Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

More on Protein

Suppose you find yourself needing to add more protein to your diet.  Perhaps you’ve mixed up your workouts and want to make the most of them.  Or maybe you’re trying to lose weight and you’d like to preserve your muscle as you shed body fat.  You could be recovering from surgery or entering a difficult medical treatment that will sap your strength and nutrient stores.  Whatever the case, boosting your protein intake could make all the difference.

An important first step is figuring out just how much protein you need.  Most recommendations you’ll find are based on grams of protein per pound or kilogram of body weight.  If you are a healthy adult, I’d encourage you to take a gander at my previous post on the topic of protein.  If, however, you have some medical conditions, I’d encourage you to consult with your doctor or dietitian before making changes to your diet.  Ditto if you are pregnant.

Once you’ve got a rough idea of how much protein you should be eating, you next need to know where to get it.  Though the nutrition and supplement market will try to push powders, bars, and other laboratory concoctions, the vast majority of us simply do not need these expensive items. With only a few exceptions, eating protein-rich foods can easily get the job done.  Sure, bars and powders can be convenient and handy when you’re on the run (I personally keep a Luna Bar in my bag for when hunger strikes), but just know they aren’t necessary.

When it comes to protein, you can break it down into two main categories: protein from animal sources and protein from plants.  As far as animal proteins go, pretty much anything that was an animal or came from an animal (with the exception of pure animal fats) is going to give you protein.  Think beef, lamb, pork, chicken and other poultry, wild game, fish and seafood as well as milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs.  I should point out at this juncture that, while tasty, high fat animal products like bacon, butter, sour cream, and ice cream offer very little in the way of protein, especially once balanced against the hefty calorie load they provide.

Protein from animal sources is considered ‘complete.’  The human body requires 21 different amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential because our bodies cannot make or assemble them; we’ve got to get them from food.  Animal sources of protein are considered ‘complete’ because they provide all of these amino acids.  Plant sources of protein, on the other hand, do not.  They provide some combination of these building blocks, but not all of them.  Soy protein is the plant protein which comes closest to being a complete protein source; close enough, in fact, that it is often granted the title.

Now, if you happen to be eating a combination of both animal and plant proteins, you can rest assured that you are getting all of those essential amino acids.  This would include vegetarians who do not eat meat, poultry, or fish, but do consume dairy or eggs.  If, however, you are vegan, more careful planning is required to ensure that all amino acids are working their way into your diet.  The easiest way to do this is to eat a variety of plant-based protein throughout the day and over the course of a week.  Think rice and beans, lentil soup and pita bread, chili and cornbread, and so forth.  Pairing foods this way, known as complementing proteins, will allow you to mix and match in order to get all of your essential amino acids.

If you’re serious about tracking your protein intake, food journaling can be immensely helpful.  While this can be done with pen and paper, using the information below as well as Nutrition Facts labels, the easiest way is to use an online food tracking tool, such as Spark People.

Dairy, Eggs, and Soy Milk

Milk (1 cup)………………………..8 grams
Cottage Cheese (1/2 cup)………13 grams
Regular Yogurt (3/4 cup)……….6-8 grams
Greek-style Yogurt (1 cup)……..20+ grams
Cheese (1 oz)……………………..7 grams
Kefir (1 cup)………………………14 grams
Eggs (1 whole large)……………..7 grams
Egg Substutute (1/4 cup)………..6 grams
Soy Milk (1 cup)………………….7 grams

Meat, Poultry, Fish and Seafood

Chicken (3 oz) ……..21 grams
Beef (3 oz)…………..21 grams
Fish (3 oz)…………..21 grams
Seafood (3 oz)……..21 grams
Pork (3 oz)…………. 21 grams

Legumes, Soy, and Nuts

Beans (1/2 cup)…………….8 grams
Lentils (1/2 cup)……………9 grams
Tofu (1/2 cup) ……………..20 grams
Edamame (1/2 cup)………11 grams
Nuts (1 oz)…………………3-7 grams
Peanut butter (2 Tb)………7 grams

Other

Carnation Instant Breakfast (mix only)…………5 grams
Whey protein powder (1 scoop, about 1 oz)…..19-25 grams
Soy protein powder (1 scoop, about 1 oz)………14-25 grams
Boost…………………………….10 grams
Boost Plus………………………14 grams
Boost High Protein…………….15 grams
Boost Breeze……………………8 grams
Ensure……………………………9 grams
Ensure Plus…………………….13 grams
Ensure High Protein…………..12 grams
Glucerna……………………..…10 grams

 

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