Bikini Ready Tips: Healthy Proteins Decoded

Proteins are SO important. It's all about keeping it clean and lean! Kelly LeVeque is back today giving us all the tips on what to pick and what to avoid. Read below for all the details! 

Proteins break down into amino acids, which enable our muscles and other tissues to build and stay strong. However, our bodies can only produce thirteen out of the twenty-two amino acids that make up proteins. The nine amino acids our bodies can’t manufacture are known as “essential,” and we need to get them from plant or animal-based sources. For instance, fish, bison, chicken, and eggs are all examples of complete animal-based proteins. Complete plant-based proteins include quinoa, buckwheat (not a grain!), and chickpeas. And here’s that vegetarian caveat: plant proteins in their natural form are mostly carbohydrates. To get 8g of protein from quinoa, you need to process roughly 40g of carbohydrates. To get 20g of protein from chickpeas, you need to process roughly 60g of carbohydrates. Spoiler alert: That affects your blood sugar, your mood and those “hangry” levels later in the day!

For instance, fish, bison, chicken, and eggs are all examples of complete animal-based proteins. Complete plant-based proteins include quinoa, buckwheat (not a grain!), and chickpeas. And here’s that vegetarian caveat: plant proteins in their natural form are mostly carbohydrates. To get 8g of protein from quinoa, you need to process roughly 40g of carbohydrates. To get 20g of protein from chickpeas, you need to process roughly 60g of carbohydrates. Spoiler alert: That affects your blood sugar, your mood and those “hangry” levels later in the day!

Here are some of the best healthy proteins to power you through your day:

Red Meat: Go Wild!

Yearning for a big burger, guilt-free steak, or tasty bowl of chili? Try swapping buffalo (bison) for your conventionally raised beef or chicken. Lower in cholesterol and fat than chicken and higher in protein than beef, buffalo is becoming a popular substitute. It contains zinc and selenium, two must-have minerals for thyroid health, it’s loaded with magnesium and potassium, and it offers essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own, like lysine. Lamb is a high-quality protein source that is also rich in micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Seafood: Be Safe!

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Cold-water fish(such as tuna, herring, salmon, mackerel, or sardines) are a great source of protein and healthy Omega 3 fat. However, some have gotten a bad rep due to their mercury content. Mercury is a neurotoxin that interferes with the brain and nervous system, fertility, and fetal development. The good news is selenium binds to mercury and prevents it from creating mercury toxicity in your body so as long as the fish you’re eating contains more selenium than mercury you don’t need to worry. Unfortunately, that means swordfish is out but you don’t have to avoid tuna altogether, my suggestion is to mix it up and go for the richest sources of Omega 3. (If you love tuna salad use the Green Peace Tuna Shopping guide to pick you can!) Two of the most delicious are salmon and sardines. Sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and provide three times your daily-recommended vitamin B12. If you find it hard to stomach sardines, salmon is a great option to hydrate your cells with omega-3s while lowering your “bad” triglycerides and cholesterol levels.

Poultry: Pick Right!

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Unfortunately, 48 million people fall sick every year from eating food tainted with salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, and other contaminants, “more deaths were attributed to poultry than to any other commodity,” according to an analysis of outbreaks from 1998 through 2008 by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Of conventional brands tested, Campylobacter was in 62 percent of the chickens, salmonella was in 14 percent, and both bacteria were in 9 percent. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid poultry all together, but I stress ALWAYS buy Organic Air Chilled Poultry, choose the bird from the back of the display case that is closest to the cooler, wrap it in a produce bag to prevent contamination and use a thermometer to confirm it is cooked completely. Of the Organic birds tested over 60% didn’t have any bacteria present.

Vegetarian: Be Smart!

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Vegetarian protein consists of eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans) and grains. At Be Well by Kelly, I recommended my clients get creative and always balance their blood sugar first by putting protein, fat, fiber and greens on their plate before carbohydrates, like grains. Aim for 20 grams of protein per meal, if you are having a salad add a chopped hard-boiled egg (6 grams) and 1 ounce of watermelon seeds (10 grams) or if you are sometimes Pescetarian (like many of my vegetarians) blend marine collagen (20g) into your tahini dressing.

Stay tuned for more tips from Kelly on both my blog and Kelly’s, Be Well By KellyFor the next 12 weeks, we’ll be sharing recipes and tips to help you get ready for bikini season…post-baby or not! 

Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.