How I Incorporate Protein Into My Diet

How to Eat More Protein

I’ve never been a big meat eater. My mom loves to tell the story that as a baby and small child, I refused anything with meat in it despite her best efforts. At age 14 I decided I was going to be a vegetarian (not vegan), and that lasted for almost two full years. I don’t really know why I chose to do that, but it just felt right at the time. When I moved to Italy my junior year of high school, I started eating meat and fish again, but am still weird about it to this day.

When I lived alone in my early 20s, I would cook mostly vegetarian meals for myself, pasta dishes, veggie-based stir fries, and salads… lots of salads.

And then I met Anel, a Bosnian meat-eater that needs it daily to survive. That’s when things started to shift a little. I remember not feeling squeamish touching raw chicken breasts for the first time about six months into our relationship. It sounds silly but it felt like a milestone to me.

Now I can touch, marinate, and cook meat and fish no problem, but the problem is that don’t usually want it or crave it, and since I’ve been pregnant, it completely turns me off in a whole new way.

Because I am so meat averse but I need protein to function, I’ve come up with a handful of ways to incorporate it into my diet without eating too much meat.

Collagen Peptides

I’ve talked about these time and time again but using collagen peptide powder has consistently been the easiest way to incorporate protein into almost anything that I eat. I put them in my morning smoothies but also mix them into brown rice or quinoa. The key is to only mix the powder into what you’re eating at the moment, not something that will become leftovers. It will ruin the consistency.

Protein Pasta

I know I know, enough already about the protein-packed pasta dish I’m obsessed with. But I can’t and won’t stop because I’m just that into it!

Beef Liver Supplements

I started taking these when my acupuncturist recommended them for fertility. Once I started taking them daily, my energy shot through the roof and I started feeling amazing. I’ve never looked back. Animal liver is an insanely amazing source of nutrients and these grass fed beef liver pills are my go-to.

Nuts/Nut Butters

I’ve been a peanut butter addict for as long as I can remember, so eating it is another easy way for me to get protein. I alternate between it and almond butter, and try to snack on raw nuts throughout the day.

Chia Seeds

I add these nutrient-packed seeds to my smoothies, oatmeal, and pretty much every salad I ever eat (either on top or mixed into my dressings). They’re packed with protein and Omega-3’s and fill you up because they expand in your stomach. Plus they have no flavor so you can sprinkle them anywhere and will hardly notice a difference.

Eggs

I love eggs, and not just for breakfast! If you buy them at your local farmer’s market or look for “pasture raised” on the carton, you’ll love them even more. The yolks come out almost orange and the flavor is 100x better. I usually scramble them with spinach and Parmesan cheese, but have been using this technique to perfect my poaching to put on top of stir fries, salads, and avocado toast. It feels quite decadent when done correctly!

Beans

I eat a ton of hummus and often sub it in for grilled chicken on salads. Another favorite way to eat beans is by sautéing white beans with garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and chopped kale. Yum!

Cheese

While I’ve had a dairy problem since I was a kid, that has dissipated with pregnancy, so I’m livin’ it up with all of the cheese ever. I’ve also been craving it like crazy! My favorite ways to eat it are by adding feta and goat cheese to salads, making Caprese with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, and in quesadillas… to which I’m now addicted.

Meats that Sit Well

Because there’s no real substitute for the real thing, I try to eat meat and fish in ways that don’t make me feel nauseous. I like to bread chicken breasts with almond meal instead of breadcrumbs, and will often make that for dinner on top of my kale Caesar or a side of veggies and brown rice.

I also don’t have any problem with burgers for some reason, so Anel and I make our own out of grass-fed beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder and that’s it! We top them off with grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, cheddar, and pickles. Sometimes we skip the bun, but sometimes we go for it because YOLO. Dream meal!

Just remember to limit beef and dairy as they both create a big carbon footprint. If you’re eating locally raised, organic beef, it’s definitely better, but I try to limit my beef intake to once a week.

  • Lauren

    This is one of my all-time fav posts you’ve done, thank you! I love eggs too as great source of protein and so easy to make. If you have any egg recipes I’m all ears!

    • OMG can’t believe I forgot one of my faves! Just added a section on eggs. Good catch, phew 🙂

      • Lauren

        hahah glad i could assist, you’re welcome! it takes a village 🙂

  • Taylor Cannon

    This is such a helpful post! I was the same way (mostly eating vegetarian meals) before I met my husband who loves meat and hates going without. While I still don’t love eating meat we compromise and try to eat vegetarian about 40-50% of our dinners so I am always looking for protein ideas for our meatless meals!

    Taylor | http://www.livingtaylored.com

    • You’re lucky that you’re husband compromises like that! I’m making about one vegetarian dinner/week right now and hoping up up to to two soon.

      • Taylor Cannon

        He wasn’t super thrilled at first but after I had him watch the documentary “Racing Extinction” with me he realized how much energy it takes to produce the meat we eat and he was willing to cut back a bit more 🙂 And meatless meals are a bit easier on the budget as well!

  • Brittany Olander

    I totally did not know chia seeds expand in your stomach- that makes sense on how they fill you up!

    xo, brittany
    father’s day gift guide on my blog today!
    http://www.notablob.com

    • If you put them in liquid you can watch it happen… pretty crazy!

  • I would like to add nutritional yeast and protein powders as options. I really like the taste of that yeast and protein powders are easy to put into a smoothie. Just have to be a little careful with the powders, as some of them are more candy than good for you.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Katherine

    I love this! I just met with a dietician about eating and helping me tone up a little more and we talked about eating protein but not from meat so I can also get fiber. I definitely will be referring back to this list.

  • Ruth H

    While reading this post (and your post from the other day), a book I recently heard about came to mind. I haven’t read it myself (waiting for a friend to finishing reading her copy for me to borrow!) but I know a few women who have read it. The book is Reducetarian by Brian Kateman. I thought it might interest you also!

    • I just looked it up and it looks awesome. Thank you so much for the rec!

  • Christine

    I focus a lot on getting fiber, because I know how much better I feel when I get enough, so I’m all about Chia seeds. I like sprinkling them on both nut butter toast with sliced banana and on avocado toast. I’ve also recently started stiring then into quinoa right after its cooked to bump up the protein and fiber!

    • Great idea on the quinoa/chia seeds, I’m going to try it! I usually make a batch of quinoa every week so this is perfect.

  • Sam

    Love this post! I’m currently a vegetarian since eating meat/fish was making me feel sick. I’m currently single so I don’t have to worry about a meat-eating significant other yet, but I will definitely be saving this post for when it happens. Well that and I am always trying to get more protein in my diet. Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh good! So glad that I could help. And good for you for cutting out the foods that made you feel not great. It can be hard to do!

  • Jordan

    I ordered some Banza pasta after your post and made your recipe last week…I’m completely obsessed! It’s delicious and is such a great way to eat pasta without totally wrecking your diet. Love it!! Thanks for sharing!