Protein, our friend!

I’ve already discovered that eating mindfully at every meal is tough, especially at breakfast.  I have three little ladies that I need to feed and help get ready for the day. Savoring my food is not really paramount to having my oldest catch the bus on time.

Maybe I’ll try getting up a little earlier.  Then I can eat half my breakfast before the girls get up.  And I can eat the second half after my oldest is off to school for the day. Mindful eating takes a lot of thought in more than one way!  🙂

Over the next few days, I want to learn more about what makes up food.  What you eat is literally what goes into making your body.  I want to dive in a little deeper and learn about proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

First up: Proteins!

What are proteins?

We typically think of proteins in relation to muscles.  However, these large, complex molecules are also found in our bones, skin, hair, and every cell in the body.

Proteins are composed of amino acids. Amino acids are what our body uses and requires to build, maintain, and replace all our body’s tissues and organs.

Our bodies can actually make most amino acids.  However, some amino acids, called essential amino acids, cannot be made by our bodies.  These amino acids must be broken down from protein sources.  Hence it is ESSENTIAL that we get these from our diets.

Proteins can be classified as complete or incomplete. A complete protein is one that contains all nine of the essential amino acids where an incomplete protein does not.

Complete proteins include animal products, eggs, dairy, soy, quinoa, and chia seeds.

Incomplete proteins come from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Good news:  As long as we include a wide variety of proteins in our diets, we’ll end up with all the essential amino acids needed.  So we don’t need to be overly concerned with whether a protein source is complete or not. 🙂

Now how much protein should we be eating?

According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of The National Academy of Sciences, we should aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  This translates to about 0.36 grams per pound, so to find out your daily protein goal, multiply your body weight by 0.36. For example, a 150-pound adult would aim for roughly 54 grams of protein daily (0.36×150=54).

If you look at the chart in the link above, you’ll notice that the recommended daily amount of protein for a woman is 46 grams per day.  However, if you read the fine print at the bottom and do a little math, you’ll discover that number was determined using a reference body weight of approximately 128 pounds.

According to the CDC, the average weight of a woman in the United States is 166 pounds, so using a 128 pound woman as the reference body weight is a touch misleading.  It is worth noting that the recommended daily amount of protein increases for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

I have read before that the standard American diet typically contains enough protein.  In my own experience, I have had to work to consume the recommended amount in my diet.

Here are a few ideas I’ve used to boost my protein intake:

  • Including eggs with breakfast
  • Topping oatmeal with chia seeds or adding in a spoonful of nut butter
  • Using high protein pancake mix such as Kodiak Cakes Flapjack and Waffle Mix
  • Enjoying a bowl of cottage cheese with fresh fruit
  • Topping whole grain toast with cottage cheese or a nut butter
  • Topping a salad with a high protein food, such as
    • leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak from the previous night’s dinner
    • tuna, salmon, or chicken salad
    • sliced boiled egg
    • pine nuts, slivered almonds, walnuts, pecans, or seeds
    • chickpeas or black beans
  • Thickening soups with pureed beans
  • Using quinoa instead of rice
  • Adding protein powder to a smoothie
  • Enjoying protein-rich snacks such as:
    • Hummus
    • Nuts
    • Jerky
    • Yogurt
    • Roasted chickpeas
    • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
    • Cheese

Let me know if there is a protein-rich food that you love that I forgot to add to the list.  And let me know if you have any tips or tricks to meet your daily protein goal!  The next blog post is going to be about fats… you know, that important detail that helps make the rockin’ world go ’round! 


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