Learn how to fit this essential building block of nutrition into your daily meals.
As we age, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet becomes increasingly important for our overall health and well-being. Protein, often referred to as the “building block of life,” plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass, supporting the immune system, repairing our cells, and more.
If you’ve discussed the need to incorporate more protein into your diet with your healthcare provider, we’ve got you covered with some helpful suggestions! In this article, we’ll explore creative and practical ways to get more protein in your diet, with a focus on healthy, plant-forward sources that are easy to add to your daily routine. If you choose to include meat in your diet, opt for leaner varieties to maximize protein intake while minimizing saturated fat.
Eight of the best ways to get more protein in your diet include:
- Harness the power of nuts and seeds
- Find your favorite protein shakes & smoothies
- Use tofu in creative ways
- Embrace cooking with legumes
- Try ancient grains like quinoa
- Swap to protein-rich dairy or alternatives
- Keep protein bars on hand
- Fortify your meals with greens
Let’s learn about these ways to get more protein in your diet as a senior below. Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor or dietitian before making significant changes to your diet.
Harness the power of nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are versatile and nutrient-dense sources of protein that can easily be incorporated into your diet. Sprinkle a handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds over your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Munch on trail mix for a satisfying and protein-rich midday energy boost. Spread creamy nut butters on whole-grain toast, apple slices, or celery sticks. (Just be mindful of portion sizes, as nuts and spreads can be calorie-dense.)
Find your favorite protein shakes & smoothies
For a convenient and sip-able protein boost, consider adding protein shakes or smoothies to your routine. You can keep nutritious bottled protein shakes on hand for grab-and-go convenience or make your own fruit and protein smoothie for breakfast or a snack. Stock up with frozen fruits, greens like spinach and kale, and a plant-based protein powder, then blend everything up with your juice or milk of choice.
Use tofu in creative ways
Tofu is an often-overlooked ingredient in our part of the culinary world, but you don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy it! It can take on various textures and flavors, making it an excellent protein boost for a wide variety of dishes. Try pureeing silken tofu into creamy sauces or soups (or even smoothies!) to thicken them and add protein without altering the taste. Marinate and bake firm tofu for a flavorful and satisfying main course. Tofu’s versatility allows you to explore different cooking methods and experiment with new flavors — check out these beginner-friendly tofu recipes.
Embrace cooking with legumes
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are some of the most affordable kitchen staples you can find and are also rich sources of protein and fiber. Incorporate legumes into your diet by making hearty stews, soups, and chili (or stocking up on canned versions) during colder months. In the summer, swap the soups for delicious chilled bean salads with an array of colorful vegetables and herbs. A diet rich in legumes offers benefits like heart health, reduced cancer and diabetes risk, and more. Add them to your diet gradually to help your digestive system adjust. If you’re using dried beans, it can help to soak them before use.
Try ancient grains like quinoa
Quinoa, amaranth, teff, and farro are just a few examples of ancient grains that pack a punch when it comes to protein. Introduce a medley of unique textures and flavors to your meals by choosing one of these grains now and then instead of rice or pasta! Start with simple ancient grains recipes like roasted vegetable and grain bowls, soups, salads, porridge, and even quinoa-stuffed peppers. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the most powerful plant proteins you can find, and many people enjoy the slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture.
Swap to protein-rich dairy or alternatives
Whether you consume dairy or generally opt for dairy-free alternatives, this is an area where you can make simple swaps to increase your protein intake. For instance, many people enjoy having yogurt for breakfast or a snack. When you’re at the store, compare the nutritional facts of available brands and choose options that are lower in sugar and higher in protein, like Greek yogurt or fortified plant-based options. You can do the same thing with plant-based milks by choosing soy milk instead of coconut milk.
Keep protein bars on hand
These days, you can find protein bars in just about every kind of flavor and texture you can think of! Sample some different brands to find your favorites, focusing on options with minimal added sugars and a good balance of protein and fiber. If you find one you like, make it a habit to keep some bars in your bag or your vehicle so you always have a quick, protein-rich snack available.
Fortify your meals with greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli are surprisingly rich in protein. While they may not provide as much protein as some other sources, they still contribute to your overall intake and offer a wealth of other health benefits as well. Incorporate greens into your meals as sides, add-ins to soups and stews, or as the base for a nutrient-packed salad. Here are more ideas to add extra greens to your diet!
Adding more protein into your diet as you age doesn’t have to be complicated. With a little creativity and a focus on wholesome choices, you can enjoy the benefits of a protein-rich diet that supports your well-being for years to come.
For more wellness tips, keep reading the CapTel blog!