Losing weight and keeping it off means many lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet. When you are choosing foods to help you with weight loss, it’s important to create meals that include all the macronutrients, including protein.
Protein’s Role in Your Body
Protein is the primary building material in your body. Muscles, bones, skin, blood cells, hair and fingernails all require protein. Your body also needs protein to make the enzymes, hormones, vitamins and neurotransmitters vital to metabolic functions.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (along with fat and carbohydrates) that give your body the calories it needs to run. It curbs hunger between meals, making it easier to reach weight loss goals.
How Much Do You Need?
Your body’s protein needs are determined, in part, by the amount of lean mass in your body. This number includes muscles, organs, bones and skin. Most adults should get between 10 and 35 percent of their daily calories from protein. For women, that’s about 46 grams of protein a day; for men, it’s around 56 grams. Since most people actually get more protein than they need in a day, most people do not need to be concerned with getting enough protein.
Fit and Fabulous Protein Choices
When you are adapting to a healthy diet, many previous favorites such as fried foods or fast food are either off-limits or should be consumed only in moderation. Luckily, there are hundreds of healthy protein choices available. Here are a few to try:
- Beans and legumes. Great choices include black beans, chickpeas and lentils. Eat beans in a lean chili with tomatoes and peppers, or serve them up Mediterranean style with garlic, lemon and fresh herbs.
- Fresh fish. Rub salmon with a seasoning mix and then broil. Mild fish such as tilapia or bass can be sautéed in a small amount of olive oil and then served with lots of lemon and a side of brown rice.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Marinate and cook gently for a flavorful accompaniment to whole-grain pasta or exotic grains such as quinoa.
- Lean steaks. Choose lean cuts such as sirloin, marinate, and grill quickly.
When cooking lean meats, fish and legumes, be careful about the other ingredients you use. Butter, oils and cheeses add fat and calories. By picking low-calorie flavorings and accompaniments, you can incorporate protein choices into a healthy diet.