Written by Kim Lowry, nutrition communications intern for Triad to Wellness
Edited by Sarah Achleithner, nutrition communications coordinator for Triad to Wellness
Protein is an essential macronutrient that has received a lot of attention over the last year, and for good reason! Eating adequate amounts of protein (the RDA is 0.8g/kg for the average person) ensures that you have the proper amounts of B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Protein plays some major roles within our bodies, as it functions as building blocks for bones, cartilage, skin and blood, and helps build muscle.
Traditionally, the majority of protein is consumed at dinner time, but new research has shown that spreading protein intake throughout the day allows it to be more effectively synthesized by the body. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that those consuming protein throughout the day experienced 25% higher protein synthesis compared to those who consumed the majority of their protein at dinner (1).
A more even distribution of protein intake throughout the day becomes even more important as we age. The older we get, the body begins to resist muscle protein synthesis resulting in a need for higher intakes (2). Consuming protein throughout the day rather than just in the evening may provide the body more opportunity to synthesize it.
Weight management is another reason to add more protein into your daily diet. Emerging research is suggesting that those who consume protein throughout the day exhibit more weight loss, fat loss and preservation of lean muscle mass compared to those eating protein most at dinner (3). The reason for this is because protein helps to slow digestion and may leave you feeling more satisfied, as higher satisfaction after a meal may help curb cravings and prevent over-eating. This is good news for those looking to watch their weight and build a healthier lifestyle!
So how can you add more protein into your busy day? Our suggestion–healthy snacking! Snacks are essentially mini meals and help keep energy levels consistent through the day, especially when you include protein rich foods. So go ahead and try these five easy to create snack ideas–they are portable, filling, and nutritious while still packing on the protein.
1. Cottage Cheese and Fruit Parfait
A fruit parfait is the perfect snack to indulge in for those with a sweet tooth. The creamy texture of cottage cheese pairs great with of fruit to make a satisfying (and healthy!) parfait. Cottage cheese packs 90 calories and 13 grams of protein in a ½ cup serving, which is why we recommend using Daisy Cottage cheese . This snack requires little prep time; simply chop up your favorite fruit and mix with cottage cheese in a bowl.
Flavor Tip: If you desire a little extra zest, try adding a sprinkling of cinnamon!
2. Hemp Hearts and Oatmeal
Though oatmeal is traditionally eaten as a breakfast food, it makes a delicious and nutritious snack any time of the day. 1 cup of oatmeal alone contains around 6 grams of protein, but adding Manitoba Hemp Hearts to your oatmeal creates a protein packed and fulfilling snack. One serving of Manitoba Hemp Hearts contains 10 grams of protein per serving!
In a Hurry Tip: Don’t have time to make the oatmeal? Manitoba Harvest also makes “Hemp Heart Bites” These bites still provide 10 grams of protein and can be easily eaten alone as a snack on the go.
3. Greek Yogurt and Cantaloupe Bowl
Plain non-fat Greek yogurt contains between 11-20 grams of protein per cup serving. A cantaloupe bowl is easy to make and absolutely delicious. Simply slice a cantaloupe in half so it resembles a bowl. Fill your cantaloupe bowl with 1 cup of Greek yogurt for a nourishing mid-day snack!
Label Tip: Read the labels on your yogurt! Many varieties contain added sugars which decrease the nutritional value of this refreshing snack idea.
4. Kefir Smoothie
Smoothies make the perfect 0n-the-go snack! Kefir is a cultured probiotic drink, similar to yogurt, and is a good protein source providing around 11 grams per cup! Try replacing kefir for milk in your next smoothie to create a more protein dense snack.
Swap Tip: Don’t have kefir? The creamy and neutral texture of cottage cheese also makes for an excellent base for your favorite smoothie recipe!
5. Almond butter and Pumpkin Seeds on Whole Wheat Toast
Jazzing up a slice of whole wheat toast with almond butter and pumpkin seeds creates a quick and easy protein dense snack. Almond butter provides 6 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving, and this can be spread on toasted wheat bread (which provides around 3 grams of protein per slice). Adding a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds adds a crunchy texture and an additional 6 grams of protein per ½ cup! This snack is great for those enjoy a nutty flavor.
Variety tip: Other nut and seed butters can add protein to your snack in addition to almond butter! You can also try cashew, peanut, or sunflower seed butters.
(1) Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, et al. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults [published online January 29, 2014]. J Nutr. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.185280.
(2) The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance Am J Clin Nutr ajcn084038; First published online April 29, 2015. &cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
(3) The National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods