Fitness Tips: March 18, 2014

You inspire to perspire – keep those workouts going.

Healthy Lifestyle Tip: Trendy Proteins
Sick and tired of the usual protein suspects? These up-and-coming protein foods will help liven up your menus and surprise your taste buds.

Black Lentils. Black quinoa, black rice, and black lentils; just a half cup of cooked black lentils packs in about 12 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, a powerful nutritious combo that helps keep you full and energized.

Low-fat or Nonfat Kefir. Kefir is a cultured milk drink that's thick and tangy (sort of like a drinkable yogurt) – and like other dairy products, it crams a lot of good nutrition into a small package. One cup of plain, nonfat kefir (90 calories) provides 11 grams of high-quality protein, 30 percent of the recommend daily value for calcium and a blast of tummy-friendly probiotics.

Chia Seeds. They are especially rich in plant omega-3 fats, like the more popular flaxseeds and ounce for ounce, chia seeds contain more fiber and calcium than flax. Use chia seeds just as you would other seeds or chopped nuts; try them sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, or cottage cheese, or mixed into dips or salad dressings. Unlike flax, you don't need to grind them first because they're completely digestible in whole form.

Tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy food made from cooked whole soybeans that have been treated with cultures and formed into a dense, chewy cake. Though traditional tempeh contains only soybeans, many brands on the market today also incorporate grains, vegetables, and seasonings. A four-ounce serving of tempeh provides about 18 grams of vegetarian protein, along with an impressive 8 to 10 grams of fiber. It has a firmer, meatier texture and a stronger flavor than its more popular "soy sister", tofu. Create tasty meatless meals by substituting chopped tempeh for ground meat in tacos or chili recipes or adding sliced tempeh to a vegetable stir-fry.

Quinoa. Considered a whole grain, quinoa is actually a protein-rich seed with an impressive nutritional profile. A cup of quinoa provides 8 grams of protein, which is twice the amount found in other starches like brown rice or oats. It is also loaded with fiber, magnesium, and iron. The best news about quinoa: It's as easy to make as rice and cooks up in just 15 minutes (prepare with low-sodium broth instead of water to add more flavor). Use quinoa as a base for stir-fries, add veggies or chopped nuts to make a pilaf, or layer it with nonfat yogurt and chopped fruit for a chic parfait.

Protein is the golden child of the nutrition world right now, thanks to plenty of research showing that including protein at meals helps suppress appetite and aids in weight loss. And the benefits don't stop there: This multitasking nutrient also helps to improve focus, regulate blood sugar, and maximize strength.