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Protein & Produce: The Ultimate Power Couple

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Mills, RDN, LD
February 19, 2020
A table covered with food

Beyonce and Jay Z. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. While these are some of the ultimate power couples in pop culture, they don’t have much of an impact on your day-to-day life. However, there is another power couple which can have a major impact on your health and lifestyle: Protein and Produce! These are foods that many of us eat every day, and when we pair them together, they pack a powerful fullness punch and provide our body with tons of nutrients. During our February support group with the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program, we explored this topic in detail – here are some of the highlights.

What’s the Deal with Protein?

Protein helps to build muscle, aids with healing and keeps our bodies feeling full. Protein sources can also be high in fat and calories so it is important to choose lean protein sources to maximize fullness without adding excess calories. To do this, choose protein sources that have a higher protein to fat ratio. For example, a meat containing 2 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein per serving is a good choice, but a meat containing 8 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein would NOT be the best choice.

Lean Protein Sources:

  • Meats: skinless chicken breast, turkey, pork loin, ham 96% lean ground beef, venison
  • Dairy: Skim and 1% milk, light yogurt, low-fat greek yogurt, 2% or fat free cheese, low-fat or fat free cottage and ricotta cheese
  • Beans: black beans, black eyed peas, lima beans, garbanzo beans or chickpeas, lentils, white beans, split peas, refried beans or pinto beans
  • Eggs (or egg substitutes and egg whites)
  • Meat substitutes: tofu, edamame, veggie burgers, etc.

What’s the Deal with Produce?

Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which help to protect our body against various diseases and viruses. Additionally, fruits and vegetables also contain fiber. Because it takes us longer to digest fiber, produce, like protein, keeps us feeling fuller for longer. This helps to aid with portion control and long-term weight loss goals. When it comes to the types of fruits and vegetables, we don’t discriminate! Consuming a variety of this food group is ideal in order to maximize your nutrient intake. However, if you are a picky eater, stick with ones you like if that works for you! Fresh and frozen are both great options, so pick whichever is most convenient for you.

How to Pair Protein and Produce?

Of course, the obvious choice is pairing a lean meat with a salad or cooked vegetable. However, it’s also important to balance snacks and quick/small meals as well. If you are looking for some easy protein and produce ideas, check out the suggestions below – these snacks/small meals provide that ideal balance to keep your body fueled and your belly full:

  • Egg quiche (protein) with Peppers & onions (produce)
  • Almonds (protein) with Cutie orange (produce)
  • Greek Yogurt (protein) with Berries (produce)
  • Hummus (protein) with Celery sticks (produce)
  • Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing/Dip (protein) with Carrot chips, bell peppers, cucumbers (produce)
  • Low-fat string cheese (protein) with Cherries (produce)
  • Peanuts (protein) with Watermelon cubes (produce)
  • Low-fat mozzarella (protein) with Tomato slices (produce)
  • Black beans (protein) with Salsa, corn, onions (produce)
  • Deli turkey, low-fat cheese (protein) with Rolled up with bibb lettuce leaves (produce)
  • Edamame beans (protein) with Blueberries (produce)
  • Tuna (protein) with Cucumber ‘boats’ (produce)
  • Cottage cheese (protein) with Peaches/pineapple (produce)
  • Hardboiled egg (protein) with Grapes (produce)
  • Sunflower seeds (protein) with Peach or plum (produce)
  • Shrimp Cocktail (protein) with Chunky salsa (produce)
  • Peanut butter (protein) with Apple or banana slices (produce)

About the Author

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Mills, RDN, LD
Amanda and Molly are the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program Registered Dietitians. With 15+ years of experience combined, they facilitate behavior change through nutrition counseling for weight loss and maintenance with children through adults.
Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery

Keywords: Bariatric, Diet, Healthy Eating, Weight Loss