It looks like Dr. Atkins was on to something: According to a recent study, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you've got to pile your plate with protein.
For the trial, Harvard researchers put pre-obese people (they had just lost 10-15 percent of their body weight) on three different diets—a low-fat, high-carb diet; a low-glycemic diet with fewer carbs; and a high-protein, high-fat, Atkins-style diet. Each participant ate the same number of calories on each diet, yet at the end of the study, they found that people burned the most calories at rest while on the Atkins diet. The low-fat, high-carb diet produced the worst effects, triggering changes "that would predict weight gain," noted the authors.
The finding that diet quality can trump quantity is great news until you consider that many calorie-cutters fail to get the recommended daily intake for protein (46 g a day for women; 56 for men)—recommendation that some experts say is already too low. "It appears that there is a 30 gram protein threshold per meal," says metabolism research Donald Layman, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. That means if you eat less, your body won't get enough amino acids to build muscle. It also may not be enough to control hunger. Bottom line: "Eating higher protein and fewer carbohydrates will improve body composition, satiety, calorie burning, and insulin control," says Layman.
Here, 20 of the best ways to incorporate more protein into every meal: