Published on March 22, 2018

Am I Getting Enough Protein?

By Teresa Farrell,Registered and Licensed Dietician at Essentia Health.

There’s a lot of talk right now about protein. And the question becomes how much is enough, without it being too much or too little?

Protein is an important component of every cell in our bodies. It’s a building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Your body also uses protein to build and repair tissue, as well as make and retain muscle and other lean tissue. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein.

Our bodies don’t store protein the way they store carbs and fats. We need a steady supply every day. Eating some protein with each meal and snack should do the trick.

If you’ve experienced recent weight loss, tired muscles and a drop in muscle strength it could be a sign of eating too little protein.

Protein requirements are based on body weight. A standard of .8 grams of protein per kg of body weight is used. So, if we use a 180-pound person as an example. By dividing 180 by 2.2 we find out this person weighs 82 kg. Then taking 82 and multiply it by .8 we get 65. A 180-pound person meets their protein requirements by eating 65 grams of protein a day. Sometimes an even higher protein intake is recommended depending on the circumstances. This can easily be met and exceeded by eating: 5 ounces of poultry/fish/meat/eggs or protein substitutes, 3 servings of dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) and 5 grain servings (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, crackers). This adds up to about 75 grams of protein. Note: fruit and fats have no protein and most vegetables have only a small amount. 

If you’re not a big meat eater or it just isn’t very appealing, you’re in luck as there are a variety of good protein sources available.

Protein sources:

Food Protein (grams)
Firm tofu, 3 ounces 13
Greek yogurt, 6 ounces   12
Beans: kidney, black, great northern, navy, ½ cup   7-10
Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons  9
Milk, any type, 1 cup  8
Soy beverage/milk*, 1 cup /td> 21
Lentils, cooked, ½ cup   8
Cheese, cheddar, low-fat, 1 ounce 7
Cottage cheese, ¼ cup 7
Almonds, peanuts, mixed nuts, 1 ounce  6
Light yogurt, 6 ounces  5
Quinoa, cooked, ½ cup 4
Protein drinks   varies, read the label
Protein bars   varies, read the label

*choose soy beverages fortified with calcium, vitamin D and other vitamins

You may have noticed quinoa on the list. If you’re not familiar with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) it is a seed that’s cooked like a grain. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare and is a good option to rice. And it’s crazy healthy. Quinoa is a good source of protein and fiber. Iron, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and calcium are also packed in. Quinoa is pretty plain on its own so you may want to spice it up a bit. You can add it to soups, use it as a side dish, make it into a cold salad or even eat it for breakfast, like oatmeal. As a breakfast option try topping it with nuts, fresh or dried fruit, Greek yogurt, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.

If you haven’t already tried quinoa be brave this month and try the recipe below.

Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 6 ounces grilled/baked skinless boneless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • ½ red pepper, seeded and diced
  • ½ cup tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil based vinaigrette

Instructions:

In a large bowl combine the quinoa, chicken, spinach, red pepper, tomato, cucumbers and vinaigrette. Toss to combine.

Nutritional information:

Makes 4 servings

Calories 185
Fat 5 gms
Cholesterol 22 mg
Sodium 100 mg
Carbohydrates 24 gms
Protein 12 gms
Total fiber 4 gms

*recipe from webmd