Protein is my favorite nutrition topic. It keeps you feeling full while helping to build muscle. Additionally, protein stabilizes glucose levels, and supports a healthy immune system.
When adding protein to your diet, recall the importance of mindfulness:
Before you eat, pause, and ask yourself if you are truly physically hungry. Understanding your body’s signals, like hunger and cravings will help you be more mindful about what you are eating. Cravings are mental, emotional, and habitual and might take the form of wanting something sweet or salty, right away. Cravings can arise from stress or boredom, the need for reward, or distraction. Hunger is felt in the gut. It is the physical sensation of a grumbling stomach or feeling a little shaky or dizzy. You can trust it to tell you it is time to eat. Mindfulness is “noticing and naming” what is going on IN THE MOMENT.
With that in mind, let us discuss how much protein to eat.
We can easily calculate your protein needs based on the answers to these questions- Is your goal to lose weight? Gain muscle? What is your level of exercise? Did you just have a baby or are you recovering from surgery?!
An objective measure is the size of your palm. One palm is approximately 1 serving of protein. Be sure to get about 1 palm-sized serving of protein per meal. One reason this works is that you can use this to easily estimate how much protein that you are eating. You do not have to get a precise measurement. And it is portable! You can use it anywhere, whether you are out to dinner, dining at home, or at a party. It is an uncomplicated way to start practicing including some lean protein at as many meals as possible.
For those who like to measure, 1 palm sized serving of protein is about 20-30 grams, or 3-4 ounces of cooked meat, 2 eggs, or 1 cup of Greek yogurt.
Here are a couple of guidelines for sources of protein:
Eat more: eggs, fish, shellfish, chicken, duck, turkey, lean beef, bison, lean pork, plain Greek yogurt, tempeh, tofu, and cultured cottage cheese.
Eat less: fatty meats, processed and fried foods, and processed plant-based meats.
Some strategies for working protein into your diet: If it is more convenient, buy your protein sources pre-prepared (for example, rotisserie chicken, canned tuna, or Greek yogurt). What can you prepare and keep in the fridge? Spend some time on Sunday grilling chicken breast, lean steak, or hard boiling some eggs. Prep a stir fry with pre-cut vegetables, chicken or tempeh, and olive oil to reheat when you get home from homework, and you are too tired to cook. For some variety in your diet, try bison or tempeh. Also try improving the quality of your food, including organic or pastured meat, wild-caught fish, and free-range eggs).
Keep it simple. It does not have to be perfect. Experiment. See what works for you. Even one meal with a little more protein is a success.