Unfortunately, the most convenient foods tend to have high carbohydrate levels and lower amounts of protein. Whether that be through fifteen-cent packages of Ramen noodles, tempting bake sales on campus, or breakfast favorites like pancakes and French toast, it’s easy to overshoot your recommended daily intake of carbs and not quite hit the recommendation for protein (46-56 grams per day according to the CDC). But getting enough protein throughout the day isn’t as much of a struggle as it seems. Most people know that lean meats and fish are good sources of protein, but where else can protein be found? These sources are not only protein-rich, but also great additions without introducing too much saturated fat, trans fat, or cholesterol.
Canned beans (black, kidney, garbanzo) are cheap, quick, easy, and don’t have as much sodium as you’d think if you rinse and drain them first. Cook them with cumin, salt, and pepper and pop them into a tortilla alongside some mixed veggies for a simple burrito. Or try out this eggplant chickpea stew.
While canned beans are undoubtedly more convenient, dried beans are incredibly cheap. Soak them overnight in a bowl and boil them at least half an hour before you’re ready to use or eat them.
Cottage cheese isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an excellent source of protein and surprisingly low in fat. If the taste is too overbearing to eat on its own, top it off with some berries or a spoonful of honey.
Eggs have gotten a bad rap throughout the years because of its cholesterol content, but Mayo Clinic and other sources have shown that if not eaten in excess, eggs will not increase your risk of heart disease. If you’re wary regardless, opt for egg whites instead—but try not to be wasteful! You can buy cartons of just egg whites if you don’t plan on ever using the yolks.
Canned tuna, in water
This doesn’t exactly mean buying the packages of buttery crackers and tuna soaked in oil! Opt for the ones canned with water instead, and use for a tuna sandwich or mix with Greek yogurt for a lighter version of a tuna salad.
Peanut butter can be tricky because there are lots of brands that boast reduced fat or less sugar, but be sure to check the nutrition label. Often times, less fat means more sugar and vice versa, and lots of additives get stuffed into the mix as well. Try to find one that only has one ingredient: peanuts.
Almonds can be sneaky as well in that it’s easy to snack mindlessly on them without realizing just how many you’re eating. Grab a handful before class to curb your appetite but try not to have the carton in front of you while you’re watching TV! For a fancier snack, try these pumpkin spiced roasted almonds.
Don’t forget that you can get your protein through liquids as well! Milk isn’t just calcium-rich, but protein-rich too.
Greek yogurt is actually one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Forgo the flavored kinds, which are usually laden with excess sugar, and opt for plain instead. If you’re eating it plain, you can add fruit or honey.
But if you want to find other ways to incorporate Greek yogurt, you can use it to replace mayonnaise in recipes, and it also does a great job adding moisture to baked good recipes (in order to avoid all that butter!)