25 Ways to Increase Your Protein Intake

If there’s one thing that can help you eat less and increase the chance you’ll lose weight, it’s getting more protein. Protein has been shown to help keep you fuller longer, speed up your metabolism, and even help build muscle more efficiently. You know that protein is the answer to your better body questions, but just how to get more protein is a different problem.

But we know that it can feel like a challenge to increase your protein intake seamlessly into your diet; there are only so many turkey sandwiches one can eat!

The following 25 ideas and food swaps will show you how to get more protein without totally disrupting your routine.


Swap Regular Yogurt for Greek Yogurt

Regular yogurt often has tons of additives and hidden sugar—especially the flavored ones—but plain Greek yogurt can have up to almost 20 grams of protein per serving. Look for varieties with little to no sugar for an afternoon snack or a great way to jumpstart your morning.


Choose Eggs Over Cereal

Cereal servings are often much smaller than a traditional bowl’s size, leading to overeating with very little protein. Swap your cereal for eggs—hard-boiled, soft scrambled, or however you like them—for a fat-burning and delicious meal. If you’re craving something earthy and sweet, add sweet peppers and root vegetables and double down on toppings like herbs and hot sauce that will only cost you a few calories. Wondering which eggs to buy? Cage-free, farm-fresh, organic…? We decipher what’s what in our report on 26 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Carton of Eggs !


Add a Handful of Pecans to a Salad

Nuts are not only a great crunch element to add to salads, entrees, and desserts, but they’re also packed with protein and antioxidants. Pecans, in particular, have a ton of magnesium, which aid in digestion; they’re filling and cleansing at the same time.


Choose Low-fat Cheese Instead of Junk Food

If you’re looking for something creamy and satisfying that feels indulgent, grab a cheese stick instead of cheesy chips or other junk. Low-fat string cheese comes in at under 200 calories per serving with all the protein you’d get from a glass of milk. (A cup of low-fat milk has about eight grams of protein.) Plus, it’s fun to eat!


Add Lentils to Your Soup

If you’re looking for a way to increase the protein in your broth-based soups, try adding lentils. A longtime staple for vegetarians looking for alternative sources of protein, lentils can completely fill you up with very little effort. A handful of lentils can be subbed in for noodles, rice, or anything else starchy. And speaking of adding stuff to soups, avoid these 20 Worst Ingredients to Put Into Your Soup!


Add Quinoa and Black Beans to Homemade Veggie Burgers

Move over, beef burgers; veggie burgers with quinoa and black beans are packed with fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties. No, you won’t get that juicy, beefy taste, but you might be pleasantly surprised by how much better you feel afterward. If you’re feeling a little nervous about making your own patties, then start by scoping out our guide to the 32 Best and Worst Veggie Burgers.


Add Hummus to a Sandwich

Forget the fattening mayonnaise and cheese; you can satisfy your need for something super creamy by spreading hummus on your sandwich instead. The chickpeas in your hummus are packed full of protein, and the flavorful herbs and garlic can be added to give your sandwich some zing—without the grease and fat. To make your own hummus at home, check out our 11 Tips for Making the Perfect Homemade Hummus!


Top Stir-Fried Veggies with Chopped Almonds

Vegetables themselves do contain some protein, but why not gild the lily by adding chopped almonds to an Asian-inspired stir fry? Opt for slivered and unsalted to control your sodium intake and not to overdo it on the good fats.


Swap Ricotta Cheese for Cottage Cheese

Yes, ricotta cheese has protein—a half a cup has about 14 grams—but it also has a ton of fat (which is why it tastes so good). Swap ricotta for cottage cheese in cold dips for about the same amount of protein with fewer calories and less fat.


Add Pepitas to Your Hummus

Pepitas, also known as roasted pumpkin seeds, are a delicious way to increase your protein intake in hummus (which already has a decent amount). You can whip them in with a food processor, or you can just sprinkle them on top for a crunchy topping. For more awesome toppings to throw on your oatmeal, hummus, and yogurt, scope out these 30 Healthy Toppings for Weight Loss!


