Protein: Your Questions, Answered!

protein

Come see what all the hype is about

Protein is a buzz word in the nutrition world and has been for a while. This macronutrient packs a real punch and is a daily necessity. Do you know the best sources for you? Or how much you need? Read on to learn more about it and how you can make sure you are eating the best sources to boost your health today.

Why Protein is Essential

Protein is super cool. It is one of the 3 macronutrients and is essential for growth and tissue repair. Protein is vital for muscle growth, wound healing and growth in babies, children, and teenagers. Other awesome benefits are that it boosts your immune function and also plays a role in hormone and enzyme production to keep your body (and metabolism) running like the efficient machine it should be.

How Much Do I Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein is only 0.8 kg of body weight. It is important to note that this is thought to be the minimum amount needed. But that message can send you down a slippery slope because people tend to go WAY overboard on their intake (just like everything else!).

Do you know how many kilograms you weigh? Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. That means that a 150# (68.2 kg) person should consume about (no less than) 54.5  grams of protein/kg body weight/day. Since protein has 4 calories per 1 gram, that is at least 218 calories/day.

According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, it is recommended to get 10-35% of your daily calories from protein. So on an 1800 calorie diet, that is 180-630 calories per day. Notice how our first calculation of 218 calories/day fits nicely in this range.

What Does That Look Like?

Now that we know how to calculate how much we need a day, how do we determine how much protein is in the foods we eat? Generally speaking, 1 ounce of a protein-rich food is going to equal 7 grams. Here are some quick and easy portion sizes so you can get a better idea:

  • 1 ounce of fish/meat/poultry = 7 grams
  • 1 large egg = 7 grams
  • 1/2 cup beans/lentils (yes those are protein foods!) = 7 grams
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter – 7 grams

What Else Do I Need To Know?

When adhering to a healthier lifestyle, it is important to know what lean protein is. I bet it isn’t hard for you to realize that lean protein = low in fat. A lot of animal proteins out there contain high amounts of saturated fats – we want to limit our saturated fat intakes to help avoid cholesterol/heart issues. Read on below for great examples of lean sources.

Long gone are the days where protein sources took up the majority of your plate. Protein sources should only take up 1/4 (25%) of your plate at every meal. Fruits and veggies take up 50% and starch/carbohydrates take up the remaining 25%. It’s important to aim for 3 ounces of protein per meal. What does that look like? A deck of cards. As we can figure out from up above, 3 ounces of a cooked chicken breast = 21 grams of protein. For more information, visit choosemyplate.gov

Need help figuring how many ounces you are eating when you sit down for dinner? My favorite kitchen gadget is a food scale. Make sure the food is cooked to get the best idea of the weight of your protein. Sticking to 2-3 ounces per meal (no more than about 6 ounces per day) should help you reach your goals.

What Are Some Healthy Sources?

Great sources of lean animal protein are:

  • skinless chicken/turkey (breast, thigh, ground)
  • 90% lean or higher ground beef
  • fish/shellfish
  • Bison meat
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork – like round, top, sirloin or tenderloin. Make sure to trim away any visible fat
  • Low-fat dairy products (milk, cottage cheese)

Did you know that protein can come from non-animal products? Here are some examples, try adding them into your weekly meal planning this week!

  • beans! (soy, black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo)
  • Lentils
  • quinoa
  • chia seeds
  • nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, cashews)
  • tofu

There you go! Protein 101. If you have more questions – intolerances, sources, calculating how much you need – please email me

Lindsey

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