Ever feel like you’re constantly hungry? Do you eat a big lunch, feel full, but then an hour later find yourself craving a snack or hear a little grumble sneak out? This use to be a huge problem of mine for quite sometime, and even through my years of school and preparation for becoming a dietitian I was always concerned that I was doing something wrong (or just had an overly active appetite). Of course, eventually, I figured it out. I was not getting nearly enough protein during times when I really needed it, such as at breakfast or lunch. It is one thing to incorporate a piece of chicken or half a cup of black beans into your dinner, but for me, making sure I had an adequate protein source early in the day just never really registered. Noon would hit, I would eat my salad, piece of fruit, and maybe a few crackers, but sure enough about an hour later the grumbles would surface.
If you find yourself having a similar problem, take a look at what you are typically eating at lunch or for breakfast each day. We are all creatures of habit, so typically we fall into the same patterns of eating the same meal each day at the same time (ex. salad every day for lunch, oatmeal each morning for breakfast). This is ok! You may just need to make some additions or do some tweaking to stop the tummy grumbling and feel truly satisfied throughout the day.
Take a look at your daily eating habits and see where improvements can be made. Remember foods that are considered adequate sources of protein are those such as meat, beans, some dairy such as milk or yogurt, eggs, and nuts or nut butters. If you don’t feel like doing some extra planning, a simple low-calorie, low-sugar version of a protein shake or a protein bar are also good options. Here are some simple ways to add protein in throughout the day, without completely changing your meal habits:
- Add a small spoonful of nut butter to your morning oatmeal or sprinkle a few extra nuts on top such as almonds, walnuts, or cashews.
- Add a spoonful of Greek yogurt to your morning oatmeal.
- Instead of crackers, pretzels, or chips at lunch, pack a small single serving of Greek yogurt with a few fun toppings such as dried fruit, granola, or nuts (this is also great for those of you with a sweet tooth at lunch!).
- Put a few slices of lean deli turkey on top of your salad at lunch.
- Add 1/4 cup beans to a wrap. Easy Mexican inspired wrap: Whole-wheat tortilla, 1/4 cup black beans, 1 small Roma tomato, a little romaine lettuce, 1 tbsp. of your favorite salsa, and a sprinkle of low-fat cheddar cheese. Greek wrap: Whole-wheat or spinach tortilla, 1 tbsp. hummus, 1/4 cup chickpeas or white beans, handful of spinach, 4 cucumber slices, sprinkle of reduced-fat feta cheese. Italian-style wrap: Whole-wheat tortilla, 1 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, a few basil leaves, a few spinach leaves, 2 slices of tomato, 1/4 cup cannellini beans, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar.
- Add 1/4 cup black beans or chickpeas to your lunch salad.
- Make your breakfast smoothie with 1/2 Greek yogurt, 1/2 low-fat milk for double the protein!
- Use a hard-boiled egg has a salad topper. Slice or crumble it on top!
However you choose to add in that extra protein, do what works for you and what is easy. As I have said in the past, carbs + protein equal the greatest and longest satisfaction.