Sneak in Flavorless Protein Powders

It’s time to go beyond only using your protein powders for post-workout shakes. You can sneak flavorless protein powders into things like salad dressings, oatmeals and more! To cook with protein powder, you can even add it to things like brownies and mashed potatoes.


Snack on a Hardboiled Egg

If you want a meaty, creamy, and filling snack on the go, grab a hard-boiled egg. There are six grams of protein in each egg (eat the yolk!), and you can add flavor simply through spices, herbs, and hot sauces.


Substitute Fatty Lunch Meats for Lean Ones

Put away the fatty and sodium-filled deli meats like salami, ham, and roast beef. Instead, swap them out for low-sodium turkey and canned tuna, both of which are extremely rich in protein and will keep you full way past the 3 p.m. afternoon slump. Salty deli meats can also make you puff up; bookmark these 42 Foods to Deflate Your Belly Bloat for some quick fixes you can eat!


Sprinkle Salad with Nutritional Yeast

A nice alternative to cheese, nutritional yeast (nicknamed “nooch”) has six grams of protein per serving, compared to about two grams of protein in parmesan cheese. You can also use it to top popcorn and other snacks where you’d like a cheesy yet protein-filled boost.


Top Sweet Treats with Macadamia Nuts

If you’re craving something sweet and know you’re going to indulge no matter what, try adding a quick handful of protein like macadamia nuts to your brownie or cookie to help get you some sort of filling protein with your sugar rush.


Add Tahini to Salad Dressings

Tahini, made from sesame paste, is a great substitute for oil in salad dressings because it includes two grams of protein per serving (compared to olive oil’s zero grams per serving). Use lemon juice as an acid and just a smidge of oil to get the dressing going, and then add things like mustard, herbs, and spices to customize your flavoring.


Add Ancient Grains Like Amaranth to Your Salads

Quinoa is amazing, but it can also get boring quickly. Add another ancient grain, like amaranth, to your salads to switch it up a bit. Amaranth is gluten-free like quinoa, packed with protein and fiber, and has a nutty-but-mild taste that will complement your greens.


Swirl Nut Butter into Your Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a great breakfast option, but it can often get boring. Add an extra helping of protein to your morning bowl with a tablespoon or two of nut butter, which will keep you full until lunchtime. And if you’re an oats lover, then be sure to try making overnight oats, too!


Use a Pesto with Pine Nuts and Tree Nuts

Pine nuts, traditionally used in pestos, have about 9 grams of protein per half a cup, which is a great option for spreads on sandwiches and for quinoa pastas. But if you add a handful of tree nuts such as almonds or walnuts to your pine nut pesto, you can almost double the amount of protein you’re getting!


Use Chia Seeds in Puddings and Baking

If you’re going vegan, did you know that you can swap out eggs for chia seeds and water in your baking? They have about five grams of protein per ounce and will make your baked goods and puddings creamy and delicious. For more smart swaps, these 25 Healthy Ingredient Swaps for Baking will blow your mind!


Add Peas to Your Meals

Many vegetables have protein, but green peas have about eight grams of protein per cup. You can add them to stews and soups or even blend them into dips and hummus for an added vegetable-based protein boost. Also consider pea protein, if you are looking for a plant-based protein powder.


Add Tofu as a Smoothie and Shake Thickener

Tofu doesn’t have to just be scrambled into a stir fry—you can use it as a thickener in shakes and smoothies, as well as a base for dips and soups. A half a cup of the stuff will give you 10 grams of excellent, flavorless protein, but make sure to choose a tofu that doesn’t use the coagulating agent magnesium sulfate, which has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Tofus that use nigari salts, lushui, or clean sea water as a coagulating agent are safer choices. Once you found that better-for-you product, find your new favorite shake recipe with this list of 23 Best Protein Shake Recipes!


Try One of Those New Meat Snacks

Yes, meat snacks are a thing—and we’re not just talking about those rubbery beef jerky sticks from the gas station. Tons of new options are popping up and many of them are seriously impressive, thanks to their omega-3, vitamin B12, and iron levels that all come in a portable package. These are the 14 Best Protein-Packed Meat Snacks that we approve of—because, no, Slim Jims definitely don’t count.


