There is much to be gained from boosting your protein intake, including but not exclusive to, muscle mass and strength. Protein is important because it keeps our immune system firing due to antibodies being made of proteins and it also keeps us feeling fuller for longer which helps regulate energy intake and therefore body weight.
How much protein you need each day will depend on your goals, physiology, medical conditions and personal preference. 1.2-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram body weight is a good place to start. Don’t stress if this seems complicated, we have put together a list of practical strategies to help you boost your protein intake and hit your daily intake goal!
1. Spread it over the day
Most Australians eat enough protein, however just as important as the amount is the distribution over the day. Our bodies can only use a ‘set point’ of 30-40g of protein in a 2 hour period. In order to receive the muscle building benefits, you need to spread your protein intake across your meals over the day. Distributing your protein in this way also means you will be less likely to snack unnecessarily because you’ll be feeling more satisfied.
Try to include at least one protein rich food at each main meal. You can also include a protein rich snack if you find that you are hungry or more active than usual. This is an example of how you could spread 100g of protein over a day.
- Breakfast: 2 x eggs on toast (15g)
- Lunch: Tuna (90g tin) and mixed bean (1 cup beans) salad (34g)
- Snack: 200g Greek yoghurt (15g)
- Dinner: 150g Chicken breast with vegetables and rice (33g)
2. Choosing quality food sources
As mentioned before, most of us eat enough protein, however, we aren’t always choosing whole food sources. For example, for 100 calories, you could eat 43g of sausage (not even a whole sausage!) or 73g of lean steak (about a palm size serve). The steak not only offers more volume for less calories, but it also has a whopping 20g of protein compared to the sausage which only has 6g. For higher quality protein sources swap to minimally processed meat or protein rich alternatives, here are some simple swaps:
- Swap chicken schnitzels for crumbed lean chicken breast, see healthy chicken schnitzel recipe
- Swap battered fish to fresh fish or tinned fish in spring water, see fish and chips recipe
- Swap flavored yoghurt or sour cream for high protein or Greek yoghurt
3. Boosting protein at Breaky
Including a protein kick at breakfast is strategic in that it helps set your appetite and manage your energy intake across the day. High protein breakfast options can be simple and sweet such as smoothies, muesli and yoghurt or if you’ve got the time be hot and savory such as omelets or baked beans on toast. See these ideas for a protein rich breakfast:
- High protein yoghurt breakfast
- High protein berry smoothie bowl
- Whole foods omelete
- Homemade baked beans
4. Boosting protein at snack time
If you find yourself getting hungry between meals it might be worth boosting your snacks with a protein rich food. Foods such as eggs, cheese, hummus, yoghurt, milk, nuts and tuna can all be quick and easy options, see ideas below:
- Ricotta cheese crumpets
- Capsicum cheeks with ricotta
- Boiled eggs or mini quiches recipe
- Tuna, mustard, aioli and cucumber crackers
- Hummus, ham and tomato crackers
- Kiwi and yoghurt layers
- Mixed nuts or trail mix
5. Boosting protein at your main meal
The protein component of your main meals should make up about ¼ of the meal with carbohydrates (grains and starchy vegetables) taking another ¼ and ½ the meal made up of non-starchy vegetables. This model promotes balance for maximizing nutrient intake and managing energy intake. Protein rich ideas include:
- Adding tinned fish to salads or sandwiches
- Using lean mince in dishes such as spaghetti bolognese
- Adding tofu to stir fry, curry or pasta dishes
- Adding legumes to salads or curries, see mixed bean and rice salad
- Adding boiled eggs to salads, see egg and bean salad
- Grilled lean meat such as steak, chicken breast or pork
- Using leftover meat for wraps or sandwiches such as a roast lamb wrap
Boosting your protein intake and eating healthy can be confusing with so much information at our fingertips! If you would like to know how much protein you should be eating and how you can achieve this, the dietitians at the Healthy Eating Clinic are committed to making healthy eating practical and realistic to suit your lifestyle and goals.