Healthy Tip of the Week: Include Protein at Every MealBy Stephanie Eng-Aponte Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
Each week, we’ll highlight some of our favorite healthy habits and the benefits behind them. We’ll also share a quick and simple tip from Heather Lake, a Jenny Craig Health & Lifestyle Contributor, to help support your weight loss goals and inspire you throughout the day! This 12-week series will focus on everything from high-protein foods to add to your meals to delicious alternatives to empty-calorie alcoholic drinks.
Hi, I’m Heather Lake a health and lifestyle contributor for Jenny Craig. Here’s your healthy tip for the week: Incorporate protein at each meal. Since protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, incorporating it at each meal may help you avoid reaching for less nutritious foods later on by signaling feelings of satisfaction. Before you sit down to eat, identify the protein source that’s on your plate. For example, breakfast may be eggs with vegetables; lunch may include lean meat on a sandwich and dinner may have chicken, beef or fish. And if you’re a vegetarian, don’t worry, other great plant sources include legumes, a variety of vegetables like spinach and peas, nonfat plain Greek yogurt and even nuts.
Why is protein important for weight loss?
Protein is one of three important macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates), which are essential to your body’s everyday processes — eating, breathing, moving, and more.1 Your body uses protein in foods for energy and the other nutrients they contain to support your health. Protein may also be beneficial for weight loss (here are eight ways protein might boost your efforts). To make sure you’re getting enough of this powerful macronutrient in your diet, try to add small amounts of high-protein foods into each of your meals.
How much protein should you eat in a day?
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 5 ½ ounces of protein-rich foods daily,2 but if you’re following the Jenny Craig program, you won’t have to do any calculating. The delicious entrées, snacks and beverages you’ll enjoy on the program are all conveniently pre-portioned to provide the right amount of protein for your weight loss needs.
Looking to boost your protein intake? We’ve rounded up 7 high-protein foods that can support your weight loss efforts when eaten in moderation.
Many Jenny Craig meals contain one or more of the following high-protein foods. If you are on the Jenny Craig program, check with your consultant before making any swaps or changes to your plan to ensure you stay on track!
7 high-protein foods to add to your meals
When you’re looking for more ways to add protein to your diet, there are plenty of healthy options that may help support your weight loss goals. Here are some of our top protein-rich picks:
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At six grams of protein per large egg,3 they might be small, but eggs pack a big protein punch. And whether you boil, bake or fry them, eaten in moderation, eggs may help support your health and your weight loss goals.
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Meat isn’t the only way to add protein to your diet — there are plenty of protein-rich foods for vegetarians, too! A single cup of black beans contains over 15 grams of protein.4 Beans are also a great source of dietary fiber, which may help with weight loss.
Want some more plant-based protein options? Check out these 14 high-protein foods that are great for vegetarians.
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Different types of fish have varying amounts of protein. Here are a few of our favorites: Tuna is a savory lean protein source, with just over five and a half grams of protein per ounce.5 If you prefer white fish, Alaskan pollock is another delicious option, with about the same amount of protein as tuna per ounce.6 If you’re eating canned fish, choose ones packed in water, rather than oil, for a healthier alternative.
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Some types of red meat, including certain cuts of beef, pork and lamb, can be high in saturated fat, which may raise cholesterol levels and contribute to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.7 Leaner cuts like top sirloin steak, top round roast and top round steak8 may be healthier choices. If you choose a less lean piece of meat, enjoy a smaller serving to get plenty of protein without the excess fat.
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Similarly to beef, a leaner cut of pork will have less saturated fat. Tenderloin is a great choice for a lean protein, but you can also enjoy smaller amounts of other cuts of pork, like a lean pork sausage or pork shoulder, to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your meal.
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A great source of lean protein, just one ounce of chicken has over eight grams of protein.9 Other types of poultry, like turkey, are good choices as well. A single serving of poultry or red meat is about three ounces — similar to the size of a deck of cards. (This helpful portion size guide can help you visualize proper serving sizes.) To cut back on the amount of saturated fat in your meal, you can remove the skin from your portion, or choose skinless chicken or turkey breast.
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The most protein-rich cheeses are hard varieties,10 like Parmesan, gruyere and gouda. Cheese doesn’t have nearly as much protein as beans or meat, so it’s better sprinkled on top of your meal instead of eaten as your main protein source. As with other foods that are high in protein but also high in saturated fat, aim to enjoy smaller amounts of cheese at mealtimes, especially if your goals include weight loss. If weight loss is your goal, we recommend sticking to four tablespoons of shredded cheese (about one-fourth of a cup), which contains over five grams of protein and is a generous amount to sprinkle over vegetables or pasta for an extra protein boost.
Looking for more ways to help boost your weight loss? Get these 10 simple tips!
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. They employ an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoy the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
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Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig