Quick – what do you think of when you think of protein? Powder…? Meat…? Large-muscled men (or women) working out in gyms…? I don’t get enough…? Chances are, all of the above.
Well, it's not just for body builders, and while you can get it from powder, it's much tastier to get it from your food. Protein is one of the essential macronutrients, along with fat and carbohydrates, that your body needs to function. Protein-rich foods supply amino acids, which are the building blocks for not just muscle, but also for bone, skin, hair, and every tissue and organ in your body.
Where You Get It
Getting enough protein is a common concern for lots of people – especially anyone contemplating eating more of a plant based diet. Yes, it’s true that meat is protein, but it’s also very easy to meet your protein needs on a plant-based diet. Eggs, cheese, and dairy foods are all high quality proteins, meaning that they have all of the amino acids your body needs, so you’re more than covered.
Looking to cut out dairy or go vegan? You’re probably still OK. Beans, nuts, tofu, and whole grains still have lots of protein. Vegetables even have some protein, so as long as you’re eating a good variety of these foods each day, you’re good! Fruit and fats are the only food groups with no protein.
How Much is Enough?
Women need about 45-50 grams each day, and most men need about 55-60 grams each day, but that’s a ballpark number. Protein needs are really based on your IDEAL body weight (because you don’t need protein to build fat, just the rest of your body), and there is an easy calculation you can do if you want to know exactly how much you should eat.
Take your ideal body weight, divide it by 2.2, to convert it to kilograms, and then multiply that number by 0.8. That’s how much protein your body requires each day. Athletes, and older individuals may need a bit more to rebuild muscle, but chances are you’re well above your daily needs, especially if you eat meat or dairy foods.
Is It OK to Eat It All At Dinner?
Actually, it’s best to spread out your protein throughout the day. Your body will work better, and you’ll probably eat fewer calories from junk because protein helps to keep you fuller longer. Aim for about 20 grams at each meal. There are also a number of recent studies that suggest that eating about 20-25 grams of protein at breakfast will help to keep you more alert and satisfied throughout the day. That’s probably a lot of protein early in the day, for most people, but give it a try and see if you feel better and eat less later in the day.
This Broccoli Cheddar Strata has a meal's worth of protein, and makes a great meatless dinner, OR a high protein breakfast. Or both!
Broccoli Cheddar Strata
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 medium onion sliced thin
- 6 slices ciabatta bread cut into ½-inch thick slices
- 8 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups low fat milk
- 5 oz sharp cheddar grated
- ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper
- Spray an 8-inch casserole dish and set aside.
- Place broccoli in a microwave safe bowl, add 2 Tbs water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes or until tender.
- Heat oil in a sauté pan on medium-high heat, and add onions and a pinch or two of salt. Saute onions until golden, about 7-10 minutes. Drain broccoli and add to the pan and stir well with onions. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, any remaining salt, and pepper.
- Line casserole dish with 3 slices of the bread, top with onion-broccoli mixture, and then about ⅓ of the cheese.
- Repeat with the remaining broccoli-onion mixture, and ⅓ of the cheese.
- Lay the remaining bread on top, and pour egg mixture over all, pressing down with a spatula so that eggs and milk are absorbed. Top with remaining cheese.
- Let the casserole sit for 10-15 minutes, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake strata, covered with foil, for 30 minutes, and then remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until cheese is golden.
- Let casserole sit for a few minutes before serving.
What are your favorite meatless protein foods?