You had oatmeal for breakfast and salad with chicken for lunch, but it’s 3 p.m. and you catch yourself (hungrily) snapping at a co-worker. “What the heck?” you wonder. I’m eating enough protein to feel full.
And you’re right. According to nutritionist Kelly LeVeque—who has coached celebs like Jessica Alba, Molly Sims, Emmy Rossum, and Chelsea Handler—most Americans get more protein than they actually need.
“I think a lot of people just eat dry chicken or the leanest turkey they can get, and there are so many nutrients in other types of protein.” —Kelly LeVeque
The real problem: when you don’t spread it out incrementally throughout your day or balance it with other macronutrients. “Protein does a really good job of turning off hunger hormones,” says the Body Love author. “I think a lot of people just eat dry chicken or the leanest turkey they can get, and there are so many nutrients in other types of protein.”
So what should you be eating? Here are 6 creative ways to incorporate more nutrient-rich proteins into your diet.
1. Unhulled tahini
Kale Junkie blogger Nicole Modic swears by this sesame seed butter, which is a 20 percent complete protein. “In order to be considered complete, a protein must contain all nine essential amino [acids] in roughly equal amounts,” says Modic. “So it’s a much better source than other nuts like peanuts.”
2. Bone broth
Each cup of bone broth packs 10–18 grams of protein per cup compared with just a couple grams in regular chicken stock. “I make a bison chili or a fake pho with chicken bone broth,” says LeVeque. “It’s a really strong source of the amino acids your body needs to synthesize collagen.”
She may be best known for the mouthwatering recipes in her cookbooks and blog, but Nom Nom Paleo’s Michelle Tam purposely stashes a slightly off-putting snack in her purse: a can of sardines. “If I’m hungry, I have something healthy and good for me to eat, but it’s not super tasty and it can really annoy fellow people on a plane, so I only eat it if I’m really hungry,” says Tam.
4. Hemp hearts
Oh She Glows blogger and author Angela Liddon sprinkles these shelled seeds on just about everything—even pasta—for a nutrient-dense, vegan protein fix. “I love them because they have a creamy, chewy texture, and they’re packed with protein, healthy fats, iron, magnesium, and zinc,” says Liddon, who even sneaks them into brownies.
5. Romaine boats
Food allergies don’t keep Jenna Schreck from eating healthy proteins on the go. The No Whey Lady blogger, who is corn-, gluten-, and dairy-intolerant, simply fills leaves of romaine lettuce with easy-to-find ingredients like smoked salmon, prosciutto, and avocado. “They’re just so easy. They’re just like little tacos,” says Schreck.
AvoKween’s hidden gem: collagen, which blogger Ali Bonar sneaks into dairy-free, sugar-free hot cocoa at the end of the day. Bonar recommends whipping it with an inexpensive milk frother and enjoying it in a beautiful cup. “The more appetizing you can make food look, the more you can trick your mind into being like wow, that’s really delicious,” says Bonar. “Life is too short to eat boring-looking food.”
If you’re all about protein bars, here’s how to give them a homemade, pumpkin-y fall makeover. And this recipe will convince you to put cauliflower in all your smoothies.