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How Adding Protein at Every Meal Can Curb Appetite and Accelerate Fat Burning

Dec 09, 2023
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As you look to shed excess pounds and achieve your weight loss goals, focusing on protein at each meal can be a game changer. Adding a healthy portion of protein to your plate helps keep you feeling full and reduces cravings.

M. Zafar, MD, SC serves Illinois statewide by Telehealth offering medical weight loss treatments, including Semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic™ and Wegovy™) and Tirzepatide (the active ingredient in Mounjaro™).

In this blog, we review information on how protein helps keep you feeling full and reduce cravings.

Protein Keeps You Feeling Full by Balancing Hunger Hormones

Consuming adequate protein with each meal, especially breakfast and lunch, helps curb appetite and cravings. Protein stimulates the release of hormones that make you feel full, such as peptide YY, while reducing hormones that stimulate hunger, such as ghrelin.

When you eat a meal high in protein, peptide YY is released from cells in your gut. This hormone travels to your brain where it acts to decrease appetite and create a sense of satiety. At the same time, the hunger hormone ghrelin is suppressed so you feel less hungry.

Compared to high-carb or high-fat meals, high-protein meals have been shown to be the most effective for reducing ghrelin levels and increasing peptide YY release. The effect can last for hours, helping you avoid snacking and overeating at subsequent meals.

Some good sources of protein to include at meals are:

  • Eggs - They contain 6 grams of protein each and are very satiating. Have them for breakfast, scramble them into your lunch bowl or add them to dinner dishes.
  • Nuts and seeds - Packed with protein, healthy fats and fiber. Enjoy a handful as a snack, sprinkle them on yogurt or salads.
  • Fish and seafood - Most varieties contain 15-30 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving. Grill, bake or pan-sear fish filets, shrimp, scallops and enjoy them for dinner a few times a week.
  • Dairy - Milk, yogurt, cheese all provide a good amount of protein. Add cheese to sandwiches and salads, yogurt to smoothies or granola bowls and drink milk with meals or as a snack.
  • Beans and lentils - These legumes are loaded with protein, fiber and various nutrients. Add them to soups, stews, salads, or enjoy them as a side dish.

Following a high-protein diet where you aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein with each meal can help you feel more satisfied, curb cravings and make it easier to cut calories for successful weight loss. Be sure to choose lean, minimally processed protein sources and watch your total calories and portion sizes.

Eating Protein at Every Meal Boosts Metabolism and Fat Burning

To maximize weight loss, aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. Consuming protein with every meal, especially breakfast and lunch, helps boost your metabolism and fat burning in two ways:

Thermic effect of food

The thermic effect of food refers to the energy required to digest and metabolize the nutrients in the food you eat. Protein requires the most energy to digest compared to fat and carbohydrates. Eating protein at each meal can increase your metabolism by up to 30% after eating. This helps you burn more calories even when resting.

Muscle protein synthesis

Eating protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which helps maintain and build muscle mass. More muscle means a higher resting metabolic rate, so you burn more calories even when you're not active. By consuming adequate protein at each meal, especially breakfast and lunch, you'll boost your metabolism, maintain muscle, and feel more satisfied after eating. This helps curb appetite and cravings, accelerating your weight loss success.

How to Add High-Quality Protein Sources to Your Diet

Adding high-quality protein sources to each meal is key to curbing appetite and accelerating fat burning. To boost your protein intake:

Choose Lean Animal Proteins

Incorporate lean meats like chicken, fish, eggs, and Greek yogurt into your diet. These provide protein without excess saturated fat. Aim for 6 to 8 ounces of lean meat, two eggs, or 1 cup of Greek yogurt per meal.

Include Plant-Based Proteins

For meatless options, add foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. A half cup of beans or lentils contains 8 to 12 grams of protein and 4 to 10 grams of fiber to keep you feeling full. Almonds, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds also provide healthy fats and 5 to 10 grams of protein per ounce.

Add Protein to Each Meal

Having a source of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as for snacks, helps prevent blood sugar crashes and cravings. For breakfast, have eggs, Greek yogurt, or a smoothie made with protein powder, nut butter, and berries. For lunch and dinner, include items like grilled chicken, fish, beans, or tofu along with lots of vegetables and whole grains. Protein-rich snacks include nuts, cheese, and jerky.