Bake a Potato

We talked about peas earlier, but a regular ol’ russet potato also has a surprising 8 grams of protein per large spud; it’s kinda nice to know that the starch isn’t nearly as bad for you as you may think, right? Just don’t ruin it with a bunch of cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits.


Swap Your Bread Slice for Ezekiel Bread

Confession: We’re diehard fans of Ezekiel Bread. So much so that we even wrote about the 15 Reasons People Are Obsessed with Ezekiel Bread—and no, they didn’t pay us to do so. Among the many benefits of these sprouted slices, there are 4 grams of protein per slice—meaning you’ll score 8 grams with a sandwich. It’s literally better than any other sliced bread.

Get the New Book!

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

If you’re on the road and only have time to make pit stops, make sure you choose the best option available. Shakes and bars are great if you’re stuck in the driver’s seat, but if you’re riding shotgun, go for Greek yogurt, beef jerky, or a hard-cooked egg. You won’t have to spend 15 minutes deciphering dense labels, and most convenience stores stock them.

To round out your arsenal of protein-rich shakes, bars, and convenience-food store snacks, try these quick and easy mini meals made at home.

Baby carrots and hummus

Carrots contain complex carbs to sustain your energy levels, and provide enough potassium to control blood pressure and muscle contractions. Add 2 tablespoons of hummus to your mini meal for slow-digesting carbs, protein, and unsaturated fats—all the right elements to fuel activity. Plus, most varieties are made with olive oil, which contains oleic acid—a fat that aids in warding off the gene responsible for 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers, according to research from Northwestern University.

Half cup of edamame and a stick of string cheese

Sargento String Cheese Snacks keep your calories in check with 8 grams of protein in just 80 calories. Add edamame for another 9 grams of protein and a dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.


Remix your lunch box fave. Spread a tablespoon of natural peanut butter on sprouted grain Ezekiel bread. Top with a handful of sliced strawberries instead of jelly for a mini meal that contains 10 grams of protein in less than 200 calories.


Not sure if you want something sweet, salty, or cheesy? Surprisingly, you can have all three—and be healthy! Try 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter on a whole grain English muffin with 1 stick of part-skim string cheese (torn into strands). The result is a mess-free mini meal with 23 grams of protein.

Two leaves of lettuce with light cheese and sliced turkey

Roll a Laughing Cow light cheese and 2 thin slices of deli turkey into a large lettuce leaf. Pack two for a low-fat meal that tallies up 25 grams of protein in 160 calories.

Cottage cheese with pumpkin seeds and cereal

Be sure to pack a spoon. Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds and 1/2 cup Kashi Go Lean cereal on top of 1/2 cup cottage cheese satisfies your need for crunch and savory flavor. The seeds supply omega-3s, magnesium, and iron to fuel your muscle recovery. The combo with Kashi and cottage cheese pumps your protein intake up to 25 grams in one dish.

This selection was excerpted with permission from The 12 Week Head-To-Toe Transformation: A Beginner’s Guide To Fitness And Strength Training In 3 Easy Steps, by Holly Perkins.

20 Ways To Get Your Elderly Parents to Eat More Protein With Their Meals

When you hear high protein diet do you think of bodybuilders? Men and women with large arm, chest and leg muscles? Bodybuilders need high amounts of protein because they build muscle.

But a high protein diet is important for seniors, too. No matter your age or level of fitness, you also need protein. Your body relies on protein to function. Seniors especially need a high protein diet to maintain:

  • Overall health
  • Muscle strength
  • Balance, agility and resilience

Why do Seniors Need a High Protein Diet?

Protein is one of the foundational nutrients that make up your body. Every cell in your body relies on protein to function including:

  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Muscle
  • Bones
  • Internal organs

Protein is essential for healing, building and repairing cells and body tissue. You need protein to:

  • Heal from injuries
  • Keep your fluid levels in balance
  • Recover from surgery or illness
  • Maintain healthy vision
  • Balance your hormones and digestive enzymes

Without protein, your body starts to break down muscle mass and bone strength. Research has found that seniors are not able to use protein as easily as younger people, so their bodies may need more protein to meet its needs.

A diet high in protein can protect you from losing muscle, and muscle is important because you require the use of your muscles for everything you do.

