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Flexibility of Protein

A lunch box containing a healthy assortment of almonds, hard-boiled egg, berries and cottage cheese.

Confession time: are you in a nutrition rut?

We know how it goes: your best efforts to be healthy have you making the same meals over and over, and before long, you realize if you eat a chicken breast with steamed veggies one more time, you’re going to scream. Us too. Sometimes we box ourselves in, being so concerned about the “rules” of healthy eating, that we forget to be creative.

Good news! We are here to tell you that eating a healthy, high-protein diet doesn’t have to be limiting. In fact, finding ways to incorporate protein into your diet might be-- *gasp*-- easier and more interesting than you think. These protein sources can actually take dishes up a notch, turning them into craveable snacks and meals. It’s all about showcasing the flexibility of protein.

Nuts About Toppings Nuts are a flavorful, plant-based protein source. They also add a great flavor and crunch to dishes. Sprinkle chopped almonds on salads, yogurt, rice dishes, even cereal! Ground up nuts can also make a great crust for fish. A one-ounce serving of almonds adds 6 grams of protein to your meal—not to mention it’s a great source of fiber.

PB & Fruit Everybody loves a topping, am I right? Smear your fruit—apples, bananas, whatever makes your mouth water—with peanut butter. It tastes like dessert, while giving your body what it needs. Two tablespoons of peanut butter will add 8 grams of protein. For a low-sugar option, smear peanut butter on celery—a vitamin-packed superfood that is also touted as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Bump Up the Flavor This is where your favorite shakes come in. Adding Maple Protein Shake to your overnight oats adds a punch of protein, plus those comforting flavors of the season. Speaking of comfort food, these Cinnamon Banana Bread Muffins harness the creamy, cinnamon flavors of our new shake, for a treat that hits all the right notes. Find recipes that use your other favorite products in our recipe guide.

Go Greek Greek yogurt is an incredibly versatile product that should leave us questioning why any other kind of yogurt even exists. It’s thick, creamy, and tangy, and with up to 20g of protein per serving, it’s a great addition to your diet. Add chia seeds and honey to plain Greek yogurt for a quick breakfast or snack, or use it in place of sour cream with savory dishes.

A Hill of Beans You can incorporate beans and other legumes into pretty much any meal, if you try hard enough. Top your salad with chickpeas. Stir navy beans into soup. Sprinkle black beans onto your quesadilla. Here’s one of our favorite hacks, especially for vegetarians: Add cooked red lentils to any pasta sauce. It gives the sauce a thick, almost meaty feel, without overpowering the sauce (we think it actually enhances the flavor!) If you’re cooking for reluctant protein eaters, they probably won’t even notice!

Get Sneaky That’s right. We are suggesting you hide protein (from your spouse, from your kids, from yourself…) in dishes masquerading as indulgent foods. These Cinnamon Roll Pancakes look like they belong in a bakery display case, but they contain protein, by using Cinnamon Roll Protein Shake in place of milk and sweeteners. Another great option to quench that sweet craving: Hot Chocolate Protein Cookies. Keep it healthy (and easy!) by skipping the frosting.

Attack Your Snacks By no means should you cut out snacks, just swap out foods that are heavy in carbs or sugar, and replace them with protein. Trade in crackers, chips, and sweets for cheese and nuts— both are dense foods that will fill you up, and because your body needs more time and energy to break down protein than other macronutrients, you’ll feel satisfied even longer. Plan ahead: Slice up your favorite cheese, or mix nuts with dried fruit (you can’t beat cashews and cranberries)—then place in individual containers for a great grab-and-go option.

Peas, Please. When you think of protein, you probably don’t think of vegetables, until now. Those little green guys are about to become your favorite veggie. They’re little but mighty, with 8 grams of protein per serving. If you don’t get excited about a pile of peas on your plate, add them to soups, salads, or pretty much any pasta dish.

Don’t forget the obvious. A quick reminder on some of the more popular non-meat protein sources:

  • Eggs are an easy addition to any meal; hard boil a dozen on the weekend and you’ll always have a protein source just a crack away.
  • Swapping out ranch for hummus as a dip for veggies, pretzels, or chips immediately ups your protein intake.
  • Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per serving, compared to rice at about 4 grams.

BONUS HACKS FOR UPPING YOUR PROTEIN GAME

  • Eat protein first at each meal—especially before getting to the starches on your plate. Why? 1) The protein will fill you up, so you’re less likely to over-indulge on carbs, 2) protein triggers your metabolism while decreasing output of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin, and 3) studies have shown eating protein and veggies first can lower blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.
  • Make sure even healthy things have protein. A meal that is all veggies gives your body lots of vitamins, but it probably won’t quench your hunger for long. You’re having a green smoothie? Fantastic! Add some nut butter or protein shake. Salad for dinner? Bravo! Add chicken, chickpeas, or fish to the top.
  • Speaking of fish, fall back in love with canned fish. Canned tuna, salmon, and sardines are all great sources of protein; just pop the can open, and you’re ready to make tuna salad, spread them over crackers, or just eat it right out of the can—your secret’s safe with us.
  • Store your extra shakes in the fridge, not the pantry. Whenever you need one, they will be ready to drink!

What’s your favorite protein hack? Let us know on Instagram @PremierProtein.