Protein Guidelines Made Easy
Sara Wing, RD is the Director of Community Marketing for Cabot Creamery, a Registered Dietitian, mom of two teens, and a specialist on nutrition, consumer behaviors and dairy trends.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
We all need protein to survive—and thrive. It’s one of three macro-nutrients, along with carbohydrate and fat, that power the body’s essential functions. Proteins are made of amino acids. Our bodies can produce 11 different amino acids; but nine others, known as “essential” amino acids, can only be supplied through protein-rich foods like dairy.
Do the Math
How do you make sure you’re getting enough protein? The Recommended Dietary Allowance is based on one’s age, height, weight, and activity level, find out the minimum you need here. While the baseline is a good starting point, there are several reasons you might benefit from more protein power into your daily diet.
Recent research shows that, for some people, an “optimal protein” level can be significantly higher, from 90 to 135 grams per day. Reasons for increasing protein may include:
* If you’re very active and exercise seriously four or five days a week including resistance training at least twice. Athletes know protein is important for building lean body mass and muscle and complementing a workout regimen.
* To support weight loss or maintain an ideal weight. Upping your dietary percent of high-quality protein can help you feel full longer because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates.
* As we age, a higher proportion of high-quality protein can help maintain muscle and overall strength.
Many Americans eat most of their protein at dinner, but research shows that it’s better to include and enjoy these foods throughout the day for maximal benefit. (Plus, your body can’t make use of more than about 25 to 30 grams at once.) If you think you’d benefit by increasing your protein, a good range for a main meal is 20 to 30 grams and 10 to 15 grams per snack.
Start strong with a protein-rich breakfast and benefit from its staying power the whole day. Try these easy grab-and-go egg and cheese cups. 18 grams of protein per serving.
Power lunch with a crunchy, satisfying salad like our Chef's Salad with creamy yogurt ranch dressing that takes only minutes to throw into a couple of jars and take to work. 26 grams of protein per serving.
Power pick-me-up in the mid-afternoon with a protein-packed Greek yogurt smoothie. 20 grams of protein per serving.
Finish strong with a family-friendly, one-pan supper like this Italian-accented turkey cutlet and bell pepper bake. 32 grams of protein per serving.
Protein Punch Quick Tips:Stir protein-packed Greek yogurt into guacamole or hummus.