Strong bones and muscles allow you to get out of a chair, walk to the store, do yard work, go dancing, or play with your grandchildren. Even simple tasks like pulling on your socks and getting out of the shower are made easier by healthy and strong muscles.

As we age, it is normal to lose muscle mass, but a loss of strength can also cause you to fall. You may also be more susceptible to illness and injury.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that seniors were not getting enough protein, with 6% of men over 71 and 4-6% of women over 50 not getting the recommended amounts of protein.

Grocery Cheat Sheet for 20 Protein-Rich Foods

Why do We Need More Protein as We Age?

Nutritional needs change as we age and one change is that we require more protein. But why? The muscles attached to your bones is where protein is needed the most. These muscles are the ones that move your body. In lean, young adults, 30% of the body’s protein lives in the muscles. 50% of their total body weight could be muscle (like those bodybuilders).

As you age, muscle mass can decrease. By 75-80 years old, only 25% of one’s body is made of muscle, on average. Most of the muscle you is lose in the legs, which leads to weakness, tremors and feeling tired and achy when walking.

Aging also uses up your reserves. When you are young, you can survive on a diet lower in nutrition. Because you have nutritional reserves. By the age of 65, you may have used up your reserves. A poor diet can cause you to be weak and frail.

Read: How Nutrition Impacts and Influences our Brain Longevity

How Much Protein Do Seniors Need?

The National Institute of Health recommends that 10-35% of your calories should be from protein. That means if you eat 2000 calories in a day, you need 100 grams of protein. One ounce of a food high in protein will usually have 7 grams of actual protein.

Recent evidence shows that the recommended amounts of protein may be too low for elderly people. Seniors may need 1.0-1.3 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. For example, if you weight 180 pounds this could mean consuming 80-104 grams of protein every day, regardless of your calorie intake.

Where Does Protein Come From?

Protein is found in your food and in your body. Your body breaks down protein into amino acids. Your body uses the amino acids to build, repair and maintain your body. Protein can be from animal or plant sources. Amino acids are either:

  • Essential
  • Nonessential
  • Conditional

Essential amino acids need to come from your food. Nonessential amino acids are made by your body from the foods you have eaten. Conditional amino acids are the ones you rely on when you are ill or injured.

20 Tips for a High Protein Diet for Seniors

Increasing the amount of protein in your diet requires you to have a plan. Here we will outline 20 practical tips for how you can add more protein to your day.

The first rule to follow is to be aware of your protein needs. Then make a list of high protein foods you love to eat. At every meal and snack try to swap out a starch or carbohydrate for a higher protein food.

Grocery Cheat Sheet for 20 Protein-Rich Foods

High Protein Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast tends to be the meal where most people lack protein.

  1. Add nuts and seeds to cereal. If you enjoy a bowl of cold or hot cereal for breakfast, try decreasing the cereal and replacing with nuts or seeds like:
    • Pumpkin
    • Sunflower
    • Hemp
    • Flax
  2. Start with an egg. Eggs are a neat little protein package. Each egg holds 6 grams of protein. There are so many ways to eat eggs. For a quick no-cook breakfast, try hard boiling six eggs at a time in advance. Keep in the fridge and grab one for a quick addition to breakfast.
  3. Make a breakfast bowl. Instead of cereal try a Greek yogurt breakfast bowl. 8 ounces of yogurt could give you 17-20 grams of protein. Throw in a handful of nuts and seeds for even more protein-packed energy.
  4. Load up on nut butters. Keeping a jar (or two) of your favorite nut butter on hand makes adding protein easy. Try a spoonful of peanut, almond or cashew butter. Be careful to avoid nut butters with added sugars. Eat nut butters:
    • On whole grain toast
    • Mixed in your oatmeal
    • In a shake
    • On a sweet potato with cinnamon
  5. Protein shakes. Protein shakes make a quick and easy protein breakfast. You can use a plant-based or animal-sourced form of protein. Some protein powders will even mix right into your coffee or tea. You want to make sure you use a high-quality protein powder that does not contain:
    • Sugar
    • Salt
    • Additives

