If you're trying to lose weight on a low-calorie diet, upping the amount of protein you eat may help. Protein foods keep you feeling full longer than foods high in carbs or fat, according to the European Food Information Council. As is the case with any weight-loss diet, you'll need to find the right balance and make the healthiest choices. Consult your doctor before starting any weight-loss diet.
High-Protein, Low-Calorie Basics
To lose weight, you need to reduce your calorie intake to create a calorie deficit so that your body is burning more calories than you eat. The number of calories you need varies and may range from 1,200 calories to more than 1,800 calories a day. Your doctor or dietitian can help you determine your calorie needs for weight loss. You should not eat fewer than 800 calories a day unless told to do so by your doctor and supervised closely.
While the focus is protein, you still need to eat some carbs and fat on your high-protein diet. A healthy high-protein diet should get 25 percent of calories from protein, 35 percent to 55 percent of calories from carbs and 20 percent to 40 percent of calories from fat.
Protein foods are a healthy part of your diet plan, but not all protein foods make healthy choices. Poultry and seafood are the best animal-derived sources of protein, says the Harvard School of Public Health. It's OK to eat red meat on occasion, but keep it lean and your portions small. The recommended portion size is 3 ounces.
Don't forget about plant proteins, such as beans, peas, lentils, soy foods, nuts, seeds and grains. Not only are these foods a good source of protein, but they're low in fat and a good source of other health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Sample Meal Plan
A low-calorie, high-protein breakfast might include a two-egg omelet filled with 1/2 cup of cooked spinach and 1 ounce of low-fat Swiss cheese with two slices of whole-wheat toast and a small banana. This meal contains 495 calories and 29 grams of protein.
For lunch, top 2 cups of mixed greens with 1 cup of chickpeas, 12 almonds and 2 tablespoons of low-fat dressing, served with a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt and a small orange. This meal contains 560 calories and 35 grams of protein.
A healthy protein-focused dinner might include 4 ounces of grilled salmon with 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1 cup of steamed broccoli and 1 cup of fresh strawberries, which has 550 calories and 40 grams of protein.
Things to Consider
The Harvard School of Public Health reports that a high-protein diet may help you lose weight more quickly than a higher-carb diet, but there isn't much data on whether it helps you keep the weight off for the long term.
When it comes to weight loss and keeping the weight off, you need to find a diet you can follow for life. To prevent boredom on your high-protein diet, don't restrict your intake. Carbs are OK on your high-protein diet, but include healthy options, such as fruits, nonfat dairy, whole grains and plant proteins.