The Power of Protein and a How-To

This is the third installment of my Nutrition 101 series! Check out my previous posts on carbohydrates and fat.

What is protein?

Protein is essential in the diet, just like carbs and fat, but it also plays many roles in your overall health. From your hair, skin, nails, bones, muscles, and blood, the body uses protein in a variety of ways. Proteins are made from amino acids which are essentially the building blocks of life. The human body requires essential amino acids to survive, and these come from food specifically. It’s what also helps to prevent becoming hangry.

All Protein Isn’t Alike

Most people think of meat when they think of protein, but there’s quite a lot of different foods that contain protein. Think poultry, pork, seafood, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. I recommend all types of protein foods, but I care most about how a protein is prepared. This dietitian enjoys a good burger on occasion and is #teamdarkmeat on Thanksgiving Day. Speaking of poultry, did you know that the darker the meat, the more nutrients it contains? Dark meats contain more myoglobin proteins because they are the muscles the chicken or turkey use the most. Dark meats have more zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12, and iron than white meat. Although they have more nutrients, darker meats often have more saturated fat. Simply peel off the skin, and you’ll get rid of more than half the saturated fat! Let’s take a look at the protein and saturated fat content of some common foods.

Steak – 6 oz. = 40 g protein, 12 g saturated fat

Chicken – Dark meat (1 cup diced) = 32 g protein, 3.4 g saturated fat

Chicken – White meat (1 cup diced) = 38 g protein, 1.5 saturated fat

Salmon – 6 oz. = 34 g protein, 1.7 g saturated fat

Lentils – 1 cup cooked = 18 g protein, 1 g saturated fat, 15 g fiber

To go along with my FoodBalance mantra, all protein foods can fit into a balanced diet. You can definitely get enough protein from plant-based foods like lentils and beans, and you’ll also get lots of heart-healthy fiber. If you choose a fattier cut of meat, go easy on dressings, remove the skin, bake/roast don’t fry, swap high fat condiments for lower fat options, and opt for leaner side dishes.

I thought you said I should start the day with about 20-30g of protein?

Yes, glad you remembered! Protein is very satiating and it prevents your blood sugar levels from rapidly rising then falling. This rapid rise and fall can also cause you to feel tired and most likely craving more food.  Choose foods high in protein to start the day off right like Greek yogurt, nut butter on toast, cheese, leftovers of a protein from dinner, or my personal fave, EGGS. Economical and simple to prepare, these incredible edibles have about 6 g protein and 1.5 g saturated fat (large varieties). I always try to have eggs in my fridge for a quick meal addition, and my favorite way to prepare is hardboiled. You’d be surprised at how many people have told me they’ve never boiled an egg. It’s as simple as boiling water! Follow along with my fail-proof method for making hardboiled eggs.

Eggs in water

Add eggs to pot. Cover with water.

eggs in water on high heat

Turn burner on high heat.

Water boiling

Bring water to a boil.


Turn off the burner.

How to Boil Eggs

Cover the pot of boiling water.

How to Boil Eggs

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

How to Boil Eggs

After 10 minutes, uncover pot and drain water. Place eggs in colander and rinse with cold water.

How to Boil Eggs

Place eggs in bowl. Cover with cold water. (Optional: add ice cubes)

How to Boil Eggs

I place mine in the freezer to cool down for a few minutes (set a timer). You can also put in the fridge.

How to Boil Eggs
Perfectly cooked yolk! Remove the eggs from fridge/freezer, drain water. Place in fridge. Best if eaten within 5-7 days.



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