Many use this time of year to make lifestyle changes to look leaner and feel healthier. To help, I thought I’d propose a “planned food experiment” to inspire readers to prioritize meals and snacks around protein. 

Protein is the most filling macronutrient and, in the right amount, keeps cravings and hunger at bay for hours. Consider this example from Jade Teta, ND. A five-ounce chicken breast and a standard glazed doughnut each have roughly 250 calories. While you could easily eat three doughnuts in one sitting, three chicken breasts would be challenging because the chicken contains four times more protein. So, if your goals are to get lean, feel better, ditch the diets and still have doughnuts from time to time, read on. 

A goal of one gram of protein per pound of “ideal” body weight daily is a good start. If your ideal weight is over 120 pounds, or you prefer a plant-based diet and find it challenging to get that much protein, shoot for 120 grams. If you find yourself hungry again within three hours, add more protein if you are not at your daily goal or healthy fats like avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds to your next meal and see if that helps. We are all unique so this is where the experimentation comes in. 

Start your day with a superfood shake loaded with protein, fat and fiber. Add at least 20 grams of quality protein powder (Designs for Health, Plant Fusion). I find flavored protein powder to be tastier than unflavored. For increased protein, add collagen, hemp seeds and fortified nut or seed beverages, or add more protein powder to reach your gram goal. Add half to one cup of fiber and anti-oxidant-rich berries, half a green banana, a handful of greens and mix to desired thickness with an unsweetened nut beverage or water. Maybe add cinnamon for flavor and blood sugar-balancing properties, and to save time, make a double batch for the next day. 

For a typical meal, lay your food out on a 10-inch plate. Start by filling half your plate with non-starchy, colorful veggies and eat those first. Fill a quarter of the plate with your clean, lean protein: one or two palm-sized portions of chicken, fish, seafood, beef, pork, eggs or legumes and eat that second. Then fill the remaining quarter with a healthy carb like sweet potatoes, wild rice or legumes, and every once in a while, swap it out for your favorite bread, rice or pasta. Don’t forget the nutritious fats and seasonings like herbs, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. 

For plant-based eaters having difficulty reaching their protein goals, I suggest mixing unflavored protein powders into dishes made with beans, peas, lentils and other legumes (which usually contain about 12g of protein per half cup) in lieu of increasing portions which can increase calories and weight gain. 

In my experience, having a veggie starter, such as soup or salad, followed by an adequate portion of protein, leaves room for our favorite foods as a side dish or main dish from time to time – allowing for the foods you love while still getting the results you want. 

My goal is for my clients to be healthy and happy. Life is too short to be fit and miserable. Here’s to your goals in 2023!

Regina Basterrechea is a functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner and can be reached at (760) 799.6550.

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