7 Food Swaps To Get More Protein & Lose Weight, Say Dietitians

If you've decided you want to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way, or are just starting to research weight loss effects, chances are you've read a ton of articles discussing the importance of protein in weight loss. While healthy weight loss depends on each individual's unique needs, Diets may look different, but getting more protein is almost always a key factor. Thankfully, this becomes easier if you understand the important food exchanges for protein.

Protein can promote weight loss in several ways. For one, it can help reduce your appetite and prevent over-snacking, as well as reduce hunger in general, so you burn fewer calories throughout the day. High-protein diets have also been shown to improve metabolism and increase the overall amount of calories burned. Once you lose the weight you want, increasing your protein can also help you maintain your weight loss.

For some people who are just starting their weight loss journey, trying and figuring out how to increase their daily protein intake can be quite intimidating, especially when you're already following what and how you like to eat. That's why small food exchanges can help. They allow you to keep your favorite foods while increasing the amount of protein you eat with just a few changes.

Read on to learn about some dietitian-recommended food substitutes that can help you get more protein—and for healthier eating tips, be sure to check out 21 superfoods that are surprisingly high in protein, according to nutritionists.

glass of milk

1% milk: 8 grams of protein per cup

Almond milk (unsweetened): 1 gram protein per cup

This swap adds: 7 grams of protein

For those able to consume dairy, this food swap can provide a big protein boost.

“Add cow's milk to your oatmeal instead of almond milk,” advises Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author Finally plump, finally slim and members of our medical expert committee. “If you're going plant-based, almond milk is a good choice, but cow's milk will give you more protein — as well as calcium and vitamin D.”

RELATED: 9 Dietitian-Approved High-Protein Snacks for Gut Health

Cottage cheese in a bowl, healthy food for faster weight loss

Cream cheese: 3.6 grams of protein per 4 tablespoons

cottage cheese: 6 grams of protein per 4 tablespoons

This swap adds: 2.4 grams of protein

“Instead of spreading cream cheese on a bagel, choose a protein-rich cheese,” says Young. “Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and keeps you feeling full. It's also low in fat, which saves on calories.”

If you're not too fond of the idea of ​​cottage cheese on a bagel, don't worry! This type of cheese can also be used as a 1:1 substitute for cream cheese in your favorite dip.

Peanut Butter and Peanuts

butter: 0.2 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons

peanut butter: 7.7 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons

This swap adds: 7.5 grams of protein

If you love toast in the morning but usually prefer plain butter or jelly, our nutritionist suggests peanut butter instead.

“Peanut butter contains protein, fiber and unsaturated fats that will keep you feeling full for longer,” says Young.

If you typically choose to spread plain butter on toast, you'll be consuming more saturated fat and very little protein, and “the jelly has added sugar and no nutritional value,” says Young. Swapping these out for peanut butter is a great option for protein and weight loss.


rice: 3.5 grams of protein per cup

Quinoa: 8.1 grams of protein per cup

This exchange adds: 4.6 grams of protein

Rice is an affordable, comforting, and versatile grain, but it doesn't provide a lot of protein. So try swapping that out for whole grain quinoa.

“Quinoa can be a great substitute for regular rice because it's higher in protein than white rice,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a supplement in balance. “Quinoa is a plant source of complete protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids.”

RELATED: 10 Simple Tips for Eating Healthy Every Day

Roasted Chickpeas as a Food Swap for More Protein

For the croutons: 1.8 grams of protein per 0.5 cup serving

chickpeas: 7.3 grams of protein per 0.5 cup serving

This swap adds: 5.5 grams of protein

If you're someone who loves the texture of salads, chances are you'll be topping them with croutons on a regular basis. However, Best recommends trying chickpeas.

“For those who like to add croutons to their salads for extra texture, swap out those high-carb toppings for protein-packed roasted chickpeas,” says Best. A source of fiber, croutons are often deficient in fiber due to their refined and processed nature.”

RELATED: 8 Easy, Delicious Ways to Add Protein to Your Salad

Tofu Banana Smoothie

Almond milk: 0.4 g protein per 100 g

Tofu: 6.4g protein per 100g

This swap adds: 6 grams of protein

If you've never tried adding tofu to a smoothie, it might feel a little weird at first. But substituting tofu for almond milk in smoothies not only adds texture, it also boosts protein.

“Tofu is a rich source of plant-based protein that can provide a creamy texture that can help make your shakes thicker and more satisfying without adding extra sugar or calories,” says Best.

Greek Yogurt Food Swap Protein

sour cream: 3 grams of protein per 100 grams

Greek yogurt: 10.3 g protein per 100 g

This swap adds: 7.3 grams of protein

Sour cream is often used as a creamy base for dressings, baked recipes, or toppings for chili or soups. However, this food is usually higher in fat and lower in protein. Plain Greek yogurt is a great food substitute for more protein because it has a very similar texture and mild flavor.

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