If you feel less than satisfied on a restricted-calorie diet, a protein boost just might be the answer.
According to numerous studies, a diet with more protein than the typical 15 percent of calories will leave you feeling fuller and help conserve muscle as you lose fat.
While high-protein diets typically get about 40 percent of calories from protein, some experts think that’s too much.
Guidelines suggest a more modest increase — what’s called a higher-protein diet with 25 percent of calories coming from protein. That’s 300 calories a day if you’re following a 1,200-calorie diet.
As you’re planning meals, keep in mind that these extra calories need to be taken from carb and/or fat servings — they aren’t additional calories.
The benefits? Dieters who eat more protein often feel fuller throughout the day, are better able to control their appetite, and have fewer late-night cravings. Other benefits include lower cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure readings, studies found.
To make the most of this extra protein, spread out your intake across the entire day, starting with a breakfast that might include eggs, smoked fish or Greek yogurt, for instance. This approach will also help in the effort to maintain muscle as you lose fat on your diet. (Resistance training will help with muscle strength as well as muscle preservation, so aim to work in two sessions a week.)
Remember that this is not an all-the-protein-you-can-eat diet, but one that allocates a higher percentage of your calorie limit to protein. And be sure to choose from the highest-quality sources: fish (both lean and omega-3 rich fatty fish), shellfish, skinless chicken and turkey, lean meat, beans and lentils, and fat-free or low-fat dairy.
Choose My Plate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has tips to help you vary your protein choices.