High Protein Lunch Ideas

  1. Add Protein to Salads. Salads are a great way to load up on protein and veggies. Add things to create a superfood salad recipe that keeps you full. Try:
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Leftover meat
    • Cottage cheese
    • Eggs
  2. Substitute meat for bread. Instead of going for a sandwich, make a meat roll-up. To make a quick lunch-to-go use a couple slices of thin turkey breast wrapped around:
    • Cucumber
    • Cheese
    • Sprouts
    • Lettuce
  3. Top with an egg. Eggs can also be added to your lunch as egg salad. Or just a hardboiled egg along with your regular meal.
  4. Add beans. Plant-based protein is a quick easy meal. Try a can of rinsed chickpeas mixed with quinoa, fresh parsley and tomato. Add in some feta cheese for extra “yum” and protein.
  5. High protein soup. Soup or pureed food is great for seniors who struggle with tough textures. You can slow cook stews and soups to make meat or beans softer and easier to digest.

Read: Easy Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut Milk Recipe

High Protein Dinner Ideas

Most North Americans consume most of their protein at dinner. Protein does not need to be evenly spaced throughout the day. If you like protein later in the day, take advantage of this.

A serving size for a meat protein is typically the size of your palm.

  1. Have a steak. Beef is a high protein food. If you choose a lean cut of meat, you can increase your portion and protein content.
  2. Grill chicken breast. Chicken is another meat that you can eat more of if you choose a lean cut. A grilled chicken breast is quick, simple and tasty to add to a plate of vegetables or high protein grains.
  3. Add some cheese. Cheese adds flavor and is a nice start or finish to a meal. Try a cup of cottage cheese, a few slices of hard cheese or sprinkling cheese onto your soup as a finishing touch!
  4. Try fish. Fish provides extra options for variety. There are many different types of fish that you can add to your dinner. An average serving of tuna or salmon will give you about 25 grams of protein. Canned and frozen fish are also great choices.
  5. Meatless Monday. Add in a plant-based meal such as a chickpea falafel, tofu added to a stir-fry, or a hearty five bean soup or chili. Beans tend to have about 15 grams of protein per cup but are low in fat and high in fiber. Try going meat free once a week to mix it up!

Read: Lemon and White Wine Poached Salmon Recipe

High Protein Snacks

Snacks are another place to add in another protein punch. Try a combination of fresh fruits or veggies with:

  1. Smoked salmon
  2. Cheese
  3. Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts)
  4. Seeds
  5. Healthy meat jerky

Making sure that your diet includes enough protein can keep you healthy. You may have more energy and your muscles and bones will be stronger. Try adding some of these foods to your next meal.

Grocery Cheat Sheet for 20 Protein-Rich Foods


Protein Requirements and Recommendations for Older People: A Review

Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations


United States Department of Agriculture: All About the Protein Foods Group

20 Delicious High Protein Foods

Learn about our senior care services here:

Greek Yogurt for Protein

Is Greek yogurt a good source of protein?

Yes, Greek yogurt is an excellent good source of protein, providing 2 to 3 times the amount of protein as regular yogurt. In fact, a 200 gram serving (just under a cup) of Greek yogurt provides about 20 grams of protein — roughly 30% of the daily protein requirement for a sedentary adult and about 20% for an active adult.
The majority of the protein Greek yogurt is casein. The other well-known milk protein, whey, is more liquid, and it is removed in making Greek yogurt to create a thicker, dryer yogurt. Casein is absorbed more slowly than whey in the digestive tract. (For more about casein and whey see ConsumerLab’s Product Review of Protein Powders, which includes our Top Picks among them.)
To see if the protein in Greek yogurt helps build muscle, college-aged men were recruited to perform resistance exercise training three days a week for 12 weeks during which they consumed, along with their regular diets, two to three servings daily of either Greek yogurt (200 grams per serving) or a carbohydrate pudding that was equal in calories but devoid of protein. Not surprisingly, those who ate the yogurt experienced greater increases in muscle size and strength and lost more fat than those who consumed the pudding (Bridge, Front Nutr 2019). Although this showed that Greek yogurt aids muscle production, it doesn’t mean that Greek yogurt is any better or worse than other sources of protein, such as whey protein powder. Increasing protein from any source will help build muscle mass during resistance training.
Although Greek yogurt contains some sugar (about 5 grams per 200 gram serving), this about half the amount of sugar you would get from an equal serving of milk because some of the sugar is fermented in making yogurt, giving yogurt a slightly sour taste. Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, although it provides a little less calcium than milk or regular yogurt because some calcium is lost during the straining process used to make Greek yogurt.

