Alaina Langridge - Registered Clinical Nutritionist
Protein isn’t just to build strong muscles (although it’s essential for that!), it's also used to make some of your hormones, repair tissues, support your immune system, improve blood sugar regulation and help you feel fuller and satisfied for longer.
Recent news has said that NZers eat enough protein, but I beg to differ! We eat enough protein at dinner, likely, but what about the other meals in the day? Keep reading and I'll share some practical and delicious ways to get more protein into your daily meals.
Before delving into the protein sources, it’s important to understand how much protein you need personally. The RDI is 0.8g per kilo of body weight per day but this is widely understood to be the bare minimum for survival, not for optimal health.
In my opinion most adults should consume somewhere in the range of 1.3-1.6g/kg daily. This will be more or less depending on your own activity levels. The best approach is to get a decent amount in one go at each of your main meals. Depending on your goals and size, about 25-40g in a serving. To give you an idea of how this translates into real whole food, a 100g serving of chicken has about 30g of protein, an egg has about 6g of protein and 100g of cooked lentils has about 9g of protein.
Breakfast is a crucial time to eat enough. Starting the day with a good serving of protein will help appetite control and energy levels for the rest of the day. Avoid toast without any protein on it and instead load it up on things like eggs, or avocado and edamame beans smashed together, smoked or tinned fish and fresh tomato, edam cheese gives you a decent 12.5g per 50g ( if you’re into that kinda thing on toast with vegemite or tomato.
Protein load your cereal (not good for breakfast but very common) with Greek yoghurt, the addition of some nuts or seeds, some protein powder mixed into your milk or on the side in a shake.
Or to try something completely different from the classic kiwi breakfasts how about some of these protein rich ideas:
Quinoa/buckwheat/oat/millet porridge topped with fruit and hemp seeds
Tofu scramble with mushrooms and greens
Spirulina smoothie with yoghurt and fruit and a dip dollop of nut butter
Chia seed pudding with fruit
Buckwheat pancake topped with nut butter and fruit
Lunch is the other main meal I see people falling o the protein band wagon a lot (think sandwiches, baked goods, pasta, muesli bars etc). Getting enough protein at lunch can hugely help to prevent the dreaded afternoon energy slump. Here are some ideas for quick lunch ideas, that are mostly easy to prepare or can be made in bulk ahead of time:
Any combination of roasted veggies made into a salad with some leafy greens with hot or cold meat. Any herbs and spices are fine for additional flavouring. Make it vegetarian with falafel instead of meat.
Homemade beef mince or lentil meatballs with garlic and herbs and lots of grated veggies. Cook with a sauce of your choice. Serve with wholemeal or protein fortified pasta. Easy to make in bulk for the whole week.
Wraps with black beans and/or mince fried with Mexican tomatoes. Simply fill the wrap with fresh salad and avocado when ready to eat and top with your heated premade mix.
A quinoa bowl, topped with sliced olives, cucumber, tomato, crunchy roasted chickpeas and goat feta. Drizzle with an olive oil, balsamic and lemon dressing.
Sushi bowl with veggies, nori, rice, avocado and wasabi. Top with grilled tofu or salmon.
A ‘snack box’ with raw veggies, hummus, fruit, nuts/seeds, cold cooked protein of choice and cheese or yoghurt.
If eating plant based, it’s important to get a variety of different types of protein in each meal, as none on their own offer a complete protein source. Mix the following together to ensure you’re getting what you need.
Grains + legumes
Legumes + nuts
Legumes + seeds
Meeting your protein needs doesn't have to be complicated or bland. I encourage you to have fun trying some new-to-you protein sources and new ways to incorporate them into your meals!