- By Hasina Khatib
Diets usually bring bland, steamed food, boring salads and soups to mind. However, there is a reason why the high protein diet quickly carried favour with the health-conscious; we’ll give you a minute to quickly chase away that mental image of endless rounds of chicken tikka. While carbohydrates regularly become the enemy when it comes to weight loss, an easy solution comes in the form of a protein-rich diet, which has the potential of burning stored fats within the body and limiting the damage done by consumption of processed foods. Those looking to give this diet plan a spin can take heart in the fact that it doesn’t require a major pantry overhaul. We spoke to Anupama Menon, nutritionist and food coach, to help you adapt to this diet by using the staple ingredients found in an average Indian kitchen.
What is the high protein diet?
This specialised diet plan lives up to the spoiler in its nomenclature by asking you to do just that: flood your system with friendly proteins and shave off all unhealthy carbs from your food plate. “A diet that supplies anywhere above 50 per cent protein on a vegetarian diet and above 60 per cent on a non-vegetarian diet, is classified as a high protein diet. A single gram of protein supplies four calories, or units of energy, which means that on a 2,000-calorie diet, 1,200 calories hail from protein—derived from a whopping 300 grams of it. Protein sources constitute a wide array of everyday foods, including meats, chicken, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cheese, legumes, dals, sprouts and pulses,” explains Menon.
Given the sheer number of diet plans available currently, your confusion about which one to opt for is justified. Menon makes a simple case for the high protein option: “Certain foods have the ability to spike your sugar levels, making you more susceptible to weight gain. The common catalyst for this is all the carbohydrates that you are consuming on a daily basis, especially processed and refined ones like sugar and flour. This is where proteins come into the picture, as they hardly allow any increase in sugar levels and have a super low glycemic index. With a tight leash on the internal supply of carbs, the body begins burning the stores of fat, which aids the process of weight loss. Proteins also have a high satiety value, meaning that you can expect lesser untimely hunger pangs during the day,” she explains.
Why should you be consuming a high protein diet?
This diet goes miles towards monitoring your blood sugar levels by swapping carbs with proteins, and it enjoys a huge popularity among athletes and bodybuilders. You may not have a marathon to prepare for, but if you’ve been looking to curb those unhealthy cravings, this diet could be the answer. “People who are on the obesity or overweight spectrum, or are affected by hormonal imbalances, can expect respite with this diet. It is also recommended for people who have diabetes or insulin resistance. However, those suffering from kidney concerns, or are underweight, should avoid it and consult a dietician to find the best option available to them,” explains the Bengaluru-based nutritionist.
Are there any precautions you need to take when increasing your protein intake?
“It is important to consider how your body is reacting to the sudden influx of protein and reduced carbs. If you feel bloated or constipated, remember to substitute the current form of protein with another alternative. Also, another misconception that you need to be wary of is that the high protein diet doesn’t completely shun carbs, as that may be difficult for your body to adapt to. If you are having only proteins during the day, work in one portion of carbs into your diet at night to keep things running smoothly,” advises Menon.
You should add the following to your running checklist while starting with this diet plan too. “Don’t forget to hydrate yourself well, keep a check on your uric acid and creatinine levels and add some complex carbs like fruit and green veggies to this diet, as well as a serving of our good old wholesome grains in the day. Soya is considered a high source of protein but must be used judiciously due to its oestrogen raising properties,” she recommends.
Here’s what an ideal high protein meal should look like
The key ingredient to making this diet work has been hiding in your kitchen all along. “Make sure that you eliminate trans fats from your daily diet and use ingredients like ghee and olive oil instead, while preparing your meals,” recommends Menon. Want to get started? Allow these meal options to get you off the starting mark.
- One helping of dal dosa or chila, or
- A bowl of yoghurt, or
- One glass of almond smoothie
- Egg whites, or
- One glass of buttermilk, or
- One helping of fresh cheese
- Cooked lean meat like chicken or fish, or
- A cheese mushroom omelette made of one/two eggs, or
- One helping of egg pakodas, or
- One helping of vegetable khichdi
- One bowl of sprouts and yoghurt, or
- Handful of almonds and walnuts, or
- Kala channa chaat
- Paneer tikka, or
- Three-four chicken or seekh kebabs, or
- Mutton curry with rice
Localising the protein-heavy diet
The good news is that the various nuances of your regional diets mean that most of us are already consuming a healthy share of proteins. “For instance, Bengalis love their fish, which is a great source of protein. The key step here is ensuring that you consume it in the right form. Take care to eliminate trans fats and refined vegetable oils from your daily diet, and instead use ingredients like desi ghee and olive oil while preparing your fish. Likewise, you’ll find that the North Indians are really fond of their lassi and chaas, and it can be used as a light dinner option at night along with some chila, while relegating the heavy-duty meals to the afternoon,” she explains.
At first glance, vegetarians might not find much joy in the roster of meats that the high protein diet demands, but Menon promises that your options are not as limited as you think.
“Simply find your favourite ingredient and make it the star of your diet. If you’re fond of potatoes, throw together some chole pattice, or if you like your wholesome grains, treat yourself to some rajma falafel. At risk of quoting the cliché, maybe paneer is your go-to food, and it can be used in multiple interesting ways, from paneer tikki for lunch to a stir-fry with veggies to keep things light at dinner,” she says.
What results can be expected from following the high protein diet plan?
As with all diets, you can’t realistically expect to hit the jackpot in the first week itself, but consistency will get you to where you want to be. “The results depend entirely on how well your body is adapting to this diet plan, but beginners can expect an average weight loss of two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half kilos in the first month,” says Menon. Since one form of protein may not work for everybody, if you feel yourself getting constipated or bloated, feel free to change the form of protein rather than giving up on the diet altogether.