The importance of protein and protein rich snacks.

Turn any page in most womens’ magazines and you are bombarded with the newest low-carb, low fat and usually low calorie miracle diet.  The diet market is huge.  Really huge (no pun intended) it was on target to be worth a whopping $586.3 billion by the end of 2014.  Thats a great deal of people pushing new innovative ideas and miracle cures.  You’d have thought with that amount of money changing hands, everyone would be their ideal weight!

What is evident time and again with these diets is that protein is left out – and yet there is significant medical research to show the benefits of eating a diet which is rich in protein.  We are not talking Atkins type eating of protein – again, that isn’t balanced or healthy, but with the correct protein snacks as part of a healthy eating plan, you can actually curb hunger pangs, feel fuller for longer and stand less chance of overeating.

Most people who enjoy their fitness and work out are probably aware of the benefits of protein for the growth and repair of the muscles and organs – especially after a full workout.  The easiest thing to do is PLAN your meals and your snacks.  Bear in mind that 30-40% of your daily food intake should be lean protein – this works out at about 70 grams for women and 90 grams for men. This needs to be increased if you are training regularly with weights.  Sound hard?  Not if you incorporate these easy protein rich snacks instead of carb loading or reaching for the sugary treats.

  • The humble chicken egg:

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For years, eggs have been getting a bad rap for their cholesterol content. But now, the medical powers that be have come around and acknowledged that the benefits of eggs might outweigh the cholesterol risks when eaten in moderation.  This is good news!  One large egg contains a whopping 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories. What an easy protein punch!

One of the best ways to eat eggs is hard-boiled. Keep a bowl of them in your home fridge for an instant healthy snack or addition to a larger meal.

  • Nuts about……Nuts!

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Whether you go for raw cashews, almonds, walnuts or any of the other varieties, whole, raw nuts are a healthy high-protein snack choice. If you’re concerned about calories, limit your nut intake to a handful or two, and remember that though nuts are high in fat, it’s healthy monounsaturated fat, so it won’t fur up your arteries and fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Plus, nuts are high in fibre.  Protein and fibre…..means feeling fuller for longer.

It doesn’t matter which nut you go nuts for — they all have health benefits — but research consistently indicates that almonds might be the best of the bunch. They are also extremely high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and have been shown to help manage weight.

  •  Get Greek (yoghurt)

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In the past couple of years Greek yoghurt has started to take up a substantial portion of the supermarket dairy sections.  It really is a great source of protein with traditional (get Total) Greek yoghurt packing a huge 15-20 grams of protein in a 6oz serving (you only get 9 grams in a regular type yoghurt).  Mix it with berries, granola or nuts for a power protein snack.

  • Protein Shakes (home made please)

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Homemade protein shakes can be a delicious way to add protein to your diet.  By adding whey protein to your blender because it’s a high-quality, complete protein your shake becomes a super shake! This means it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle, and it provides a feeling of fullness.  Simply combine whey protein with milk, frozen fruit, all-natural nut butter (Meridian do a lovely almond butter), or whatever other healthful ingredients sound good to you, and you have a healthy meal replacement or snack. Because you control the ingredients, homemade shakes let you skip the added sugar that often comes with shop bought protein bars and shakes.

  • Boring old Cottage Cheese

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Diet staple cottage cheese is an excellent protein source, with a half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese providing 14 grams of protein for only 81 calories. Cheer up a boring bowl of cottage cheese with a fruit topping, it makes a terrific snack when you want to stay full between meals or is a great ‘fast food’ meal if you are caught on the hop.  Widely available, it gives an alternative to fatty sandwiches in shops.

  • Nut Butters

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Who doesn’t love peanut butter? And who has it as a ‘naughty treat’ now days?  In moderation and buying the ones without added sugar you can have peanut, almond, cashew and other nut butters.  These are high protein foods – two tablespoons providing 7 grams of protein.  Yes it has fat and yes it has saturated fat, but it does have a place in a healthy diet.  Just remember not to slather it on buttery toast……try it on carrot sticks or celery for healthy snacking.

  • Pumpkin seeds

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Tiny weeny pumpkin seeds are full of fibre, vitamins, and with 8 grams of protein in just one ounce, pumpkin seeds or pepitas are also very rich in minerals, including potassium, manganese, and iron. Just take heed: Pumpkin seeds are calorie-dense, so do your healthy snacking in moderation.