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9 foods to boost your daily protein intake if you hate protein shakes, dietitian approved

Rachel Hosie   

9 foods to boost your daily protein intake if you hate protein shakes, dietitian approved
  • Protein is important for optimizing health and fitness, but you don't need to drink protein shakes.
  • There are lots of ways you can consume enough protein through food alone, according to dietitians.

Eating enough protein is important for overall health, but eating slightly more is helpful for people who are elderly, particularly active, and/or trying to lose fat or build muscle.

This is because protein is satiating so keeps you feeling full and it helps muscles recover, including after workouts.

Eating at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily is enough to maximize strength gains, according to a meta-analysis published on September 4 in Sports Medicine Open, Insider's Gabby Landsverk previously reported.

Protein powders can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake, and are typically affordable.

But most nutrition professionals advocate a "food first" approach to nutrition, which means trying to get everything you need from whole foods rather than supplements.

"A good way to ensure you get enough protein is to space it out throughout the day, so for most people that will look like roughly 15 to 20 grams at each meal and 10 to 15 grams at one to two snacks," dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine told Insider.

"The majority of the population will have no problems meeting their protein requirements, however if you currently do a lot of exercise or are on a plant-based diet, it's worth paying extra attention to your protein intake initially," she said.

Ludlam-Raine said such people may find adding protein powders to smoothies or oatmeal helpful.

But if you don't like powders and want to take a food first approach to boosting your protein intake, these are the foods that Ludlam-Raine recommends adding to your diet.

1. Greek yogurt

Around half a cup of Greek yogurt (100 grams) provides around 10 grams of protein and is also high in calcium, which is important for teeth and bone health.

"Dairy also provides iodine, which is essential for thyroid function and metabolism," Ludlam-Raine said.

2. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese provides 11 grams of protein per half cup and, especially if you choose a low-fat version, is low in calories so makes an excellent snack if you're trying to lose weight, Ludlam-Raine said.

She recommends adding it to sweet potato with a side salad for a simple meal.

3. Eggs

Two eggs provide 12 grams of protein and are also a great source of vitamin D, which is particularly important during the winter months in many parts of the world, although most people still require a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement, Ludlam-Raine said.

"Eggs also provide choline, an often forgotten about mineral (one large egg provides around a third of our daily needs)," she said.

4. Chicken or turkey

Chicken and turkey provide around 27 to 29 grams of protein per 100 gram serving (around the size of your palm).

"These lean meats are an excellent low-fat choice and are also great sources of vitamins B6 and B12, which are important for red blood cell formation and keeping the nervous system healthy," Ludlam-Raine said.

5. Lean beef or pork

Lean beef or pork provide around 27 grams of protein per 100 gram serving, and are also a great source of easy to absorb iron, according to Ludlam-Raine.

If you currently eat more than 90 grams (cooked weight) of red or processed meat a day, it's advisable to cut down to 70 grams, the NHS says.

6. Beans, pulses, and lentils

Beans, pulses, and lentils provide nine grams of protein per 100 gram serving.

"These plant-based proteins are also high in fiber, which can help keep you feeling full," Ludlam-Raine said. "You can add beans and lentils to meat-based dishes such as chilli or bolognese, or roast chickpeas for a crunchy snack."

7. Tofu

Tofu provides eight grams of protein per 100 gram serving and is a good plant-based source of calcium (especially if you choose calcium-set tofu) and iron, Ludlam-Raine said.

She recommends cooking tofu in curries or stir-fries instead of chicken or fish if you're a vegetarian.

"Make sure most of the water has been removed first and cut into small chunks and fry until golden brown to get the best texture," Ludlam-Raine said. "It can also be marinated before cooking, just like meat options."

8. Milk

Semi-skimmed (2%) milk provides 7.2 grams of protein per 200 milliliter serving (around one small glass or just over a cup) and is a good source of several other nutrients including iodine, vitamin B12, and calcium, Ludlam-Raine said.

9. Soy milk

Soy milk provides 6.6 grams of protein per 200 milliliter serving.

"It's low in fat and calories, making it a good plant-based option if you are watching your weight," Ludlam-Raine said. "Be sure to choose unsweetened versions for no added sugar."

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