Surprisingly, not as much as you think. One thing I have learned in the nutrition course I am taking is that the average American usually exceeds the recommended amount of protein without even trying that hard. Your body can’t store extra protein, so there is no point in overloading on the recommended amount of protein you should eat every day. According to my text, Nutrition, an An Applied Approach, 10-35% of your total calories should be from protein. Protein needs are higher for athletes, children, adolescents, and pregnant/lactating women because more protein is needed for growth and development. There is an easy formula to calculate your protein needs.
Take your weight in kilograms*, and multiply by the recommended protein intake and that is the total amount of grams you should aim for each day.
*To convert your body weight into kilograms divide your weight in pounds by 2.2
Most adults – 0.8 (g/kg body weight/day)
Non-vegetarian endurance athletes 1.2-1.4 (g/kg body weight/day)
Non-vegetarian strength athletes 1.6-1.7 (g/kg body weight/day)
Vegetarian endurance athletes 1.5-1.5 (g/kg body weight/day)
Vegetarian strength athletes 1.7 to 1.8 (g/kg body weight/day)
*Source: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine and American College of Sports Medicine.
So, for a 150 pound average woman, for example:
150 lbs. divided by 2.2 (to get weight in kilograms) = 68
Take weight in kilograms (68) and multiply it by recommended intake 0.8 = 54 grams per day. Considering a 3 oz. serving of lean meat is around 22-25 grams, it wouldn’t take you long to reach your goals.
Another recommendation my book mentioned was adding more legumes to your diet to get your protein in. Also, soy protein is almost identical to actual meat, so choosing soy products could lower saturated fats found in most meats. Some suggestions on adding legumes into your diet could be:
- Make pancakes with soy milk
- If you make eggs, consider a side of black beans instead of bacon, or sausage
- Try a sandwich made with hummus instead of mayo
- Add beans, such as garbanzo, kidney, or fresh peas to salads
- Make black bean soup, lentil soup, minestrone, to enjoy with lunch
- Try using “soy” crumbles for tacos
- Dip fresh veggies in bean dip
So, since I just read about the importance of protein, and trying to add more legumes into my diet, my totally deluxe lunch today is:
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup black beans
- 2 ounces cooked chicken breast
- 1 oz. shredded Mexican blend cheese
- drizzle of BBQ sauce on top
I made this lunch all from leftovers. I have been making a double batch of brown rice since it takes so long to cook and freezing the leftovers in small portions so its easy to put this together. You can also freeze the black beans too! I tasted it last night, and I am in for a great lunch today!
416 calories, 12 grams fat and 7 fiber.
My breakfast was only 250 calories, so I’m doing great!
Another site I forgot to mention, is The Vegetarian Resource Group www.vrg.org. They have a bunch if recipes and ideas regarding adding more legumes and veggies into your diet.