Adding Protein to a Recipe

Grilled Chicken

There are lots of great recipes out there.  You can find them all over the Internet.  You probably also have a ton of cookbooks at home.  When you start eating healthier, does that mean your favorite recipes get thrown out?  Of course not!  As you begin to understand the amount of protein and other macros you need, it’s easier to adapt your recipe.  While we don’t follow a diet here at Your Level Best, we probably are closest to the “If it fits your macros” type of plan.  The only difference is we count calories AND make sure we have the right amount of nutrients in the food we eat.  You may be thinking it’s really hard to do, but if you have a diet tracker on your phone or through a website, it’s easier than you think.

In this blog post I am focusing on protein.  It’s not just for professional athletes and body builders.  If you want to burn calories in the best way possible, you need lean muscle mass.  Gaining muscle isn’t just for guys.  It’s for you too ladies (I will be posting on the myths of women and weightlifting soon).  If you don’t eat enough protein, you can’t keep lean muscle mass.  How much should you eat?  Aviva Patz over at Health.com did a great job breaking down the science in her article: This Is How Much Protein You Really Need to Eat in a Day.  In a nutshell, you need more if you are very active or middle aged.  You need less if you are younger or less active.  You will need at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound of weight.  You will need closer to 1 gram of protein per pound if you want to grow muscle mass or maintain it if you are older.

How do you get enough protein in a day?  One way is to adjust the amount of protein is in what you’re eating.  I try to get at least 20 grams of protein per serving of food when I make a recipe.  If the recipe has less than that, I add one of several sources of protein to the dish to increase it.  How do I know how much protein is in a recipe?  I add the recipe to a diet tracking program online and it does the work of calculating the nutrients for me.   I then play with the ingredients until the protein is at the right level.  Here are some healthy sources of protein to increase the amount in a recipe.

Meat

Meat is one of the easiest ways to get protein into a recipe.  There are many different types of meat that you can use; it depends on what you like.  One thing to keep in mind, fish, chicken, and pork can also increase the sodium in the dish too.  If you are on a low sodium diet, keep track of how much you are using of these.  Below are some protein counts of our favorite meats we use in a recipe.

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Vegetarian Protein Sources

I don’t always add meat to my dishes to add protein.  Sometimes adding a vegetarian protein is best.  For those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, it’s important to know what non-meat sources of protein are.  Another good thing about these proteins, many provide healthy fiber and are low sodium.  Here are some sources of protein that I use on a regular basis that are vegetarian.  See the slideshow below for protein grams per vegetarian source.

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Protein Powder

Now, before you think that protein powder is only something that can be made into a shake and gulped down by a burly beast of a body builder, think again.  Protein powder is kind of a controversial ingredient because it can be expensive and most people don’t know what you can do with it.  Tony and I use it every day.  Neither of us uses it in shakes.  I hate shakes because I’m still hungry after I drink it.  We add protein powder to yogurt.  It tastes AMAZING.  You can get unflavored protein powder and add it to savory food.

I’ve found a way to make it not so expensive.  First I use one of our local store brands. Some folks might cringe at that, but I have a problem with spending too much money on stuff that may not be much better.  Then I buy it when it’s on sale.  The best time to stock up on protein powder is in January.  This is one way to take advantage of the New Year’s resolution trend.  I do this with other fitness related item too.  I typically see a buy one, get one 50% off sale several times throughout the year.  I stock up then too.  See what’s available in your area and pick the protein powder that fits the type and amount of protein you want and the price point.

So there you have it.  These are the ways I add protein to my recipes and the types I use. What do you like to use?  Post it below in the comments!

 

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