If rice is a meal staple and you find it hard to replace, at least reduce the amount you eat every meal.
People love pasta for many reasons and if you can't give it up, reduce the noodles and add more lean meat toppings to enjoy it with less guilt. Some restaurants allow you to customize your favorite Italian food. You may request more chicken, meatballs or shrimp and fewer noodles.
When cooking at home, use low-carb alternatives for ingredients and add more vegetables and lean proteins to lower the calorie count. It’s tasty and healthier.
Fatty foods have twice as many calories as carbs, so you should cap your fats. Find alternatives to curb calories if you usually cook with butter or margarine or eat bacon, french fries and ice cream, like swapping bacon with tempeh.
Audit your grocery list for packaged foods like baked pastries and chicken nuggets. They're high in trans and saturated fats that increase bad cholesterol. Skip them the next time you shop for groceries. If you want to eat cookies or cake, you can buy the ingredients and bake them from scratch. This way, you can control what goes into what you eat.
You can reduce fat and calories by selecting your dairy products wisely. Full-cream milk is rich in protein but high in fat, so look for skim, low-fat or plant-based milk options, like oat or soy. If you love cheese, opt for a reduced-fat form, like goat cheese. Butter is a basic cooking ingredient but has high saturated fat and salt. Substitute it with coconut oil for cooking.
Ice cream is calorie-dense and contains lots of sugar. Even those marketed as low-fat and no added sugar still have high calories. You can make your own ice cream at home by using protein-rich fresh fruits as ingredients, like avocados and peaches. Use bananas or other fruits as a natural sweetener instead of sugar or condensed milk.
Special occasions can make you temporarily forget you’re trying to live healthier. However, you can still have fun drinking with friends and stick to your health goals by capping your alcohol intake.
Craft beers have up to 350 calories, equivalent to almost 17% of your daily requirement. Avoid them if you can. Your favorite alcoholic beverages, including beer and spirits, are produced from sugar and natural starch high in calories. The fermentation process, which alcoholizes the barley and grapes, also increases the calorie count.
It's better if you pass on alcohol, limiting your wine to a glass or two at most is OK.
Sometimes, how you cook dishes makes a massive difference in calorie content. For instance, fried fish or chicken are calorie-packed because of the flour coating. Furthermore, deep-frying meat makes it lose water and absorb oil, and the fats can multiply the calorie amount.
Grill your meat instead of frying it. The fat drips off when heated, dropping the calories but keeping the protein intact. Grilled chicken and seafood are healthier and tastier than their fried counterparts.
Processed meats, like sausages, ham and beef jerky, can be decent protein sources, but they're mostly unhealthy. Eating convenience meats has been linked to cancer due to the added preservatives and salt.
Tofu is an excellent protein alternative to animal-derived and processed meats. It's the go-to substitute for protein-rich diets. A cup of firm tofu has 43.5 grams of protein, equal to 87% of your daily needs. Eating it makes you feel full quickly, so it helps you maintain a healthy weight. It's plant-sourced, has no cholesterol and only contains 363 calories.
Seafood is low in calories but dense in protein and other micronutrients, like vitamin A and calcium, especially when caught sustainably. One serving of wild-caught salmon has 39 grams of protein and only 281 calories, over 100 less than farm-raised. It also has low fat content, so its benefits for general well-being are slightly higher than chicken or other meat.
More importantly, eating mackerel, herring and salmon two or more times weekly can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Add more seafood to your lunch or dinner to incorporate more protein into your diet.
An egg is a ball of high protein and high cholesterol. One large egg has 71 calories and 6 grams of protein. Its calories come from the yolk, which contains fats. If you discard it and eat only the egg white, you can get 4 grams of protein for only 18 calories.
Your cooking method can also change the calorie quantity. The healthiest way is poaching or boiling if you want to lose weight. The added butter in scrambled or fried eggs raises calorie content.
Protein shakes are the most convenient way to get more protein. You can find several kinds in the grocery that have identical health benefits. However, they're not similar, so read the label.
Some companies add sugar, thickeners and artificial flavors during processing, so avoid these brands. You can choose between plant and animal sources. Soy, pea and hemp are popular picks for plant-based protein. Whey and bone broth are standard options for animal-based.
Look for a quality product with a high protein percentage per serving. See if the powder contains allergens like milk and eggs that might trigger reactions.
A high-protein diet has numerous benefits. It can help you lose weight, increase muscle strength and boost metabolism. Being mindful of what you eat includes tracking your calorie intake, checking labels for contents and preparing home-cooked meals with the right ingredients.
You'd want to avoid foods packed with carbs, fats and sugars as they increase the calorie count. The best source of protein is seafood since fish is naturally less fatty than chicken or turkey. A meal plan can come in handy so you can make wiser food choices. Following this advice will make you feel good about what you eat and yield the results you are after.
As Modded's senior writer, Jack Shaw combines his expertise in health and his love for culinary exploration to provide captivating articles on the intersection of food, well-being, and vibrant living.