Eating enough and the right type of protein is one of the best ways to reach your weight loss goals while still feeling satiated and nourished throughout the day. Protein is one of your body’s three main macronutrients it needs to function properly. It’s best to prioritize them first thing in the morning to help curb cravings throughout the day and fuel your body.
To learn more about proteins you can eat every day without gaining weight, we spoke with Trista Best, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, environmental health specialist, and adjunct nutrition professor; Catherine Gervacio, registered dietitian and nutrition writer for Living.Fit; and Silvia Carli, a registered dietitian at 1AND1 Life. They said the best proteins for weight loss include canned tuna, low-fat cheese, edamame beans, salmon, protein powder, egg whites, and yogurt.
Canned tuna is usually classified into two categories: light meat tuna, which is mostly skipjack and sometimes yellowfin, and white meat tuna, which is usually albacore. This protein is incredibly versatile and easy to eat if you're on the go.
Carli recommends a canned tuna recipe you can eat for breakfast or as a snack: "1 can tuna, 1/2 ripe avocado, 1/2 tsp onion powder, salt and pepper to taste, cilantro, 1 tbsp chopped red onion, 1 tsp lemon juice."
She says, "You can have this alone or in a sandwich or mix it with some spinach and make a salad." Yum!
It might surprise you to learn that cheese is actually very beneficial for weight loss. It just depends on which type of cheese you choose to eat. Cheese is rich in calcium and protein. According to weight loss research, when our bodies get adequate amounts of calcium, we tend to burn more fat. And because cheese is protein-rich, it accelerates your metabolism and reduces your appetite, thus allowing you to achieve weight loss.
"My favorite snack is 1 low-fat mozzarella string cheese and a handful of your favorite raw nuts. This makes the perfect combo of protein and fats to keep you fueled and satisfied," Carli says about her favorite low-fat cheese breakfast meal.
Standard full-fat cheese has 37% fat, 23% of which is saturated fat, while reduced-fat varieties have around 17% fat, 10% of which is saturated fat, while still retaining their flavor. Both full-fat and low-fat dairies have the same benefits for heart health.
Edamame beans are whole, immature soybeans. They're sometimes referred to as vegetable-type soybeans. Edamame beans are green and differ in color from regular soybeans, which are typically light brown, tan, or beige.
One cup of edamame has an impressive 8 grams of fiber, 17 grams of protein, and 180 calories. It makes for a unique, satisfying breakfast meal that will keep you feeling full for hours, making it a great food to help you reach your weight loss goals.
"This plant-based protein source makes for a great snack or a great addition to salads. 1/2 cup of shelled edamame contains 90 kcal and 9 g of protein, and a whopping 4 grams of fiber to help maintain a healthy gut," Carli says.
Lean proteins like salmon can help you maintain your muscle mass when trying to lose weight. In addition to being a great source of lean protein, salmon is also packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which your body can't produce. Omega-3 fatty acids help make the hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction, and relaxation of artery walls and inflammation.
"Salmon is packed with protein and healthy fats that will aid in weight loss by keeping you feeling full which will prevent overeating. One reason this myth exists is due to the taste of the skin," Best adds. "Some consumers do not like the fishy taste of salmon skin and will remove it. However, adding spices and lemon during the cooking process can help offset the flavor and keep the benefits." And salmon is known to boost hair volume and shine.
Protein powder is a popular nutritional supplement. Using protein powder may also aid weight loss and help people tone their muscles. Best warns "Not all protein powders are created equal, some [lack] adequate amounts of protein while others are calorie dense."
"For those using a vegan meal replacement shake, it is important to select a shake that is made with all 20 amino acids," she adds. "Any vegan protein powder or meal replacement that does not have an amino acid panel should be avoided because it likely does not contain all twenty."
While this is technically no food that you can eat every day "without gaining weight," protein is a macronutrient that burns more energy than fat and carbohydrates as it is metabolized in the body. To lose weight, it's a good idea to create a diet rich in lean proteins when losing weight to preserve muscle mass and to keep the immune system up to a healthy level.
Egg whites stand out as a superb source of protein without the concern of weight gain, making them a valuable addition to a healthy diet. Stripped of the yolk's fat and cholesterol, egg whites remain a low-calorie, high-protein powerhouse.
Gervacio points out egg whites are "almost pure protein and does not contain bad fats."
"If you want to increase your protein intake but are concerned about cholesterol, egg white is your best choice," Gervacio says.
With a well-balanced nutritional profile, yogurt delivers not only protein but also essential vitamins and minerals. The protein content in yogurt contributes to muscle maintenance and can enhance the feeling of fullness, potentially reducing overall calorie consumption.
"Yogurt is probably one of the most popular breakfast choices for those who want to lose weight because of its protein and probiotics content," Gervacio says.
She explains that yogurt "has millions of good bacteria to improve digestion by balancing out the microflora in the gut," a.k.a. probiotics. "Probiotics are known to aid in the release of the hormones peptide YY (PYY) and peptide-1 (GLP-1) known to reduce appetite. Increasing the release of these hormones may burn more calories and fat."
Opting for low-fat or Greek yogurt amplifies the protein content while keeping the calorie count in check. However, it's important to stay away from the sugary yogurts sold in stores that have tons of added sugar and processed ingredients, so always check the label!