Protein is such a popular topic - especially for those of you who eat plant-based more frequently or for those of you who fully identify as vegetarians or vegans.
How much you need, how to tell if you are not getting enough, and how to eat more with each meal.
Let's take a look at why our bodies need protein and how you can include it in your meals, whether you are eating all-plant protein or if you or someone in your household is consuming animal protein.
Why we need to eat enough protein
Protein is an important macronutrient to have in each of our meals for several reasons.
To truly understand why protein is essential for your well-being, you need to know about amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
There are technically three groups of amino acids - nonessential, essential and conditional.
- Non-essential amino acids: those that our body already has or that we have the capacity to manufacture ourselves.
- Essential amino acids: the ones we need to collect from the foods we eat.
- Conditional amino acids: only essential during times of stress or severe trauma like surgery, medical illness, etc.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and all forms of life need protein to live and grow. You should keep in mind that your diet contains enough essential amino acids and a sufficient variety of all amino acids. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you should pay special attention to the amino acids in your diet.
You don't need to consume all of the amino acids for complete protein. This has to be one of the biggest myths that I have read over and over again, even in nutrition textbooks. It is not necessary to consume all the amino acids with each meal to constitute a "complete" protein.
Our bodies are incredibly resourceful, and we naturally have a “pool” of amino acids to use when a meal might be a little low in one amino acid or the other. The key is to eat a wide variety of protein each day, which will help you get a variety of amino acids. This will ensure that your body has enough to make up for the times when you might miss it.
Benefits of protein
Whether it's making sure you feel full after your meals, taking part in digestion, muscle and tissue synthesis, hormone production as well as immune health and various additional functions. , it's safe to say it's vital.
Protein also makes up all of the cells in our body, including the cells that make up your skin, hair, nails, muscle tone, digestive tract, and more. Since protein is involved in every cell in our body, it is important both to eat enough, but also to eat the best possible quality.
Nutritional research shows that consuming protein with every meal, especially breakfast, can lower the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and promote fullness.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is so important to eat with every meal.
Plant and animal proteins
So now let's talk about how you can get the right sources of protein to support your body.
Derived from an animal - beef, pork, goat, collagen, whey / casein / collagen protein powders, eggs, fish, cheese, etc.
Derived from pants - legumes, blue-green algae, tofu, tempeh, soybeans, nuts, seeds, etc.
I'll talk a bit about both in case you switch to a more plant-based diet, or if you eat one way and your partner or family members eat another way.
My stance on both has been the same from day one - source matters and quality matters.
If you choose to consume animal protein, opt for those that are produced ethically and humanely - from a health, ethical and environmental perspective.
When shopping, respect animal proteins labeled with: organic, 100% grass-fed, wild, sustainable, raised with humanity. If you are buying at the butcher's counter, ask them about sourcing and share the details of what you are looking for in order to get the best quality and support small farmers as locally as possible.
Likewise, with plant proteins, we are also looking for organic, sustainable and whole food sources if and when you can.
5 tips for getting more protein every day
So now, let's move on to some tips to help you eat more protein in your diet.
1. Familiarize yourself with plant protein options
The first tip for getting more protein is to familiarize yourself with all of the vegetable protein options that are at your disposal.
There are so many great choices from tempeh to tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, quinoa and spirulina.
I often find that so many people don't even realize that a certain food is packed with protein and it becomes so much easier for them to start including that food in their meals.
You can keep a list right in the notes on your phone so you can take it out when you're shopping for groceries, looking at the fridge wondering what to eat or eat out.
2. Batch cooking protein for the week
When I think of meal prep and batch cooking, I like to think of it in terms of Foundational Five, which is the Nutrition Stripped System to make sure you have all of the macronutrients you need for a balanced meal. You can read more about the Foundational Five and my batch cooking tips in my free guide.
Instead of batch cooking specific recipes, I cook different components in batches.
Then throughout the week, I mix and match them to form my meals. So one of the best ways to make sure you're getting protein with every meal is to have protein options on hand so that you can easily add more when cooking a meal.
I usually make a batch of tempeh or tofu, beans, and quinoa. I also know that we will usually have fresh eggs from our chickens, protein powder, and pantry-friendly options like nuts and seeds throughout the week.
This is also very helpful if your partner or family members eat differently from you.
I have a lot of plant eaters here, but a lot of their partners eat animal protein and they have a hard time cooking and eating together.
For example, my husband Jesse likes chicken or fish more often than I do, so during the week we just batch cook the vegetable and animal proteins in portions that he and I will eat.
The rest of the meal - the vegetables, flavor, grains, etc. are all the same, just the protein is different.
We can both enjoy whatever we want, but we don't have to cook two totally separate meals - we just trade that element.
3. Keep your pantry well stocked
A lot of people think of chicken, steak, and eggs, but if you also consider all of the plant-based protein options, you open up more options for getting it throughout the day.
Keep your pantry stocked with things like nut butters, seeds, nuts, and canned beans, and you'll always have a protein option that can be added to any meal without the need to cook.
4. Look for creative ways to incorporate it
Protein can often seem to be the star of the dish - especially when you're used to dining and see main dishes that focus on chicken, fish, or steak, for example.
