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Published on April 20, 2016

Protein and Weight Loss: The Facts

April 20, 2016

woman drinking protein shakeA high-protein diet may help you shed pounds, but eating balanced meals filled with other nutrients is key as you work to lose weight.

Everyone looks for foods that are satisfying and delicious. But many favorite dishes are filled with fat and sugar, providing temporary energy that needs to be replaced every hour or two.

Protein has long been touted as a solution for dieters in search of low-calorie eating plans that help them feel full throughout the day—and there is truth at the heart of the high-protein concept. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, amino acids essential for optimum function of the body are best ingested by eating protein-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes and fresh vegetables. But many Americans eat more protein than the recommended daily allowance of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Eating more protein than necessary, especially if it is in the form of fatty red meats, may make weight loss more difficult than it needs to be. But the high-protein diet may also contribute to health complications such as certain cancers, heart disease, kidney disorders and osteoporosis.

The Key to Safe and Effective Protein Consumption

Because high-protein diets such as the Atkins diet focus on upping your intake of protein without paying much attention to the importance of fresh produce, some of these eating plans may do more harm than good. So talk with a dietitian or physician before beginning a new eating plan focused on protein. Some best practices to keep in mind include:

  • Pile your plate with lean protein, such as egg whites and low-sugar peanut butter, early in the day. According to the Dairy Council of California, eating protein at the beginning of the day helps you feel full and focused through lunch.
  • Focus on lean proteins such as chicken, fish and soy-based products to ensure that your calorie counts stay low.
  • Add fiber to your protein-packed plan. The nutrient found in whole grains and fruits, such as apples and oranges, will help you feel full and may improve regularity.

Nuts are a great source of protein, and they are perfect for midday, on-the-go snacks. A handful of almonds, pecans or walnuts will help you keep up your energy between meals and reduce the likelihood that you will binge on empty calories in the form of cake, chips or cookies.

Three Protein-Packed Snacks

Looking for protein? This powerful nutrient is abundant in lots of snacks that are easy to carry in your purse or backpack. To keep your energy up throughout the day, toss a few of these items in your bag before you leave the house.

  • Yogurt-covered almonds—Filled with healthy fats and protein, this salty/sweet treat is healthy and delicious. But pay attention to your serving sizes. A quarter cup of these nuts may contain about 220 calories.

  • Cottage cheese—A cup of protein-rich cottage cheese is a perfect midmorning snack. Add a few slices of fresh fruit to up the flavor factor and vitamin content of this tasty treat.

  • Apple slices and peanut butter—High in fiber and protein, this classic after-school snack is an ideal treat for adults, as well. Be sure to choose natural peanut butter without lots of added sugar.

Reach out to make an appointment with a Northwestern Medicine nutritionist or registered dietitian in Chicagowestern suburbs or DeKalb County.


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