Learn more about protein and building muscle:

What’s the best protein to keep and gain muscle when you’re older? >>
When choosing a protein powder, which protein source is best — whey, casein, soy, pea, rice, hemp or egg? >>
What is the best protein supplement for vegetarians and vegans? >>
Is it true that I need to drink more water or increase calcium intake when supplementing with protein powder? >>
Is it true that protein can strain the kidneys as you get older? >>
Some protein powders contain whey protein concentrate, and others contain whey protein isolates – what is the difference? >>
How does bone broth protein compare to other types of protein? >>
See other recent and popular questions >>
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Why Greek Yogurt Makers Want Whey To Go Away

Most of the gleaming steel tanks outside Fage’s yogurt factory hold milk. One, however, holds the yogurt byproduct whey. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Dan Charles/NPR

Most of the gleaming steel tanks outside Fage’s yogurt factory hold milk. One, however, holds the yogurt byproduct whey.

Dan Charles/NPR

A few months ago, I let you in on a little secret about Greek yogurt. Not all of this extra-thick, protein-rich yogurt is made the old-style way, by straining liquid out of it it. Some companies are creating that rich taste by adding thickeners, such as powdered protein and starch.

Judging by comments that I heard, a lot of people feel rather passionately that the original, strained version is morally superior. But here’s another little secret: That traditional process for making Greek yogurt is also quite wasteful.

At the Fage factory in Johnstown, N.Y., for instance, it takes 4 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of authentic Greek yogurt. What happens to the other 3 pounds? It’s strained out of the yogurt as a thin liquid called whey, and getting rid of that whey is actually a headache. Greek yogurt factories have to pay people to take it off their hands.

This may sound confusing if you heard my story about cheese-making the other week. That story described whey as a valuable source of lactose and concentrated protein that ends up in other food products (including the thickened version of Greek yogurt, in fact).

Ken Dibbell, a farmer near Norwich, New York, mixes Chobani’s whey with cow manure and spreads it on his hay fields as fertilizer. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Dan Charles/NPR

Unfortunately for Greek yogurt makers, their whey isn’t nearly as valuable as what you get from cheese-making. The whey from the Fage or Chobani factories contains fewer solids and is more acidic. So far, nobody’s figured out a way to make money from it.

What’s more, you can’t just dump it into some nearby river; that would be an environmental crime.

George Bevington, an engineer who deals with wastewater treatment in Johnstown, says the whey would set off a boom of sugar-eating bacteria, “and that means there’d be no oxygen left in the river, and that means there’d be no fishies left in the river!”

I met Bevington at Johnstown’s wastewater treatment plant, which he used to manage. (He still works there as a consultant.) In the distance, less than a mile away, we can see the steel storage tanks of the Fage factory. Fage built its factory there, in fact, so it could pump its whey straight across the fields to this plant.

Not all plants could handle such waste, but this one can. It has something called an anaerobic digester, which is basically a huge tank where bacteria feast on this kind of waste.

These helpful bacterial make the whey less harmful — and even convert it into something very useful: biogas, which is mostly methane. That biogas is burned in two powerful electrical generators, and they, in turn, supply most of the power that it takes to run Johnstown’s wastewater treatment plant.

When the giant storm Sandy came through New York a few weeks ago and the state’s electrical grid started to wobble, engineers simply cut the wastewater plant off from the grid and the plant relied entirely on these generators.

This is the best solution so far to the whey problem, but it’s not perfect. It costs Johnstown taxpayers more to run these generators than it would cost to buy the same amount of power from the local utility. To cover that extra cost, Fage still has to pay the city to take the whey off its hands.

In addition, Fage now puts out more whey than the city’s digester can actually digest. So the company has to find other takers for about 20 percent of its whey.

So does the Chobani yogurt factory, an hour or so east of here in the small town of East Berlin.

