Proteins and carbohydrates are both essential elements needed for a well balanced diet. Carbohydrates provide a ready source of available energy, while proteins are necessary for the growth and repair of muscles and tissues. Increasing protein while reducing carbohydrate in your diet is easily achievable by making a few simple food swaps.
High protein, low carbohydrate diets have gained large followings, particularly since the success of popular diets such as the Atkins and the Dukan diet. As such, people may try to overcompensate by eating too much protein or cutting out too many carbohydrates. Rather than going to either extreme, it’s far healthier to reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates while increasing sources of low fat protein.
Recommended amounts of protein and carbohydrates
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) consider that Americans generally manage to consume enough carbohydrates and proteins. However, to check whether you’re eating the right amounts of particular nutrients, the latest guidelines from the USDA provide a useful visual guide called MyPlate. This shows a pictorial representation of a plate, which is portioned into the various food groups. Carbohydrates should account for around 45 to 65 percent of the overall diet. Protein requirements vary depending on body weight, but most people should aim for at least two to three servings, or between five and six ounces of protein a day.
Proteins to increase
When increasing your protein intake, choose low fat sources rather than high fat. This will help keep your intake of unhealthy saturated fats down, plus choosing lower fat animal proteins means weight for weight, you’re getting a higher concentration of protein. The richest sources of protein can be found in cheese, eggs, lean meat and poultry, fish, shellfish, peanut butter, dried beans, peas, legumes, tofu and nuts and seeds. Although nuts are high in fat, it’s the healthier monounsaturated fat rather than unhealthy saturated fat.
Carbohydrates to reduce
Carbohydrates to reduce are mainly refined grains which can be excluded completely from the diet without suffering any adverse affects. Refined grains are wholegrains which have had their outer coating removed during the milling process, leaving the remaining grain virtually devoid of essential nutrients. Refined grains can be found in white bread, cakes, cookies, donuts and muffins, for example. Other carbohydrates to reduce are white rice and potatoes.
Making food swaps
Breakfast is often high in carbohydrates, especially if it consists of food such as cereal and toast. Eating scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or an egg white omelet with grated cheese is high in protein but has no carbohydrate. Balance it out by adding a slice of wholegrain toast.
When choosing lunch and dinner, include a serving of skinless chicken, lean meat, fish or tofu with at least one of these meals. Swap high carbohydrate rice and potatoes for high protein beans or peas which are also a good source of dietary fiber.
Instead of snacking on high carbohydrate potato chips, cookies or muffins, eat small handfuls of nuts or seeds which are not only good sources of protein, they contain fiber and provide a useful supply of vitamins and minerals.
Eating low fat dairy produce such as yogurt, cheese and fromage frais as well as including milk in beverages or as a drink on its own, will all provide further sources of protein while contributing only minimal carbohydrates.
Increasing protein while reducing carbohydrates in your diet is a relatively easy process which involves making sensible food swaps where necessary. Reducing refined carbohydrates is a good idea, and where possible, these should be replaced with wholegrain foods. Choosing low fat proteins such as lean meat and low fat dairy products provide plenty of protein while not contributing unhealthy fats to your diet. Following government dietary guidelines for the recommended amounts of protein and carbohydrate is ideally the best route to achieving a healthy and balanced diet.