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Protein – Your Questions Answered

Most of us are aware that protein is an important part of a healthy diet. But understanding what protein is needed for, and determining if you are getting enough, are often the harder questions. We tried to answer many of your questions below, as well as provide you with a list of some of the best sources of protein.

High-Protein-FoodsWhy do you need protein?

Protein is the building block of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. Protein’s main function is to build and repair the body’s tissues, including muscles. However, protein also plays a key role in circulatory health, enzyme and hormone synthesis and the development of a robust immune system.

Since protein is constantly broken down, it is crucial to consume this macronutrient every day, especially after a strenuous workout.

Protein sources can be classified as complete or incomplete. Complete protein sources contain all the nine essential amino acids that your body needs and cannot produce on its own. All animal sources of protein, as well as eggs, dairy, soy and quinoa, are complete proteins. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of the nine essential amino acids and include beans, rice and nuts. By combining different protein sources, you can ensure that you get all essential amino acids into your diet.

How much do you need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the average woman. That translates into about 53 grams of protein for an 140-pound woman. However, if you are more active, even a recreational athlete, than you should consume between 64 to 127 grams of protein daily.

What if you don’t get enough?

When there is a lack of protein, the body will start to use its own muscle for fuel.

Can protein help you lose weight?

Yes, higher protein foods require more work as your body breaks them down for fuel, so you naturally burn more calories to digest them. Additionally, high protein foods help you feel fuller, longer. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher protein intake (30 – 40% of the diet) helps to boost levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel satiated) and reduces the levels of the hunger producing hormone, ghrelin.

Can you have too much protein?

Yes. Your body can only absorb about 30 grams of protein (4-5 ounces) at a time. If you take in more than that, and your daily calorie intake is sufficient to meet your energy needs, then it can be stored as fat. There is also some controversy as to whether excess protein over an extended period of time can place a strain on the kidneys.

Where to get your protein?372ec064272dcd9e71fb918360aeee15

  • Lean Grass-fed Beef: 4-5 ounce has 25 grams of protein.
  • Grilled Chicken Breast: 4 ounces has 36 grams of protein.
  • Fish: Most 3 ounce servings contain at least 20 grams of protein.
  • Eggs: One whole egg contains 7 grams of protein.
  • Greek Yogurt: One 8-ounce container has 20 grams of protein.
  • Cottage Cheese: One cup has 28 grams of protein.
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup has 20 grams of protein.
  • Black Beans: ½ cup has 7 grams of protein.
  • Lentils: 1 cup has approximately 18 grams of protein.
  • Edamame: ½ cup has 8 grams of protein.
  • Quinoa: 1 cup has about 8 grams of protein.
  • Walnuts: ½ cup has about 9 grams of protein.
  • Tofu: 3 ounces has almost 8 grams of protein.
  • Peanut Butter: 2 tablespoons has 8 grams of protein
  • Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese: 1 ounce has 7 grams of protein.
  • Broccoli:  1 cup has 6 grams of protein.
  • Protein Powders: When you are in a rush and can’t get what you need from food alone, these powders are an easy way to ensure that you are getting enough protein. Some options include whey, soy, brown rice, pea and casein powders. (Look for a blog post soon to explain these different options.)

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Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Without Sabotaging Your Day

Those powerful sweet cravings can sneak right up on you.  For me they often hit right after lunch, but many people say that late night is the hardest. Here are some tips to squash those cravings and some suggestions when you just can’t say NO.

Squash the Sweet Tooth

First, try these tricks to help beat that sweet tooth without actually eating anything sweet.

1)    WAIT.  When you really want something sweet, try to wait 15 minutes. Often, this is all it will take for the craving to pass.

2)    Drink water – it will hydrate you and possibly buy you enough time for the craving to subside.

3)    Drink a flavored herbal tea.  Sometimes the different flavors like vanilla, cinnamon or mi
nt, can satisfy that need for sweetness.

