What is protein? Proteins are basically the building blocks for all the cells in our body, and they are constantly being broken down. We need to eat foods that contain protein in order to replenish this protein.
How much should I have? The Daily Reference Intakes calculates protein needs for healthy adults based on the following calculation: 0.8 grams/kg body weight. This, of course, may change depending on any health conditions and pregnancy/lactation. For example, a 150 pound (68 kg) person would need about 55 grams protein daily. Here's a chart that details the protein amounts recommended from My Plate for various age groups. When I work with people individually, my protein recommendations vary depending on their health and wellness goals and other nutrition-related concerns.
What are food sources of protein? Protein is found in a variety of foods, but is in higher amounts in the following foods:
- meat, poultry, and fish (depending on the cut, may also supply fat)
- eggs (also provides fat)
- dairy including milk, yogurt and cheese (these may also provide carbohydrates and fat)
- soy foods (soybeans, tofu)
- beans, peas, and lentils (these also provide carbohydrates, including dietary fiber)
- nuts and seeds (these also provide healthy fats and dietary fiber)
What counts as a serving? This chart details the ounce equivalents of various foods according to My Plate recommendations. Another way to measure servings, which is a little different from the My Plate recommendations is the Exchange List system.
What does this look like? This is a sample menu using Optimal Nutrition and Health recipes that would meet the protein recommendations for the individual in the above example. This menu contains about 1400 calories with 74 grams protein (20% of daily calories).
1 serving Pumpkin Pecan Baked Oatmeal
1 cup (8 oz.) 1% milk
1 small apple
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1 serving Tuscan Vegetable and Bean Skillet
1 serving Carol's Banana Nut Bread