Pork and Protein Packed-Ideas to Help with Weight Management in 2022
Author: Renee Korczak Ph.D., RDN, CSSD, LD
After two years in a global pandemic and many working from and staying at home more than ever, many consumers have experienced what is known as a “stay at home” lifestyle effect on weight gain (1). For example, a recent survey reported that in a sample of people from the United States, 22% gained anywhere from 5-10 pounds during quarantine and risk factors for weight gain were eating in response to stress, snacking after dinner, a lack of dietary restraint, along with reduced physical activity and inadequate sleep (2).
Adapting to a new lifestyle that includes modified work schedules and staying at home more, means that consumers may need to shift food and nutrition behaviors to help offset weight gain and manage their weight. If you need help with weight management, consider balancing your meals and snacks with adequate amounts of protein. While protein is not a new food and nutrition trend, research through the years has described that including adequate amounts of protein in your meals and snacks (20-30 g per meal) can help with feelings of fullness and satisfaction after a meal and help with body weight management (3).
Including adequate amounts of protein in your diet doesn’t have to be hard. Choose high-quality sources of protein that can fit into your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and post-workout recovery snacks.
Looking for some refreshed protein-packed meal and snack ideas? Here are four of my favorite protein and pork-packed meals and snacks that each offer between 20-30 g:
Protein pancakes with fresh fruit, crushed walnuts, and pork links
Dietitian tip: This meal would be a great breakfast option for weight management or for the recreational or competitive athlete, since it includes the three main macronutrients to help kickstart your morning. The carbohydrates from the pancakes and fruit help to replenish glycogen stores from sleeping overnight; whereas the crushed walnuts as a topping provide a source of omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce exercise-induced inflammation. The pork links on the side provide a source of high-quality protein (Aim for three links on your plate) to help fuel your active muscles and to aid in post-exercise recovery. To help make this breakfast a quick option in the morning, purchase store prepared pork links and slice up one cup of your favorite fruit such as berries, grapes, kiwi, apples, etc. Protein pancakes can be made from scratch by either adding 2 scoops of whey protein powder to your traditional pancake mix or by purchasing a pancake mix with protein powder already added in.
Apple cheddar pulled barbeque pork quesadillas
Dietitian tip: I use leftover pulled pork from my crockpot to make these quesadillas and you can’t go wrong. To make them, simply take 3 ounces of pulled pork and fill the center of a whole-grain or veggie tortilla wrap. Add 4 apple slices and a small handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Add 1 Tbsp. of your favorite condiment (BBQ sauce in my case) and fold the tortilla in half. Place the tortilla on a grill pan or panini press and cook until the cheese is melted and each side is crispy. This dish would be incredible for lunch or dinner and can easily be paired with a side of your favorite fruits or veggies (I chose a side of rainbow-colored carrots and more sliced apples).
Asian pork lettuce wraps with quinoa, brown rice, and veggies
Dietitian tip: Lettuce wraps are so versatile to work with because they can be filled with a variety of whole-grains, high-quality protein, and fiber. To help keep it simple, choose a lettuce as your foundation such as Boston Bibb. Add a handful of your favorite chopped vegetables such as red peppers, onions, cucumbers, red cabbage, or shredded carrots. Then add a source of whole grains such as ¼ cup quinoa, brown rice, or a blend of both. Finally, top your lettuce wrap with 3 ounces of protein such as pulled or shredded pork. Add your favorite toppings or condiments for an extra flavor punch. In this recipe, a tablespoon of peanuts works well. Lettuce wraps are light, flavorful and can be an excellent weight management snack.
Personal pita pork pizza with roasted tomatoes and part-skim mozzarella cheese
Dietitian tip: This dish is perfect for pizza lovers who love a savory flavor and are looking for a lightened-up way to enjoy pizza while feeling satisfied from the extra protein. Using a whole-grain pita as your base, brush the pita with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and top with one diced Roma tomato seasoned with salt and pepper. Add 3 ounces of diced pork tenderloin and top with ¼ cup part-skim low moisture mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust of the pita is golden.
1) Zhu Q, et al. Stay at home lifestyle effect on weight gain during the COVID-19 outbreak confinement in China. Intl J Environ Res Pub Health 2021; 18(4): 1813.
2) Ziegler Z, et al. Self-quarantine and weight gain related risk factors during the COVID pandemic. Obes Research and Clinical Practice 2020; 14(3): 210-216.
3) Leidy H.J., et al. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance AJCN 2015; 101(6): 1320S-1329S.