Put down the protein

Author: Kelly Lehmann  •  Date: July 3, 2014  •  Appears in: Community, Farmers, News

Put down the protein

Most North Americans eat more than enough protein. Think about it, have you ever heard someone say “My heart attack was caused by too little protein?” “The doctor says I’m overweight because I don’t get enough protein?” The requirement to achieve a positive nitrogen balance, meaning you are using protein for what it is needed but not eating so much it is turning to fat, is around 0.8g per kg of body weight. For a 140 lb woman that works out to about 50g and for a 190lb man, about 70g.

These needs may double in pregnancy and for athletes, or as we age, and some research shows that closer to 2g per kg is beneficial for those wanting to lose weight. So 100g for the average woman and 140g for a man per day.

In most of the analyses I do on peoples diets, I see the actual protein intake closer to 125g or more for women and often nearly 200g for men.

Protein shakes have been popular for a while, flooding the body with 20-30 grams. The general public doesn’t need these, but they can be a convenient option for a quick breakfast shake or post workout boost.  But recent products are starting to flood the market that are overpriced and unnecessary. Many of them also pack a bunch of ingredients you don’t need either and you’d be able to get the same protein from real food you prepare yourself.

Take for example new Protini’s from maple leaf. Far from the worst option on the market, these are seasoned chicken breast, some with dried fruit. Nutritional info shows they provide you with up to 17% of your sodium requirement (350-400mg), along with only 10-15 grams of protein. This amount is easily achieved with food you prep yourself. For example 2 hard boiled eggs will give you 12 g, and so will 1 cup of chickpeas, or 75 grams of chicken breast contains around 25g and only 56mg of sodium). Overpriced and over packaged, my problem with this product is that they lead you to believe you aren’t really capable of getting this nutrition on your own. It’s easy with a little planning- cook a few extra chicken breasts and freeze them in palm sized portions. Boil a few extra eggs. Roast a bunch of chickpeas on the weekend.

Another example- Special K protein cereal contains 10 grams of protein. But it will come with 9 grams of sugar as well, something North Americans aren’t lacking in either. Try instead oatmeal with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and blueberries  for more protein, fibre and refined sugars.

There’s even protein water! Containing dyes and artificial sugars too. Just what the body was craving.

My advice, as always, is to eat real food and prep it yourself as much as possible. Spread protein throughout the day to maintain energy. Have a little bit at each meal and snack. And load up on vegetables and fruit, something most of us actually aren’t getting enough of.

Kelly Lehmann


Kelly is a Registered Dietitian in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She does consultations both in person locally, and online across the country - www.okanaganrd.com. She blogs about food, cooking, family, fitness and balancing it all (as best as I can!) - www.okanaganrd.blogspot.ca.
Read more by Kelly Lehmann

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