Hy-Vee at Midday: The Power of Protein

By Julie Gallagher, Hy-Vee Dieitian

POWER OF PROTEIN
There are a number of reasons to include protein in your diet, whether you are trying to build muscle, lose weight or just stay healthy every day. The key is getting the right amount of protein, at the right time, and in the right combination.

Benefits
Benefits of protein:
• Provides sustainable energy. Your body digests protein slowly, so it provides a constant supply of energy while it is digesting
• Keeps you full longer so you have fewer cravings
• Provides amino acids, the building blocks for muscles
• Provides increased immunity and recovery, Helps the body fight off certain diseases and recover from trauma and stress as well

Amount & Timing
Our protein needs vary based on age, gender, weight and how physically active we are. Most people will meet their protein needs by consuming between 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your kilogram weight; then multiply kilograms by 1 and 1.5 to determine your daily protein requirements.

Latest research shows that the timing of your protein intake during the day is important to increase protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown. New standards recommend consuming a minimum of 30 grams of high-quality protein at each meal throughout the day to maintain healthy muscles and bones in adults.

Combinations
People who eat a variety of animal-based and plant-based foods generally consume enough complete protein (foods containing all 9 essential amino acids). But, for vegetarians or people who enjoy a meatless meal now and then, it's important to combine foods to get complete protein every day. Several food combinations are listed below to assist you in getting the recommended amount of protein at each meal throughout the day and to help you eat foods containing complete protein.

Food or food combinations containing approximately 30 grams of protein
• 3 ounces chicken breast
• 4 ounces of beef
• 4 ounces of fish + 1 cup pasta
• 1 cup of rice + 1 cup beans (black, pinto, lentils)
• 1 cup macaroni & cheese + 1 cup milk
• 2 eggs + 1 ounce of cheese + 1 cup milk
• 2 tbsp. peanut butter + 2 slices whole wheat bread + ½ cup cottage cheese
• 6 ounces Greek yogurt + ½ cup almonds
• 1 scoop whey protein powder
• Some protein bars (check label for protein amounts)
• Smoothie (6 oz. plain Greek yogurt, banana, strawberries, ½ cup skim or 1% milk, 2 tbsp. chia seeds)
• 1 cup quinoa + ¼ cup walnuts + 1 cup milk
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