Use Protein Powders (Optional)

Protein powders made from whey, casein, pea protein, or hemp can be a quick and convenient way to boost your protein intake. Add a scoop to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, or baked goods. However, whole food sources of protein are best when possible since they provide other nutrients. Only use protein powders occasionally or to supplement when needed.

Following these tips will help you consume 20 to 30 grams of protein with each meal and snack. Be sure to also stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly for the best results. Adding more protein to your diet, along with these other lifestyle factors, can significantly aid your weight loss efforts.

Sample High Protein Meals for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner


  • 3 eggs scrambled with 1/2 cup shredded cheese, spinach and mushrooms: 25 g protein
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries and 2 Tbsp chia seeds: 22 g protein
  • 2 slices whole wheat toast with 2 Tbsp peanut butter: 16 g protein


  • 4 oz grilled chicken breast on a salad with nuts and seeds: 34 g protein
  • Black bean burrito bowl with rice, salsa and avocado: 22 g protein
  • Lentil soup: 18 g protein for 2 cups


  • 6 oz pan-seared salmon with broccoli: 42 g protein
  • Beef stir fry with broccoli and bell peppers over rice: 38 g protein
  • Whole wheat pasta primavera with white beans: 22 g protein for 2 cups

Snacks can also contribute extra protein to your day. Some options include:

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese with fruit: 15 g protein
  • 1 ounce almonds: 6 g protein
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds: 9 g protein
  • Jerky (3 ounces): 21 g protein
  • Protein smoothie (1 scoop powder, 1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt): 20-30 g protein

Tips for Cooking and Preparing Lean Proteins

When adding protein to your diet for weight loss, it’s important to prepare it properly. Lean proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes are excellent options, as they are low in saturated fat but high in amino acids, the building blocks of muscle. Here are some tips for cooking and preparing these proteins:

Choose Healthy Cooking Methods

Grilling, baking, poaching, and steaming are cooking methods that require little or no oil. These are superior to frying proteins, which can add excess fat and calories.

Season Generously

Adding flavor to your proteins with spices, citrus juices, vinegars, mustards, and fresh or dried herbs allows you to cut back on high-calorie sauces and condiments. Lemon or lime juice, chili powder, paprika, rosemary, and garlic are all great options.

Bulk Up Your Meal

Pair your protein with high-volume, low-calorie side dishes like leafy green salads, non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, and whole grains like quinoa or brown rice. These sides will make your meal more satisfying without extra calories.

Watch Your Portion Sizes

Even when choosing lean proteins and healthy sides, be mindful of how much you put on your plate. A good rule of thumb is to keep your protein portion to the size of a deck of cards. If aiming for weight loss, stick to just one or two fist-sized portions of starchy side dishes.

Leftovers Are Your Friend

Cook once, eat twice: preparing extra portions of lean proteins and whole grain sides allows you to have ready-made, balanced meals for the next day. This can help prevent overeating or making unhealthy choices out of hunger or lack of time. Leftovers also mean less food waste and more time saved on cooking each day.

Following these tips for choosing lean proteins, using healthy cooking methods, boosting flavor, bulking up your meals, watching portions, and making leftovers will put you well on your way to weight loss success through the power of protein. Adding a source of protein to each meal and snack will help curb appetite, boost metabolism, and build muscle.


Adding protein to each of your meals is a simple strategy that can have significant benefits for weight loss and appetite control. As you have learned, protein provides a feeling of fullness, reduces cravings, and helps maintain muscle mass during weight loss. Make an effort to include moderate portions of protein with each meal, whether it's Greek yogurt with breakfast, a chicken salad for lunch, or fish and vegetables for dinner.

Over time, these small changes will add up to better appetite regulation, accelerated fat burning, and improved body composition. While no single food is the answer, boosting your protein intake is an easy and sustainable habit that supports your weight loss goals and a healthier lifestyle overall. 

If diet and exercise alone haven’t been enough for you to meet your weight loss goals, schedule an appointment with us today to see if you’re a candidate for medical weight loss with Semaglutide and Tirzepatide. You can do this by using our online booking tool today.