The Chobani factory, which is even bigger than Fage’s, isn’t fortunate enough to have an anaerobic digester nearby so it hauls most of its whey to farmers like Ken Dibbell, who lives outside the city of Norwich, about 10 miles from the Chobani factory.

The whey goes into the manure storage pit on Dibbell’s farm, and eventually it gets spread on hay fields as fertilizer. Some other farmers mix it into their cattle feed.

But there’s a limit on how much each farmer can take; too much, and the whey would end up running off fields and polluting nearby streams.

The fast-growing yogurt factories in upstate New York have to dispose of millions of pounds of whey every day. So Chobani has to haul its whey long distances — hours, in some cases — to farmers who can take it.

That gets expensive. The state of New York, which is anxious to keep this yogurt boom going, has asked researchers at Cornell University to look for a better alternative. That alternative might be building more digesters to turn whey into biogas. It might involve new methods for capturing valuable sugars and proteins from the whey. Dave Barbano, a food scientist at Cornell, wrote in an email that “there are many technical possibilities, but making them economically attractive will be the trick.”

Do You Really Need Protein Powder?

Yes, your body absolutely needs protein. Especially if you’re stepping it up with your workouts, you want to make sure you’re getting the right amount throughout the day. But you can get plenty of protein from whole foods, so hold up before you start scooping powders and blending.

What’s Actually in Protein Powder?

Protein powders are processed foods, made from lots of different ingredients. In their simplest form, they come from milk (whey is a by-product) or egg whites. But vegan and plant-based options also exist, derived from soy, hemp, peas, and more. Protein powders can also contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners and flavors, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals—even additives like caffeine or creatine. So some powders are more processed than others, and some are better for you than others.

The short answer: no. You can easily get the protein you need from natural sources, such as eggs, chicken breast, fish, beans, milk, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Athletes rely on protein powder because they typically need more protein, plus it’s convenient. In general, athletes need anywhere from 0.54 to 0.91 grams per pound of body weight every day, and carefully time that before and after workouts, to maximize muscle recovery and growth. For instance, if you’re running 25 to 30 miles per week, you might want to chase tough workouts with 20 grams of protein, along with some carbs. That could be 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with berries and whole-grain cereal, or 2 scrambled eggs with a whole-wheat English muffin and a piece of fruit. But when you’re busy, it’s easy to grab a shake or a bar. Just remember: it’s never a good idea to take supplements you don’t need, and you don’t want to let extra protein turn into excess calories.

Make sense? Still want to use one? Here’s what you need to know if you choose to include a protein powder in your diet.

How to Pick a Protein Powder

First, check that the powder is certified by a third party, such as NSF Certified for Sport. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements, and that includes protein powders. In one review, 4 out of 14 protein products failed the quality-assurance test, due to certain products containing cholesterol when none was listed, 50 percent higher sodium than what was listed, and being contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal that in high amounts may damage the kidneys. A certificate from a third party is your only reassurance that the product has been tested and actually contains what’s listed on the package.

Next, glance at the ingredients list. Some protein powders contain a dozen-plus ingredients, and can be sweetened with sugar or sugar alcohols (which may cause tummy problems). Although they’re not always as easy to find, your best bet is to look for a protein powder made entirely of the protein source—whether that’s whey, egg whites, hemp, peanut butter, or something else.

Finally, consider serving sizes, which aren’t always comparable. One serving of protein powder can range from about an ounce to close to double that amount. So if you want to accurately compare the amount of protein, sugar, and other nutrients in multiple products, you’ll need to do a little math first!

And remember, while many protein powders boast 20 grams or more of protein per serving, more isn’t necessarily better—all your muscles need is 0.1 gram per pound body weight or 20 to 40 grams at a time. And you can easily get the same amount of protein from whole foods and healthy recipes. Doesn’t a Chocolate & Peanut Butter Protein Shake, featuring Greek yogurt and peanut butter as protein sources, sound more delicious?

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

Amy Gorin, RDN

Amy Gorin is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist and freelance writer in the New York City area. Her writing has been featured in Parade, Women’s Health,,, Runner’s World,,,, and many more publications. She loves creating healthy and easy recipes, which she shares in her blog, Amy’s Eat List.

How to add protein to your diet?

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