Did you know that many of us are not getting enough protein?

While most people in westernized societies have access to more protein than they need, most of us do not actually consume enough to meet our most basic requirements.

Interestingly, it is very difficult to eat too much protein, as it is so satisfying and filling. Most people have to work really hard in order to over eat protein. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, it is a myth that eating too much protein will damage our kidneys. In fact, only those with existing kidney disease need to be cautious of their protein intake.

Unfortunately, many conventional resources suggest a protein intake that is just enough to prevent disease, however it’s not enough to ensure that you thrive and flourish. Depending on the source, you may see recommendations as low as 45g/day for women and 55g/day for men, which correlates to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Health Canada recommends a baseline of 46g/day for females, and 56g/day for males.

In my experience this is much lower than what is ideal, and leads people to then overeat carbohydrates; typically, not very nutrient dense options like bread, pasta, crackers etc.

Protein Goals

In my experience, clients are better able to maintain a healthy weight, think clearly, reach their goals, as well as feel a sustained satisfaction after meals when they aim for a protein intake of 1.2g/kg – 3g/kg body weight per day (0.54/lb – 1.5/lb body weight).

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, the key is to focus on eating enough protein throughout the day, ensuring it is the base of each meal or snack, and not trying to cram it all in at once.

I recommend most people aim for 20-50g+ per meal or snack, (depending on gender, body size, composition & goals). You must also take into consideration factors such as intermittent fasting where you may be only eating 1-2 meals per day.

In general, this works out to be about a total of 65-125g+ for the average female and 100-200g+ for the average male. If you are pregnant, or working towards specific body composition goals, you may require even more than this.

Protein in Your Meal

Here are a couple examples of common meals and their protein content:

  • 2 eggs (12g) with 3 slices of bacon (12g) = 24g
  • Tuna salad (1/2 can of tuna) = 16g
  • 2 slices of toast & peanut butter = 15g
  • Oatmeal (½ cup dry) with ¼ cup milk = 5g + 2g = 7g

As you can see, animal sources offer the best ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to protein (these sources also offer many additional micronutrients (vitamins & minerals).

Here are some additional protein sources that I recommend as a base for meals and snacks:

Main sources of dietary protein:

  • Beef, lamb, pork, bison, venison (3 oz ‘deck of cards’ approx. 21g)
  • Chicken, turkey, duck, & other poultry (3oz approx. 21g)
  • Fish & seafood (3 oz 18-21g)
  • Sausage & bacon
  • Organ meats
  • Bone broth or soup stock (preferably homemade)
  • Eggs (6-7g)
  • Cheese (1oz = 7g), regular yogurt (3/4 cup = 5g) Greek yogurt (3/4 cup = 15g), cottage cheese (1/2 cup =14g)
  • Nuts, seeds (1/4 cup = 7g) & their butters (2tbps = 7g)
  • Beans, peas, lentils, & other legumes (1/2 cup = 9g)
  • Protein powders: whey based, plant proteins (serving 20g)
  • Collagen powders: animal & marine (serving 10-20g)

While I highly recommend getting your protein from real, whole food sources, there are certain circumstances that we can benefit from modern technology’s influence on food in the form of protein powders, collagen and related products.

If you are working towards specific body composition goals, for example body building, or if you are really pressed for time and cannot eat a proper meal after a workout, then I recommend taking advantage of protein and collagen powders. I must again stress that these should not be used as a go-to meal replacement, but as a supplement to a protein rich diet.

Other simple ways to increase protein intake:

  • Always plan your meals and snacks around a protein
  • Plan ahead (make a bunch of hard-boiled eggs, hummus, chicken breast)
  • Eat your protein first (before starches)
  • Increase serving size of protein, choose open face sandwich instead
  • Use Greek yogurt in salad dressings, tuna, egg, chicken salad
  • Add protein to your salad (cheese, poultry, fish)
  • Always cook enough protein to leave you with leftovers
  • Add cottage cheese into your oatmeal, make it savory instead of sweet
  • Swap out granola bars for no-added-sugar protein bars
  • Add collagen powder to your coffee or tea
  • Combine plant and animal proteins such as hummus & turkey on a sandwich
  • Make granola using nuts & seeds instead of oats (look for my recipe on my website!)
  • Swap sweets with high protein desserts (brownies made with protein powder)
  • Limit baked goods, but when you do choose these go for low sugar-high protein alternatives (muffins, pancakes)
  • You can even find high protein pastas – again keep these to a minimum, but have them in your pantry for when you’re pressed for time.