Protein is most likely not a foreign term to you. We hear about it a lot. It is one of three macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fat) that are the basic and essential components of every diet. Eating enough of the right protein is very important to your health. It keeps you satisfied for longer, boosts your metabolism, helps stabilize blood sugar and can help prevent mood swings. It is really important that you eat protein at every meal because it will keep you from struggling with hunger and a lack of energy. Plus, protein is essential post-workout because it helps repair, maintain and build muscle, especially after a workout when you have been effectively breaking the muscle down (don't be afraid of strength training folks!).
It's best to choose lean protein like fish, turkey, chicken, egg whites and lean beef. They should be grilled, steamed, broiled, baked or poached, not fried or breaded. Cheese can be a tricky source of protein, since a bit of cheese as big as your thumb can have about 100 calories and who's ever stopped at a piece as big as your thumb? Not easy. I wouldn't worry about some shaved cheese on a salad, but skip those big old bricks of aged cheddar! In general, your protein at lunch and dinner should be about the size of an iPhone5 (or up to two for men). For breakfast, choose protein-rich options like Greek yogurt, eggs or egg whites and smoothies made with protein powder. Looking for a great protein powder option? The shelves at your local health store are overwhelming, so to help you cut through the clutter, you can find some of my top recommendations here.
Whether you are trying to lose weight or just stay healthy, it's helpful to have some tools in your arsenal for those days you fall off track. One of those tools I like to use is the "Protein Recovery Day." It's a super-effective, uncomplicated tool that will help you reset your eating patterns. My clients especially like to use it after a trip or a vacation where they've overindulged. A Protein Recovery Day is just what it sounds like: a day where you eat primarily protein. For example, breakfast might be 2 eggs, any style, or a 4 to 6-egg-white vegetable omelet. Lunch could be grilled chicken, fish or any protein over greens with a very, very light dressing. Dinner would be the same as lunch, plus perhaps some steamed veggies. These meals are filling and readily available anywhere. A Protein Recovery Day will get you back on your healthy track in no time.
Another great tool for your arsenal is a list full of options of protein-packed products and snacks. Be prepared when you need a boost of protein any time of day by consulting this guide filled with nutritionally sound, better-for-you products that pack a protein punch, many of which are great on-the-go.
No matter your diet and exercise routine, protein is key to staying on the healthy track!