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Friday
Jun092017

How Much Protein Does a Dietitian Eat?

I know you’ve been there. You’re at a restaurant or the airport. Maybe you’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room. You meet someone new who inevitably asks, “What do you do?” I must be totally honest — because that’s just me — I dread these conversations. It’s inevitable that as soon as I say, “I’m a dietitian,” a rapid fire of nutrition questions start coming my way. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy helping people — that’s why I do what I do. The problem is, I end up giving a standard answer and nutrition isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Rather than providing my standard answer — I might give to a stranger at the airport — let’s get totally personal about a topic I get asked about most often: Protein. Interested? Let’s dive into the facts and I'll give you the scoop on how I apply them in my own life.

How much protein do I really need?

Whether you’re looking to lose body fat, gain lean muscle mass, or simply feel and function your best, protein is a critical component to help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals. It’s important to ensure that you’re consuming enough protein to meet your personal goals.

The best way to calculate the amount of protein you need uses your body weight. While this can vary depending upon your goals — many active people aim for 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight. For me that means my daily goal is roughly 100 grams of protein.

If you’re familiar with protein sources, you know it can be found in most foods, although higher in quantity in animal sources, such as beef, poultry, pork, fish, eggs and dairy. I strive to eat a wide variety of protein sources each day. Keep reading — I’ll share some of my favorite protein-rich meals and snacks as well as a sample meal plan.

Not sure how much protein you’re taking in each day? Start looking at your food labels and use a food app to get familiar with the amount of protein in foods you commonly eat. Log your food intake for 2-3 days (without making any drastic changes) to get an idea of what’s “average” for you. Once you know your norm, it’s easy to optimize your protein intake and improve your meal planning strategies.

Watch your Protein Ps & Qs 

Portion: When planning your meals, make sure to plan the type of protein as well as the correct portions for both meals and snacks. Each meal should have one palm sized serving of protein for women and two for men, which helps you get between 20-40 grams of protein at each meal. Aim for 10-20 grams of protein at each snack as well. If you plan ahead, eating more protein doesn’t have to be hard.

Quality: Where your animal proteins come from — and the circumstances under which they’re raised — impacts the quality of the nutrition. The better the environment and food quality that your protein received, the stronger the nutritional value for you. When shopping, favor grass-fed beef and lamb, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised poultry, and cage-free eggs whenever possible. Having trouble finding the protein you’re looking for? Check with the butcher at your local market, join a co-op, or find your own local farmer to source your meat. Struggling to find what you are looking for locally? You can even find mail order services that offer grass-fed and wild-caught protein options.

What does a real day look like for this dietitian?

I start planning my protein for the week by making my grocery list on the weekend. (If you aren’t planning your protein — making a list is a great place to start.)

Tips:

  • I’ve got my meals down to an easy execution, but if increasing your protein is new to you, it’s best to write it down and create a quick menu for yourself.
  • I categorize my grocery list by departments throughout the store. It cuts down on time and helps me to avoid missing something on my list or doubling back. 

If you need help getting started — or just want a few ideas for protein meals — here’s a quick look at what a typical day looks like for me (I highlighted my proteins):

My menu: 

  • Breakfast: ½ cup oatmeal with 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 Tbsp flax seeds, ½ scoop beef/collagen protein, ½ scoop grass-fed whey protein, and 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter 
  • Snack: 1 cup cottage Cheese or yogurt and 2/3 cup berries
  • Lunch: 1 chicken breast, 5 mini bell peppers, 1 cheese stick and a Greek yogurt 
  • Dinner: Taco Salad with 5 oz. ground beef, tomatoes, two kinds of lettuce, cheese, sour cream and taco sauce as dressing.

(Photo: my breafast, snack and lunch for the day)

I like to create variety in my meals — to keep them from feeling stale — by swapping out my favorite proteins (beef, chicken, and eggs) and including different protein preparations to my meals.  

  • Breakfast: Egg muffins, a protein super smoothie, and high protein breakfast hash that I’ll make ahead on the weekend for an easy weekday breakfast option. 
  • Lunch: High quality, nitrate-free deli meat with my favorite cheese wrapped in lettuce or sandwiched within a bell pepper; a salad topped with chicken salad (chicken, mayo, celery and relish); or hard boiled eggs mixed with avocado, salt, and pepper (when I’m keeping it simple). 
  • Dinner: Buffalo chicken in the slow cooker, "pan chicken" (diced chicken breasts or thighs sauteed in coconut oil with spices of choice), or grilled pork chops. 

 Buffalo ChickenReal life disclaimer: I tend to get fish from wild-caught canned tuna or salmon at lunch, or prepared fish when out to eat, as fish is not a favorite protein choice in my household.

No matter what proteins you choose each day, the important thing is to include them consistently throughout your day, ideally taking in protein with every meal and snack. Doing so can help you feel satisfied, stabilize blood sugar and improve energy levels. Just like almost all other healthy way of life changes — your key to results is consistent application for your real life!

Packing a protein punch…

So, there you have it. Protein is a game changer, and it’s at the top of my “dietitian tip list” for my clients and the people I meet throughout my journey in life (including the waiting room). Thanks for letting me bring a little of my “real” to your world — I hope you found one or two things to help you on your journey to feeling and functioning your best.

If this article finds you with more questions than answers, please feel free to reach out to our team of coaches for more assistance at coaching@lifetimefitness.com.

 

Julie Brown, MS, RD, CSSD, PN2

Life Time National Nutrition Program Coordinator

 

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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