If you’re cutting back on the amount of protein you eat, especially animal products, make sure you pick the healthiest proteins to meet healthy eating and weight-management goals. Here are some suggestions for getting good nutritionnal value when you eat proteins.
Healthier Beef Choices
The cheaper the cut of beef, the lower the fact content, except for hamburger. Cheaper beef isn’t as tender as more-expensive cuts, so learn how to cook flank steak, sirloin and skirt steak and you’ll be able to enjoy beef with less saturated fat. If you marinate and slow-cook cheaper cuts of beef, they’ll turn out tender and delicious.
Healthy Seafood Options
As we shared with you in a previous blog post, all seafood is not created equal. Coldwater fish are your healthiest choices, providing you with more lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Choose wild-caught salmon over farm raised if you have the option. Don’t worry about the cholesterol in shellfish – dietary cholesterol isn’t the kind that gets into your arteries. Enjoy delicious garlic shrimp with your pasta instead of ground beef or sausage.
Choose the Right Fowl
Choose white mean, especially breast meat, when eating bird. Don’t assume the pre-made turkey burgers are as low in fat as they can be. Better to buy ground turkey breast and make your own patties than to buy pre-made patties made from dark meat. Free-range and organic chicken is becoming more available and affordable, and even big-name chicken producers reducing the amount of additives they are putting into their chickens and turkey.
Healthier Pork Choices
Pork can be a leaner alternative to high-fat beef, but choose low-fat, low-sodium cuts and organic varieties. Here’s an interesting comparison between pork loin and chicken by The Food Network.
Eggs are (Now) Very Healthy
With the good news about dietary cholesterol no longer being a nutrient of concern, it’s OK to increase your intake of eggs. They’re a great source of lean protein and healthy fats. Add them to salads. Make egg salad with low-fat mayo.
Easy on the Cow’s Milk
Milk has many health benefits, but like most other foods, if you consume it every day, it can have some downsides. If you Google the subject, you’ll find many opponents who dispel all of the health benefits of drinking milk (e.g., it doesn’t improve bone health, and high consumption can increase the risk of some cancers) and recommend we stop drinking it altogether. Other experts stand by the health benefits and suggest we drink it every day.
One surprising study recently suggested that whole milk is actually better for weight loss than skim milk because the fat in whole milk satisfies our hunger better and reduces ensuing sugar cravings. However, the USDA suggests Americans drink low-fat and fat-free milk – but even low-fat milk still has lots of calories. If you drink the USDA’s recommended daily servings of milk, you’ll add more than 360 calories to your daily intake.
Finally, depending on your racial heritage – primarily if you’re of Northern European descent – you will become less able to digest lactose (a sugar found in milk) as you age.
If you’re worried about milk, try almond or soy milk, and make sure you’re eating other foods that give you plenty of calcium, potassium and vitamin D. You can also add calcium-fortified orange juice and vitamin D fortified foods to your diet.
Other Dairy Options
When choosing dairy products, think quality, not quantity, in your servings. For example, when you make a pizza, don’t layer on the cheese until you can’t see the tomato sauce. Experiment with your next several pizzas to see how little cheese you can get away with – you might be surprised at how gooey and delicious a pizza can be with half the cheese you normally use.
If you use butter as a bread spread or cooking additive for recipes, consider a butter substitutes. Now that trans fats are being phased out, you don’t have to worry about the problems associated with margarine. Choose one that’s lower in saturated fats and calories. Some contain plant sterols that can improve your blood cholesterol.
If you regularly eat yogurt as a meal replacement or snack, remember the best-tasting ones are the sweetest, and that means more sugar. Check labels and look for Greek yogurt. Look for other healthy protein sources, such as unsalted mixed nuts, nut butters or seeds, as substitute snacks.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, take some time to research frozen desserts. Check out the nutrition labels on ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and sherbets. Cut your servings in half, but add some crushed almonds or walnuts (be careful about portion sizes, nuts are calorie-dense foods), or a small amount of fresh fruit or berries to help you satisfy your craving for a creamy frozen dessert while reducing the amount you eat.
Nuts, seeds and nut butters
Nuts and seeds are a healthy source of lean protein and good fats that can help you feel satisfied longer after a meal or snack. They are calorie dense, so a little goes a long way toward satisfying hunger. They can also help improve blood cholesterol and reduce the effects of inflammation. Adding almonds, cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts to stews, casseroles, salads and stir-fries is a great way to add healthier proteins to your diet.
Peanut butter is the hands-down favorite nut butter among consumers, but almond butter provides more healthy fats, vitamin E, and calcium and magnesium. Almond butter is more expensive than peanut butter, especially cheaper peanut butter choices that have added salt, sugars and fats. You can also get your almonds in the form of almond milk.
While not as nutrient-packed as almond and peanut butter, cashew butter is a close third in most categories and provides more iron and zinc than the other two. If your family doesn’t like the taste of almond butter but enjoys cashew butter, add it to your diet.
Keep a jar or shaker of seeds handy to sprinkle on salads, in stir-fries and on desserts. In addition to being a good protein source, seeds contain healthy fats and are a good source of dietary fiber. Refrigerate or freeze seeds to help them last longer.
Soy and other beans and legumes
Like corn, soy is creeping into to many processed foods. That’s because it’s fats help create good food textures. At one time, expert thought soy was going to be the food that helped feed the planet, but many people are allergic to soy, with reactions including an itchy throat, watery eyes and sniffles.
There are also concerns about how it’s genetically modified. However, if you’re not allergic to soy, foods like edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso and soy milk can help you add protein to your diet as an alternative to animal sources.
Unfortunately, there’s conflicting information about the health benefits or problems associated with eating soy and soy products. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you need to add a protein source to your diet and are considering soy, especially if you are pregnant.
Other beans and legumes are packed with healthy protein and provide different vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber. Add beans to soups, salads, pasta dishes and stews if you want to cut down on animal product ingredients. Beans are not complete proteins, providing all of the enzymes you need for good health, but when you combine them with rice, you get a complete protein dish.