Does protein matter? Sure. But most of us are getting enough, according to a 2018 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Instead of adding more protein, replace some of your meat and dairy protein servings with plant-based sources, like beans, nuts and seeds, quinoa, tempeh, tofu, edamame, and nutritional yeast (high-flavor flakes or powder). Spread your protein consumption throughout the day: Your body can’t process a lot at one time.
Since we do still need some protein in our diets, we asked you to pick your top protein snacks and we laid out the pros and cons below.
❤️ Favored by All of us who couldn’t get it together this morning
👍 Nutri perks Around 10g protein; high fiber; somewhat organic
👎 BUT? The first ingredient is sugar (brown rice sugar)
👌 Easy eating Whip it out to avoid getting hangry (so hungry you’re angry)
💰 Cost $1–$2 each
❤️ Favored by Victoria Beckham, Tom Brady, squirrels
❓ Why go nuts? May protect against heart disease, gallstones, and diabetes
👍 Nutri perks High in protein, fiber, minerals, and unsaturated fat
👎 BUT? Allergy risk; high fat content
👌 Keep it healthier A serving is a small handful (20–25 nuts) or 2 tablespoons of nut butter
💰 Cost Expensive: macadamia and pecans. Affordable: peanuts
❤️ Favored by John Stamos, Kelly Ripa, Venus Williams, and everyone else
❓ Why milk it? A multipurpose food that keeps you full
👍 Nutri perks Protein, live and active cultures, and probiotics for a happy gut
👎 BUT? Flavored yogurts are high in added sugars
👌 Keep it healthier Choose plain nonfat yogurt; jazz it up with fruit, almond slivers, and seeds
💰 Cost $2–$3; to save money, buy a larger container
❤️ Favored by Nick Jonas in his post-workout shakes (he opts for a vegan brand)
❓Why whey? Can help boost strength and muscle size
👍 Nutri perks Easy to digest
👎 BUT? Often high in sugar and mysterious additives
👌 Keep it healthier Look for fewer additives or substitute nutritional yeast
💰 Cost Way more expensive than real food
To calculate the minimum amount of protein you need, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36.
- If you weigh 120 lb, you need 43 grams of protein a day (0.36 x 120 = 43.2)
- If you weigh 150 lb, you need 54 grams of protein a day (0.36 x 150 = 54)
- Steak (size of a pack of cards) = 42 grams
- Chicken breast = 30 grams
- Most fish fillets = 22 grams
- ½ cup tofu (size of a pack of cards) = 20 grams
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter = 8 grams
- 1 egg = 6 grams
Kate Ruley, MEd, RD, LDN; nutritionist, Wake Forest University, Winston–Salem, North Carolina.
Berryman, C. E., Lieberman, H. R., Fulgoni, V. L. and Pasiakos, S. M. (2018). Protein intake trends and conformity with the Dietary Reference Intakes in the United States: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001–2014. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108, 405–413.
ConsumerReports.org (2010, July). Do protein drinks contain contaminants and heavy metals? Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/ 2012/04/protein-drinks/index.htm
Frestedt, J. L., Zenk, J. L., Kuskowski, M. A., Ward, L. S., et al. (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutrition & Metabolism, 5, 8.
Claiborne, J. (2014, October 25). Best breakfast: Quinoa porridge. SweetPotatoSoul.com. Retrieved from http://sweetpotatosoul.com/2014/10/best-breakfast-quinoa-porridge-video.html
Levine, M. E., Suarez, J. A., Brandhorst, S., Balasubramanian, P., et al. (2014). Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metabolism, 19(3), 407–417.
Men’s Journal. (n.d.). 10 celebrity diet staples. Retrieved from https://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/10-celebrity-diet-staples/
Morin, K. (2014, July 21). 31 healthy and portable high-protein snacks. Greatist.com Retrieved from http://greatist.com/health/high-protein-snacks-portable
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2002). Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids. Macronutrients table. Retrieved from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRI-Tables/8_Macronutrient%20Summary.pdf
National Public Radio. (2018, December 3). How much protein do you really need? Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/12/03/669808699/how-much-protein-do-you-really-need
Ros, E. (2010). Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients, 2(7), 652–682.
Student Health 101 survey, January 2015.