I think you have to focus on both food and exercise to lose weight. From what I've read, food has by far the biggest influence on weight-loss - but from personal experience, I shed pounds a lot more quickly if I'm exercising. Right now, I'm doing Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred about 3 days a week. I walk my dog for about 40 minutes every day. I also try to do a short 20-min yoga video a couple times a week, since I know that flexibility is one of my weak spots. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't...walking the dog is kind of incidental and lifestyle-related. I only "work out" (ie. put on my "I'm exercising now" attitude and turn on the 30-Day Shred or a yoga DVD) for about 20-25 minutes a day 5 times a week. It's really doable and not overwhelming.
For food, I actually don't worry too much about protein. I don't eat soy or meat analogs unless it's a special occasion; soy gives me hives if I overeat it. I do try to incorporate nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains every day, so I don't think that I have to be concerned about protein.
Here's my typical eating plan. With exercise thrown in, I'm losing about 2 pounds a week and I'm never hungry (well, I am right before I eat, but you know what I mean). I eat well over 2000 calories a day, but that could easily be lessened by having smaller portions.
- green smoothie for breakfast (1 cup of frozen berries, 1 cup of OJ, handful of spinach, tbsp of ground flax seed)
- bowl of oatmeal for mid-morning snack (large flake oats, raisins, cinnamon, honey, berries, almond milk, tbsp of chia seeds)
- lunch: bowl of lentil soup, slice of whole-grain bread, fruit (usually a whole fruit - an apple, a banana or a grapefruit). Sometimes, I'll have a bean burrito and some fruit instead of the soup.
- supper: bowl of veggie stir-fry, fruit (usually cut fruit in a bowl - pineapples, berries, papaya, mango, whatever I happen to have around the house)
- snack (1-2 hours before bed): bowl of muesli with a cut-up banana and almond milk OR toast with nut butter and honey
If I need a special treat, then I'll make a chocolate shake, with raw chocolate syrup (I buy this at the health food store - it's made of raw cacao and agave), a banana, a cup of almond milk and a handful of ice. Oh my, it's sooooooooooo delicious.
Find some really easy recipes that you love, make a big pot, and you've got meals for a week. Yeah, I know most people only keep leftovers for 3 days, but I'll eat them for five days, which gets me through the week. Then I'll make some new stuff on the weekend. Every weekend, I make a pot of lentil soup and one other dish (usually a stir-fry). Lentil soup is the easiest thing in the world! All you need are red lentils, vegetable stock (I use the cubes), water, garlic (I use 3 cloves, but you can use more or less depending on your personal feelings about garlic), an onion, a bit of olive oil and then veggies of your choice.
Easy lentil soup:
- Heat up about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add minced garlic and chopped onions and sautee for a few minutes.
- Add about 6 cups of water/stock and the rest of your chopped veggies.
- Add 1 cup red lentils. Bring to a hard boil. Sometimes I'll also add some quinoa to give it a different texture.
- Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if it starts to look too dry. Add salt/pepper to taste.
Here are some of the veggie mixes I like in my lentil soup:
- carrots, turnips, parsnips
- carrots, celery, green beans
- tomatoes, carrots, dried apricots, ginger (this one's good with some indian spices added)
For stir-fries, it's pretty much the same idea. Sautee some garlic, ginger, onions. Add veggies of your choice (I love stir-fries with broccoli, cabbage, carrots, red pepper, mushrooms and a handful of plain almonds). An easy quick stir-fry sauce is 2(or 3) parts soy sauce to 1 part sesame oil with some honey added in to taste. Mix these three ingredients and then pour them over your veggies. Then you can toss your veggies with brown rice, quinoa or whole-grain noodles. So healthy and delicious!