Unlike gluten-free products, whose sales have exploded in part because of the erroneous belief that they can help people lose weight, the “health halo” that surrounds protein might actually be well-deserved. Currently, people are looking for protein to aid in satiety (and) weight management and to boost muscle recovery and build muscle after a workout.
For regular people looking to lose weight, many dieticians at least agree that it is a good idea to replace at least some of the refined carbs and added sugars in your diet with healthy sources of proteins, such as nuts, legumes, no-fat dairy products.
What about protein bars and powders? These products contain a high amount of protein - often whey protein, a by product of making cheese that used to be discarded. It’s a good-quality protein, and it’s relatively cheap. It’s a relatively simple way to get a high amount of protein. The key is to keep the sources lean and not eat too much high-fat protein, such as some red meat or full-fat dairy. That could lead to other health problems.
Ways to Get Protein
“If you want to increase your protein, cut back on less-nutritious foods such as simple carbs,” says Frank Hu, MD, PhD, MPH, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard. “If you just add the protein bar or protein powder on top of your diet, that can add to weight gain,” He added. Short-term studies suggest that replacing some carbs with healthy protein -- namely nuts, beans, and no-fat dairy products - can improve levels of fats in the blood, but the long-term effects aren’t known.
“The best way to minimize hunger is to eat protein at every meal, but many people don’t,” says Yoni Freedhoff, MD, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and author of “The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work”. “Protein is the massive piece of meat you have with dinner,” he says, while “breakfast is full of sugar.”
Non-fat dairy products are a good source of protein, but thin liquid protein, like the skim milk you pour on your cereal, “doesn’t seem to have the same staying power” as a protein-rich smoothie or solid foods, says Freedhoff, founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa.
Freedhoff recommends that you think outside the (cereal) box at breakfast. Eggs, Greek yogurt, and steel-cut oatmeal with nuts - or any other protein-rich food, for that matter -- is a good choice for breakfast.
Eating a protein bar for lunch is better than skipping the meal altogether, Freedhoff says, and many are a more healthful alternative than a candy bar to satisfy a craving for sweets.