Are You Eating Enough Protein?

December 3, 2013

If you’re like many women, your breakfast and lunch tend to be light and you rake in most of your protein at dinner via lean options like chicken or fish. On paper that sounds like a healthy diet plan, but it turns out that loading most of your protein into one sitting may not be getting you the results you’re after.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that the ideal protein intake for building lean muscle is about 30 grams per meal. Translation: If you aspire to a svelte body like, say, Jessica Biel’s, but feel like your hard work isn’t yielding the sculpted muscle tone you deserve, you may need to amp up your protein throughout the day.

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If any of these typical breakfasts and lunches resemble yours, you’re clocking in at anywhere from 12-20 grams of protein per meal and selling your muscles short:

Breakfast

•A bowl of oatmeal (1 cup), made with skim milk (1/2 cup), a handful of blueberries, and slivered almonds (4 Tbsp) = 12 grams

• Nonfat Latte (Starbuck’s Tall) and a fruit parfait = 13 grams

Lunch

• A salad with corn, artichokes, beets, feta cheese (1/4 cup) and chickpeas (1/4 cup) = 14 grams of protein

• A peanut butter (2 Tbsp) & jelly sandwich = 12 grams

• A bowl of minestrone (2 cups) and a slice of grain bread = 20 grams

• A veggie burger on a whole grain bun and a side salad = 15 grams

• A California roll (8 pieces), salad with ginger dressing, and 2 steamed shrimp dumplings = 18 grams

So, how can you bump up your protein without necessarily having to swallow more meat? Just add any of the options below to each of your meals, and you’ll increase your plate’s protein content by as many as 10-20 grams.

Greek Yogurt. It packs nearly twice the protein as regular yogurt, so just 5 ounces will boost your intake by 13-18 grams. Just pop open the container and enjoy the creamy snack right along with any of your favorite breakfast or lunch options.

Eggs. They’re one of the simplest ways to pack in protein in the morning. Any style will do, but scrambled and hardboiled are especially quick and easy. Two whole eggs have 150 calories and 14 grams of protein; 4 egg whites have 60 calories and the same 14 grams protein.

Tofu, chicken, and beans. Most salad shops dole out quarter-cup scoops of their ingredients, making it tough to get adequate protein, so just ask for more than one scoop of your favorite protein sources. And don’t assume that cheese will do the job! The majority of the calories in most full-fat cheeses come from fat, not protein.

Protein shakes. They’re tasty and deliver sustained nutrition and energy, making them an ideal on-the-go snack or light meal. You can make your own blend  or buy a healthy ready-made option like Svelte. All the flavors pack 11 grams of protein and 5 grams of belly-filling fiber, plus they’re gluten-free and use non-GMO soymilk.*

Roasted soy nuts. Munch on 1/2 cup for a snack or toss them on your salad and you’ll boost your protein intake by 17 grams with just 200 calories.

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse “Lyssie” Lakatos—otherwise known as the Nutrition Twins—are registered dietitians, certified personal trainers, and authors of The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty.

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*The Nutrition Twins work with Svelte to help people get more protein in their diet.