Proteins are important parts of muscles, blood, skin, and most body structures.  They act as antibodies, enzymes, and hormones.  They carry nutrients and other molecules and provide calories. Protein foods require more calories to be metabolized then carbohydrates or fats, therefore, they burn more calories to be processed and used by the body. Protein-rich foods include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, soy products, beans, and nuts. Grains and vegetables contain some protein, but in lesser amounts.

  • Foods that are rich in protein contain various amounts of fat, with lean protein containing less fat. There are many good reasons to include lean protein into your meals. Here are a few:
  • Lean protein is lower in calories than higher fat protein sources.
  • Lean protein provides the same essential amino acids that protein foods provide without the fat and calories, especially the saturated fat that may increase the risk for heart disease and cancer.
  • Protein helps you to feel full so you won't get hungry again as quickly.

10 Ways to Load Up on Lean Protein:

  • Eat whole grain cereals with non-fat or one percent milk for breakfast or for an afternoon or evening snack. Who says cereal is just for breakfast anyway?
  • Eat fresh fruit with low-fat yogurt topping as a snack or dessert. Add some crunchy whole grain cereal and 5 to 10 nuts for a complete meal.
  • Add non-fat cottage cheese with fruit at a salad bar.
  • Top your salad with beans such as kidney or garbanzo beans.
  • Substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in recipes. The protein of the egg is in the white and the fat and cholesterol is mostly found in the yolk. Egg beaters or other egg substitutes are made from egg whites.
  • Make three bean salad for a light salad. Add a variety of beans to traditional three bean salad recipes, such as lima or black beans.
  • Try edamame (young green soybeans), which is served as an appetizer in most Japanese restaurants. Frozen edamame is available in grocery stores and makes a quick, protein-rich, high fiber snack.
  • Choose lean protein sources such as fish (although salmon is higher in fat, it is the healthy fat called omega-3 fatty acids), skinless poultry (white meat has less fat than dark meat), and lean beef or pork, such as pork tenderloin.
  • Make bean dips to eat with whole grain pita bread or baked tortilla chips.
  • For a refreshing snack, try smoothies made with skim milk, non or low-fat yogurt or low-fat soy milk and fresh or frozen fruit.