Healthy Sweet Tooth Options

If you are still craving that sweet something, try the following healthy snack choices.  It is better to enjoy a small sweet snack to satisfy your craving rather than eating your way around the kitchen just trying to avoid it.

1)    Skim latte with one shot of mocha.  Low in calories and just sweet enough to do the trick.Unknown

2)    Frozen grapes.  They are sweet and give you something to sink your teeth into.

3)    Toss a teaspoon or two of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon into a zip lock bag.  Add apple slices and toss.

4)    Honey graham crackers with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

5)    Combine nonfar Greek yogurt with honey, crushed graham crackers and any kind of fruit. Makes for a sweet, crunchy snack.images-1

6)    Toss popcorn tossed with 1 to 2 tablespoons of melted chocolate chips.  Let in cool in the refrigerator so it is not too sticky. (We recommend popping your popcorn on the stove top or air popping it.  Microwave popcorn has been found to contain dangerous levels of chemicals.)

7)    Melt 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter and 1 tablespoon chocolate chips and use as a dip for pretzel sticks.

8)    Melt 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips and dip a banana into it.

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9)    Toast one piece whole-wheat bread and spread a very thin layer of butter,than sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (you only need a tiny bit)

10)  Apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter

 

Notes on calories and fat:

One Tbsp. of semi-sweet chocolate chips has just 70 calories and 4 grams of fat.

One Tbsp. of peanut butter has 80 calories and 8 grams of fat.

One full graham cracker has 65 calories and under 2 grams of fat. Try to buy the brands without hydrogenated oils.

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Granola Bars: Homemade and Amazing

I have referred to my daughter’s cooking in past blogs and I can’t resist sharing her latest treat with everyone.  These granola bars with blueberries (or any berry of your choice) and yogurt drizzle are not only healthy, but incredibly delicious.  They are a good source of protein, omega-3, biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.  I never considered making my own granola bars until I tasted these and I have a feeling you will agree.

There is only one caveat – resist the urge to eat the entire batch at once.  We wrap them individually and keep them in the refrigerator so we don’t finish them off as fast as we make them.

Note – the yogurt drizzle contains sugar (the only non-healthy item in the entire recipe) so you can choose to skip it altogether as we sometimes do, or just lightly drizzle the bars with it.  As an additional note, the directions below will make much more yogurt coating than we have ever needed or used.

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Ingredients for the bars:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice krispies
1/4 cup whole roasted almonds, roughly chopped
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter or almond butter (I typically use peanut butter)
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 (rounded) cup fresh blueberries or 3/4 cup dried blueberries

Ingredients for the yogurt drizzle:

1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions for bars:
  • Skip this step if using dried blueberries.  Roast fresh blueberries in 350 degree over for 30 minutes or until they pop and shrink.  Best to coat baking sheet with parchment paper – then blueberries won’t stick
  • In a large bowl combine the oats, rice krispies, almonds, chia seeds and salt.
  • Combine almond or peanut butter with honey and microwave for about 40 seconds or until mixture is pourable
  • Add vanilla to warm honey mixture
  • Add honey mixture to the dry oat mixture and combine – it will be thick!
  • Add dried blueberries
  • Coat a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper and pour mixture into pan and press down evenly and until tightly packed
  • Place in freezer for one hour, then cut into bars
  • Bars should be stored in refrigerator to keep fresh and hold their shape better.

Directions for yogurt drizzle:

  • Combine water, vanilla and then whisk gelatin in and let thicken for about 5 minutes
  • In another bowl, combine yogurt, honey and salt
  • Microwave yogurt mixture for 15 seconds, mix and repeat till warm, but do not let it boil
  • Add gelatin mixture to yogurt mixture and whisk together
  • Add in powdered sugar and whisk until thick, but pourable
  • Drizzle bars with the yogurt
  • The bars will be sticky now – we usually just wrap them (one or two together) with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for later eating. The yogurt will harden in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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