Having to balancing classes, jobs, clubs and a social life, college students often forget about maintaining healthy eating habits. I try to eat foods that make me feel good and sustain me throughout the day, and eating enough protein is key. It’s an important macronutrient for everyone, not only athletes trying to bulk up. According to Kris Gunnars, a nutrition researcher for Healthline, a higher protein intake reduces hunger levels and promotes stronger bones and muscles, faster metabolism, lower blood pressure, and higher energy levels. 

Here are eight tips and tricks that I’ve found helpful to increase your protein intake. (I hate the taste of protein powder, so you won't find it on this list!)

1. Track your protein consumption for one day

It’s helpful to have a baseline and see about how much protein you consume on a typical day. Log all the food you eat with a macro food calculator to get an estimate of your daily protein consumption . Don’t pay too much attention to the calories, just focus on the grams of protein. Then, calculate the amount of protein you need to stay healthy based on your height, weight, age and activity level. Doing this gives you an idea of how much protein is in the foods you eat on a regular basis, so you won't have to meticulously track your protein every day. 

2. Add protein to your breakfast

In my experience, breakfast is the hardest meal to work in protein. Cereal, toast, bagels and pancakes are high in carbs and low in protein, which explains why I feel hungry an hour after eating. Pairing these carbs with a source of protein, like an egg or yogurt, will leave you feeling more satisfied and energized.

3. Meal prep your meat

If you aren’t vegetarian, one of the easiest ways to eat more protein is eating more meat. Because I’m lazy, I like to prepare in advance so I have meat on hand when I want to throw together an easy meal. Most cooked meats last about three to four days in the fridge, making it an easy addition to pastas, salads and bowls.

4. Cook chicken the right way

Ever needed to force down dry, tasteless chicken just to eat enough protein? I cook chicken breasts by either pounding them or cutting them in half to make them thinner. I pat them dry with a paper towel and season with garlic salt, pepper, oregano and whatever other spices I’m in the mood for. I sear the chicken breasts over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Then, I reduce the heat to low and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness. The key to juicy chicken is letting it rest for at least ten minutes after removing it from the heat; this lets the juices reabsorb instead of running out. 

5. Greek yogurt is your friend

In the dairy category, greek yogurt’s protein content is hard to beat. An average serving of nonfat greek yogurt has between 12 to 17 grams of protein. This makes it a great addition to everything from smoothies to pasta sauces, like this greek yogurt alfredo sauce. If you’re a fan of yogurt parfaits, use greek yogurt to get an extra boost of protein. Sometimes, I’ll eat cereal with greek yogurt instead of milk for a change.

6. Pack in protein with peanut butter powder

Peanut butter is one of my favorite snacks. When I’m stressing out about my classes late at night, you’ll find me eating peanut butter by the spoonful straight from the jar. I recently discovered the wonders of peanut butter powder — it has about 8 grams per serving. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t taste the same, but a quarter cup of this powder contains about twice the protein of a serving of normal peanut butter. I mix it with equal parts water or almond milk and a little bit of honey to spread on toast with slices of banana. It also makes a great smoothie with bananas, cocoa powder, and almond milk.

7. Incorporate protein into your snacks

Between meals, I tend to reach for protein-rich snacks to feel more satisfied and have a longer-lasting source of energy. Some of my favorites are nuts, turkey jerky and edamame. Find your favorite high protein snacks and stock up! 

8. Add protein-rich pasta to your diet

I love carbs so much that you’ll always find at least three boxes of pasta in my pantry. It’s super affordable, versatile and easy to prepare. While most pastas have between six to eight grams of protein, chickpea pasta, an easy alternative, has 22 grams per serving without sacrificing taste. Trader Joe’s also carries other protein-packed pastas made from black beans and lentils. 

With these tips, I’ve managed to increase my protein intake without buying bad-tasting protein powders or expensive protein bars. The key is finding what works for you — it’s easy to eat enough protein when it tastes good!