But when you look at a plant-based dish, you may not visually see a lot of protein - unless you are eating tempeh or tofu.
For example, I like to make homemade pizza. We can make a nut-based cheese to go on top of the pizza - which is packed with plant-based protein, but it's not necessarily the “star” of the dish visually the same way a steak is. We also always start with a large salad that contains seeds and nuts, which are also great sources of protein.
So, get creative and look for high protein sauces or condiments like nut-based cheese, side dishes like bean salad, ingredient swaps or finger foods that bring the protein into your meal. in different ways.
5. Keep a reflective food journal
Finally, keep a thoughtful food journal to see how you are doing and where you need more support.
As you try to get protein from each meal, keep a thoughtful food journal, noting what you ate and noticing when you ate it or not. I have a journal prompt to follow in my free guide that you can download after that.
As you become aware of which days or weeks you did well, versus those where you struggled to be consistent with it, you will be able to better identify what works, what does not work, how to adjust and how to get support.
Without this thinking, you can't understand if you're making progress or where you might get stuck.
How much protein you should eat per day
By now I'm sure you might be wondering, okay I know why I need protein and how to get more protein, but how much should I include in my day?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions and is something that I cover in much more detail in my mindful eating program where members learn to identify what their body needs.
The exact amount depends on your lifestyle, health and fitness goals, digestion, activity level, and genetics.
It is best to focus on getting protein with each meal. One serving is 3 ounces which is roughly the size of your palm for a quick visual, however you may need more or less depending on your body and your hunger so check it out with you. -even. Most importantly, you get protein with every meal, but you don't have to worry about counting the specific grams of protein you eat.
Put this into practice
Now that you have a better understanding of protein, be sure to download my free guide to create healthy eating habits where I share more nutritional and conscientious advice.
It’s easy to get confused when it comes to health and nutrition. Even qualified experts often seem to hold opposing opinions. Yet, despite all the disagreements, a number of wellness tips are well supported by research. Here are 27 health and nutrition tips that are actually based on good science.
These 8 practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating and can help you make healthier choices.
The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of kcal for how active you are so you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use.
If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you’ll put on weight because the energy you do not use is stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight.
You should also eat a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
It’s recommended that men have around 2, 500 calories a day ( 10, 500 kilojoules ). Women should have around 2, 000 kcal a day ( 8, 400 kilojoules ). Most adults in the UK are eating more kcal than they need and should eat fewer calories.
Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals. Choose higher fibre or wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice or potatoes with their skins on.
They contain more fibre than white or refined starchy carbohydrates and can help you feel full for longer. Try to include at least 1 starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the kcal of fat.
Keep an eye on the fats you add when you’re cooking or serving these genres of foods because that’s what increases the calorie content – for example, oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy condiments on pasta.
It’s recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. Getting your 5 A Day is easier than it sounds. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit ?
A portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is 80g. A portion of dried fruit ( which should be kept to mealtimes ) is 30g. A 150ml glass of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie also counts as 1 portion, but limit the amount you have to no more than 1 glass a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage your teeth.
You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt. Most people should be eating more fish, but there are recommended limits for some genres of fish.
You need some fat in your diet, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat you’re eating. There are 2 main variétés of fat : saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
On average, men should have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day. On average, women should have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day. Children under the age of 11 should have less saturated fat than adults, but a low-fat diet is not suitable for children under 5.
Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils and spreads, oily fish and avocados. For a healthier choice, use a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee.
When you’re having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat. All types of fat are high in energy, so they should only be eaten in small amounts.
Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay. Sugary foods and drinks are often high in energy ( measured in kilojoules or calories ), and if consumed too often can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.
Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies. This is the type of sugar you should be cutting down on, rather than the sugar found in fruit and milk.
Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugars.
More than 22. 5g of total sugars per 100g means the food is high in sugar, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means the food is low in sugar.
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. Even if you do not add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much.
About three-quarters of the salt you eat is already in the food when you buy it, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and condiments. Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1. 5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt.
Adults and children aged 11 and over should eat no more than 6g of salt ( about a teaspoonful ) a day. Younger children should have even less.
As well as eating healthily, regular exercise may help reduce your risk of getting serious health conditions. It’s also important for your overall health and wellbeing.
Read more about the benefits of exercise and physical activity guidelines for adults. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health.
Most adults need to lose weight by eating fewer calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more active. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Check whether you’re a saine weight by using the BMI healthy weight calculator. Start the NHS weight loss plan, a 12-week weight loss guide that combines advice on healthier eating and physical activity. If you’re underweight, see underweight adults. If you’re worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.
You need to drink plenty of fluids to stop you getting dehydrated. The government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, lower fat milk and lower sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks, as they’re high in kcal. They’re also bad for your teeth.
Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar. Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day, which is a small glass. Remember to drink more fluids during hot weather or while exercising.
Some people skip breakfast because they think it’ll help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.
A wholegrain lower sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and healthier breakfast. Further informationThe Eatwell Guide can help you get the right balance of the 5 main food groups. The guide shows you how much of what you eat should come from each food group. Read more about eating a balanced diet and understanding calories.