Are you getting enough protein?
We regularly hear that protein is good for us, and we know that it is crucial for muscle growth and repair, fullness and that protein rich foods including meal meat, fish and dairy are rich sources of iron, calcium and zinc yet new research from the Australian Health Survey released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown that 7 out of 8 Australians do not get the recommended amounts of good quality protein on a daily basis. And while we tend to get our protein right at night, it is our breakfast and lunch that can often do with a boost when we are considering if we are getting enough protein rich food on a daily basis.
Protein is one of the three main nutrients found in food. The body requires protein to build skin, hair, blood and muscle cells and protein also has an important role in immune functioning. As protein is not the primary fuel for the muscle (unlike carbohydrate), protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrate and is hence likely to keep you fuller for longer after eating it. Protein rich foods including dairy and lean meats are also nutrient rich foods contain a number of other key nutrients including iron, zinc and calcium which are crucial for optimal metabolic functioning.
Most importantly when it comes to weight and appetite control, as protein is not the primary fuel for the muscle (unlike carbohydrate), protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrate and is hence likely to keep you fuller for longer after eating it. Protein rich foods including dairy and lean meats are also nutrient rich foods contain a number of other key nutrients including iron, zinc and calcium which are crucial for optimal metabolic functioning.
When I am working with clients, in general Aussie adults are very good at eating protein at dinner with hearty serves of salmon, steak, chicken and meat but often our breakfast and lunch choices are meals we pick up on the go and they can be carb heavy at the expense of protein. Large serves of Turkish bread, muffins, banana bread, sushi, and noodle based dishes and wraps tend to be carb heavy, which appears to be leaving us a little low on daily protein serves. This recent survey data has found that on average Aussies are getting just 1.7 serves of lean protein rich foods, where the actual recommendation is 2.5 protein rich food serves each day.
The issue with this style of eating is that carb rich meals can leave us feeling unsatisfied and less likely to remain full and satiated for several hours after eating. In turn this can lead to poor appetite control and overeating. Take a classic Aussie breakfast of Vegemite on toast, this simple meal is only likely to keep you full for an hour or two, as opposed to a protein rich breakfast such as eggs on toast which is likely to keep up full for several hours.
The answer to this protein dilemma is simple, all you need to do is aim for at least one protein rich food such as eggs at each meal is the key to reaching daily protein targets. For example, adding lean meat, egg or tofu to stir-fries, a slice of cheese to crackers or snacking on nuts or a hard-boiled egg rather than cakes and biscuits. As a general rule of thumb, aim for 20-30g of protein at meal times and 10-20g at mid meals.
So, if you have been wondering how much protein you are actually eating at each meal and snack or need some ideas on how to make sure your diet has enough protein, check out these tips below.
1. Start the day with a protein rich breakfast to help control appetite through the morning. Good options that contain 20g of high quality protein include 2 eggs on wholegrain toast, Greek yoghurt with fruit or a protein based smoothie.
2. Keep your protein rich snacks on hand to grab in between meals when you are busy – good options include a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or some Greek yoghurt and berries.
3. Bump up your protein intake at lunch by basing your meal around fish, chicken or eggs such as a frittata, tuna salad or chicken stir fry.
4. Keep a good quality protein powder at home to add to your favourite baked goods or smoothies.
5. Aim for your last meal of the day to include a palm sized serve of lean protein and lots of vegetables to support weight control
Sample Protein Serves
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup beans
½ cup beans + 1 slice cheese
Tub of Chobani Greek yoghurt
1 serve Sanitarium Vegetarian Replacement
100g meat / chicken / tuna