In my previous protein blog, I spoke about how important protein is to help us stay healthy. So how do we make sure we are getting enough protein and the right types? Please see my protein blog for more specific details about the various types of protein, including complete and incomplete proteins.
When most of us think of protein we think of animal products, but protein is found in many different foods – both animal and plant-based.
The key to getting the right amount and type of protein is 1) variety and 2) spacing out the timing between eating protein. Variety in the protein foods you eat will ensure you are getting all of the different types of protein amino acids you need. Variety is especially important if you do not eat much or any animal products, as most plant-based foods are incomplete proteins.
Recent research has discovered that the human body uses protein more efficiently when eating moderate amounts several times throughout the day, rather than just at one meal. Trying to have a protein foods 3-4 times per day is a good goal.
So how do we do that?
When eating a full meal, try to build that meal so that one-quarter of your plate is protein, one-half is fruit and veggies and one-quarter is whole grains. Shake up your protein sources! We easily get stuck in a pattern of eating. Vary your meals and snacks so that you are getting various nutrients including essential amino acids (EAAs) to meet all of your needs.
Set out below is a list of a variety of foods containing significant amounts of protein:
- Animal sources
- Meat, poultry including eggs and fish
- Dairy products (including milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Yogurt can be an excellent source of protein (particularly Greek yogurts) but not all yogurts are equal. Make sure to read labels so you are choosing the best option for you. Also, watch the sugar content as some yogurts contain higher amounts of added sugar than others.
- Cottage cheese can be another great protein source and does come flavoured for those who may not like the taste.
- Plant-based sources
- Legumes (includes alfalfa, clover, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans (tofu), tempeh and peanuts)
- Hemp seeds – complete protein
- Chia seeds – complete protein
- Quinoa (complete protein), oats, spelt
- Nut-free butters (note that not all are the same; check the label carefully as some do not contain that much protein)
- Veggies – most veggies contain some protein. Vegetables are not complete proteins so you will need to combine with other protein foods to meet daily protein requirements. Dark-colored, leafy greens good protein sources as well as green peas and potatoes (regular or sweet).
- Nutritional yeast
- Protein powders
Combining plant-based proteins can be as easy as making a salad with assorted greens topped with quinoa, nut, seeds or chick peas.
Please see my previously posted Nut-free Energy Bites recipe for a high-protein snack you can make at home. I will continue to post more recipes overtime including other high-protein snack and meal ideas.
A note about protein powders
Protein powders can be an excellent way to add extra protein to your diet. They can be found in various forms, including from both animal sources and vegetarian sources (including vegan options). Protein powders are quite versatile and can be added to many foods/beverages. There are also many options available to purchase, so knowing which one is best for you can be tricky. I’ll be writing more about choosing protein powders in an upcoming blog, “Finding the right protein powder and how to use it”
This list above covers the main sources for adding protein to your diet, but it does not cover all of the options out there. There are many ways to increase protein intake and if you are looking to add protein to your diet, you can start with something small that you know will be achievable for you. Be adventurous! Try new foods you may not have considered before. Try new recipes or experiment with your old recipes.
As I always mention, if you are having difficulty finding what works for you, please seek help from your local Registered Dietitian; we are always here to help. Check out the Nutrition Services tab on this site for the types of services that I can provide.
Please keep an eye out for new recipes on the blog, as I am continuously trying new things and will continue to post those that turn out well.
Disclaimer: The above information is intended for general public education and is not intended to be dietetic advice in any respect or to any person. Use of this information does not make any person a direct client of Tanya Brown,RD for any purpose and no such relationship will exist unless a formal client relationship has been entered into. Please consult your Doctor or a Registered Dietitian for individual recommendations prior to making any dietary or lifestyle changes.