I constantly struggle with getting enough protein in my diet. I know that I don’t really get enough and I should be including more, but it’s just not something that’s easy for me to add. In addition, meat just isn’t something I crave, so I have to find other ways to get it and I’m coming up short on ways to do that.
Most days I have oatmeal for breakfast, then a snack mid-morning, a big salad from the salad bar at work (and I’ve recently started adding some of the chicken breast and sliced hard boiled eggs to my salad) a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and sometimes an after-dinner snack.
Usually, for the last 10 years, each of those non-meal snacks for me has been fruit. Fruit is easy, it’s readily available, it’s portable and packs into a lunch box with no fuss, and it doesn’t require any utensils. Downside: fruit doesn’t generally include any protein. So that’s three “meals” in my day with no protein. The more I read the more I have started thinking that as my body ages (I’m 40 now), the more it needs small amounts of protein with every meal, including snacks.
But figuring out how has been a real struggle. Yogurt or cottage cheese in my lunch box for two of those snacks is a possibility, but it requires little tupperware containers, so that’s a hassle. String cheese might be an option but it seems to defy my simple, non-processed foods guideline. Actually, I’m not sure on that one, as I don’t know much about the relative processing necessary to create it. Nuts are…problematic. I love nuts – almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, really, any kind of nuts are great – bring it on! But…nuts are very high in calories so I have to extremely careful about how many I eat. A very small handful is the limit for a snack, but you know my problem is and always has been portion size. I’m not good with foods that you have to portion out strictly (part of why I love fruits and veggies so much – it’s hard to go overboard with them, they’re mostly water!), because I always want to add just a little bit more to my portion. I can’t be trusted with that, and it’s not like you can buy them in single-serving portions. Same thing with regular cheese – it’s got a high caloric density so I would have to work really hard on making very small portions for me, and I think that I’d be left feeling deprived, because I love cheese so much and just eating a “serving” – a cube one inch on a side – seems so measly.
So this week it’s been little containers of yogurt or cottage cheese. Maybe I’ll look into a few strips of jerky. I’m open to other ideas on how to get more protein into my workday. New ways to look at these small portions of the protein forms I’ve mentioned would also be great. How do you get protein into your meals and snacks? Which forms am I overlooking?