Protein: Snack on it!
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Protein is a macro nutrient composed of amino acids that is necessary for the proper growth and function of the human body. While the body can manufacture several amino acids required for protein production, a set of essential amino acids needs to be obtained from animal and/or vegetable protein sources. Animal protein sources contain the complete set of essential amino acids, while all the essential amino acids can be obtained by eating a wide variety of plant foods.
Protein snacks are the perfect way to fill up just enough, and give us longer-lasting energy than the usual, carb-heavy options. Protein has little or no effect on your blood sugar, so every time you mix some protein into your meals (and subtract some carbs), you automatically lower the blood sugar impact of your meal. Protein also helps keep hunger at bay between meals, facilitating weight loss.
Protein is a chief element of our muscles, tissues and organs. It is essential for almost every process that occurs in our bodies, including metabolism and digestion. It also produces antibodies, which fight against infection and illness. Want shiny hair, strong nails, glowing skin and healthy bones? Eat more protein!
Here are some great protein ideas:
Beef or Turkey Jerky: Be careful to avoid sodium- and sugar-filled brands, but low-sodium, natural, or lightly-flavored options are a great source of protein. And this chewy snack is super-portable and keeps fresh for months when packed properly. A one-ounce serving (the size of most single-serve packs) contains about 9 grams of protein!
Don’t forget the eggs: Eggs have been much maligned over the years, but the fact is, they are an excellent and inexpensive source of protein and the most nutritionally complete of all protein sources. One large, hard-boiled egg contains 7 grams of protein and has just 2 grams of saturated fat. To avoid the saturated fat altogether, use the egg whites and throw out the yolks. Or you can dress that egg up (and get in a serving of veggies) by making an omelet and folding in iron- and fiber-rich spinach.
Mixed Nuts or Trail Mix: Mixed nuts are an easy way to get a delicious dose of protein in a convenient, shelf-stable package. Try a mixed bunch for variety and a combo with dried fruit for some added sweetness. The best bang for your protein buck? Almonds and Pistachios are high up there in protein while comparably lower in saturated fat than their nutty peers.
Cottage-Style Fruit: Top ½ cup cottage cheese with ½ cup of your favorite fruit. Why not try some superfoods? Bananas, mixed berries, and melon are some wonderful choices.
Pumpkin Seeds: Those orange gourds aren’t just for Halloween. The pumpkin insides, scooped out to make room for spooky faces, can actually make a healthy little snack once they’re washed, dried, and nicely roasted! Just ½ cup of pumpkin seeds has about 14 grams of protein — the perfect pre-workout snack!
Nut Butter Boat: Try loading a few celery sticks with 1 tablespoon of any nut butter topped with a few whole almonds or raisins (oh yeah, we went there). If you’re not a fan of celery, try scooping out the middle of an apple and fill it with a nut buttery surprise!
A Little Lentil: “Lentils? As a snack?!” Yes! Don’t worry, we’re not talking about a bowl of the bland ol’ green things. Lentils are great protein-packed legumes that are easy to turn into super, shelf-stable salads. One cup has a whopping 22 grams of protein in just 300 calories!
Tuna: Tuna is a great source of protein with approximately 25 grams per can. Plus, one can of tuna in water contains approximately 111 calories and is fat-free.
Protein Bar: It’s all about finding the right bar. That means one that’s not weighed down with not-so-good extras like sugar, fat, and calories (some options can even be as bad as candy bars!). Do some research to figure which type is right for you: There are high-protein andlow-carb bars; meal replacement and energy bars; or female-friendly options!
Quinoa: Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat, and it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.
Hummus Dippers: How’s this for an unconventional use of a travel coffee mug: Put 2 tablespoons of a favorite hummus in the bottom of the container. Stick a handful of vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, and snow peas are a great mix!) vertically in the hummus, screw on the top, and throw in a purse or gym bag for an easy, on-the-go, super-healthy snack.
Protein Pancakes: Mix 4 egg whites, ½ cup of rolled oats, ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese, ⅛ teaspoon of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Cook on a preheated griddle (medium low heat) until mixtures bubbles, flip and cook for another 60 seconds. Top with fresh berries or sliced banana.
Grape-and-Cheese Sticks: Dice a half-inch thick slice of cheddar cheese into squares (you should end up with about 6 small pieces, equaling about 1 ounce) and rinse 6 grapes. On 6 toothpicks, stack the grape and cheese, and enjoy!
Overnight Chocolate-Oats: In a container with a secure lid, mix ½ cup oats, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 3 tablespoons chocolate protein powder, and a handful of walnuts until well combined. Let sit in fridge overnight (or up to a few days). Need some extra sweetness? Add ½ a banana, mashed!
Buy seafood to stash in the freezer: Vacuum-packed sole, cod, or salmon fillets, which are flash-frozen, are the next best thing to fresh fish. Keep some in the freezer and you’ll always have ingredients for a healthy dinner on hand. You can thaw the fish in the fridge overnight or defrost it under cool running water. Cleaned frozen shrimp is another great buy. Pair it with frozen mixed veggies and you have a stir-fry ready to go.
No matter how busy you are, it’s really not that difficult to eat nutritious, high-protein snacks. If you keep a few cans of tuna and some eggs in your fridge at all times, you’ll have some healthy alternatives to fatty junk foods like chips and chocolate bars.
Do you fill up on protein or carbs? And what are your favorite protein-packed snacks? Let us know in the comments below!