Thought a protein heavy diet was strictly for the likes of bodybuilders? Not so, my friend. Many people are interested in learning how they can include more high protein, low carb foods as part of a balanced diet - and for good reason too. Not only are high protein foods are a great way of building muscle and strength, but they also help your body to burn energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer (meaning you're less likely to snack on something sugary, if that's what you're attempting to do).
But what are the best options out there? We asked dietician Sophie Medlin, of City Dieticians, to round up her nine favourite options for a protein punch, that aren't heavy on the carb front – and whether or not protein shakes are a good (or safe) way to consume more of the nutrient. She's also ensured there are vegan and vegetarian options along the way too. Lovely stuff.
"Low carb-high protein diets that replace carbs with plant protein, rather than meat, are associated with better health outcomes," explains Medlin. Time to step up your Meat-Free Monday game?
Yogurt in general is a star food for anybody seeking a protein hit (and of course it doesn't hurt that you can get 0% fat options too, which are equally as delicious as their full-fat counterparts). "Yogurt is an amazing, low fat source of protein that can easily be turned into a balanced low carb breakfast or a delicious dessert," notes Medlin. "Generally, the rules is the thicker the yogurt, the more satisfying it will be." A squeeze of lemon will jazz a plain bowl up, ditto a sprinkle of cinnamon or teaspoonful of honey (coming in at just 25 calories).
Cream cheese with cucumber or celery
"All dairy foods contain a matrix of nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere in our diet," says Medlin. "Combined with low carb vegetables this makes a great snack for any low carber." An easy one to eat on-the-go too, if you stock up on mini tubs of Philadelphia (or the like).
Sardines in tomato sauce
"Tinned sardines are an excellent source of protein, calcium and essential fatty acids and when tinned in a spicy tomato sauce, they make a really delicious snack," recommends Sophie.
Given that there are a myriad of ways to eat them, it's a good thing that eggs have made the list. Medlin's favourite way to eat them? "I love boiled eggs with some chopped tomatoes, or scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach – both make amazing low carb, high protein options."
As with the cream cheese option, hummus (and other dips made with pulses), are delicious served on the side of a salad, or with cucumber and celery, for a great low carb, high protein addition to your diet.
If you've never tried making your own, what are you waiting for? "It's easy to make homemade falafel and you can limit the amount of additional carbohydrate you add to the mix," says Medlin. "When you’ve perfected them, they’re delicious server with tzatziki as part of a meal or on their own as a snack."
Another chuck in your bag and go suggestion: nuts. "Nuts are an excellent source of nutrients that are harder to find elsewhere in the diet. They’re also low in carbs, high in protein and full of fibre."
And last but not least... protein shakes. What's the deal? "As a last resort, protein shakes can be a useful high protein, low carb option. While they shouldn’t be used in place of whole, unprocessed foods, they can be very convenient when you’re on the go," says Medlin. As is typically the golden rule when it comes to eating a balanced diet, they're best enjoyed in moderation.
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