Protein is one of the most important nutrients for your health. It helps build and maintain your muscles, organs, skin, and blood. It also plays a role in many body functions, such as hormone production, immune response, and metabolism. But not all protein sources are created equal. Some are high in saturated fat and calories, which can increase your risk of heart disease and weight gain. That’s why it’s important to choose lean protein foods, which are low in fat and calories but still provide plenty of protein.
What are lean protein foods?
Lean protein foods are those that provide at least 10 grams of protein per serving while having less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat per 100 grams (3.5 ounces).
Lean protein foods can come from both animal and plant sources, such as:
• White-fleshed fish, such as cod, haddock, tilapia, and halibut
• Plain Greek yogurt
• Beans, peas, and lentils
• Skinless chicken and turkey breast
• Lean cuts of beef and pork, such as sirloin, tenderloin, and loin
• Eggs and egg whites
• Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
• Low-fat cottage cheese and ricotta cheese
• Nuts and seeds
How much lean protein do you need?
The amount of protein you need depends on several factors, such as your age, weight, activity level, and health goals. The general recommendation is to get at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day. However, this may not be enough for some people, especially those who are physically active, trying to lose weight, or building muscle. In these cases, you may need more protein to support your body’s needs.
Here are some guidelines for different scenarios:
If you want to lose weight:
Eating more protein can help you feel fuller with fewer calories, boost your metabolism, and preserve your muscle mass while losing fat. Aim for 0.7–1 gram of protein per pound (1.6–2.2 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day
If you are pregnant:
Eating more protein can help you support the growth and development of your baby. Aim for 0.5–0.6 grams of protein per pound (1.1–1.3 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day
If you are older:
Eating more protein can help you prevent muscle loss and maintain your bone health as you age. Aim for 0.5–0.6 grams of protein per pound (1.1–1.3 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day.
Eating more lean protein foods can be easy and delicious if you follow some simple tips:
• Include a lean protein source in every meal and snack. For example, you can have eggs or Greek yogurt for breakfast, chicken salad or tuna sandwich for lunch, fish or tofu stir-fry for dinner, and nuts or cottage cheese for snacks.
• Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry, and remove any visible fat or skin before cooking. You can also use low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, grilling, broiling, or steaming.
• Replace some of your animal protein with plant-based protein sources, such as beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, edamame, nuts, and seeds. These foods are not only high in protein but also rich in fiber and antioxidants.
• Use low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat ones. For example, you can use skim milk instead of whole milk, low-fat yogurt instead of regular yogurt, and low-fat cheese instead of regular cheese.
• Experiment with different seasonings and sauces to add flavor to your lean protein foods. For example, you can use herbs, spices, lemon juice, vinegar, salsa, mustard, or low-sodium soy sauce.
Lean protein foods are low in fat and calories but high in protein. They can help you meet your daily protein needs while supporting your health goals. Some examples of lean protein foods are white-fleshed fish, plain Greek yogurt, beans, peas, lentils, skinless chicken and turkey breast, lean cuts of beef and pork, eggs and egg whites,
tofu, tempeh, edamame, low-fat cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, nuts, and seeds. The amount of protein you need depends on your age, weight, activity level, and health goals. You can eat more lean protein foods by including them in every meal and snack, choosing lean cuts of meat and poultry, replacing some of your animal protein with plant-based protein, using low-fat dairy products, and experimenting with different seasonings and sauces.