Weight Loss: Can a High Protein Diet Work? (cont.)

"If the DRIs give us permission to push up the protein," she asks, "what is the harm in adding some lean protein or low-fat dairy to your diet -- unless you have a condition that would limit protein?"

The Best Protein Sources

Protein is important but so are carbohydrates, fats, and total calories, says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"It is all about balance," says Tallmadge, author of Diet Simple. While she recommends including lean and low-fat sources of protein at every meal, she says it should be part of a calorie-controlled diet that's also rich in 'smart carbs' such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olives, oils, fish, and avocado.

She also notes that not all protein is created equal. Be sure to look for protein sources that are nutrient-rich and lower in fat and calories, such as lean meats, beans, soy, and low-fat dairy, she says.

Here are some good sources of protein, as listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Food Protein grams
1 ounce meat, fish, poultry 7
1 large egg 6
4 ounces milk 4
4 ounces low-fat yogurt 6
4 ounces soy milk 5
3 ounces tofu, firm 13
1 ounce cheese 7
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese 14
1/2 cup cooked kidney beans 7
1/2 cup lentils 9
1 ounce nuts 7
2 tablespoons peanut butter 8
1/2 cup vegetables 2
1 slice bread 2
1/2 cup of most grains/pastas 2

8 Ways to Pump Up the Protein

If you'd like to start including more lean protein in your daily diet, Tallmadge offers these eight simple tips:

  • Take yogurt with you to the gym and enjoy it as a post-workout booster.
  • Make your breakfast oatmeal with milk instead of water.
  • Snack on fat-free mozzarella cheese.
  • Use a whole cup of milk on your cereal.
  • Try smoked salmon or one of the new lean sausages for breakfast.
  • Take along a hard-boiled egg for an easy snack.
  • Munch on edamame beans at meals and snacks.
  • Choose round or tenderloin cuts of meat

Published January 2006.
Medically Updated January 2007.

SOURCES: Journal of Nutrition, July 2005. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005; 82:41-8. Lancet 2004; 364:897-9. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids, Institute of Medicine, September 2002. USDA Nutrient database release 18, January 2005. Donald Layman, PhD, professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rebecca Reeves, DrPH, RD, assistant professor, Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine; president, American Dietetic Association. Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, spokesperson, American Dietetic Association; author, Diet Simple.

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