Little Things: a Nutrition Series — 3 of 4; Proteins

Making little changes in nutrition for long term habit making — The Power of Protein!

Welcome to my 4-part series in which I share what I’ve learned about nutrition. The 8-week program, Simply Nourished Like a Mother, offered by Train Like a Mother and Registered Dietician Ellie Kempton walks through the dietary Macros and how to incorporate each into your daily routine. I had worked with Ellie one-on-one before, and much of this program was a strong refresher course. Let me share with you what I’ve learned and relearned.

More mixing it up — As with Veggies and Carbs, rotating out different sources of proteins helps keep the body guessing and happy. My family generally eats dinner together, but lunches are entirely on our own. Since my husband just can’t stand fish of any kind and we live in a landlocked state, quality seafood is hard to work into my meal planning. So, I use lunchtime to get those Omega 3s in. I’ll mix a pre-packaged salmon or tuna packed in water with a dressing or marinade and add it to my salads. 

Chicken and burgers are staples in our house in the evenings, so we do our best to get a bit creative: Turkey breast in the crock pot, shredded taco chicken, and use of pre-made mixes for ground beef, turkey, chicken, and pork.

Protein Peak — This is the idea that you bump up your protein intake midday over the morning and evening meals. If the #EllieEconomy* is a palm size serving of proteins, or half a fist size, then 2 servings of Proteins would be about the same as a serving of uncooked veggies. So 3-4 small meatballs, a full chicken breast, or even a scoop of protein powder in a smoothie is a serving. The challenge for me is having 2 servings at breakfast and dinner, and 3 servings at lunch! The reason for this is because the protein regulates the blood sugar spikes and drops. it doesn’t eliminate those swings, but just moderates them helping keep energy up all day. This is how I’ve figured out how to avoid the afternoon crash!

Breakfast is ALWAYS easy, with my Vital Proteins in my morning Caf, and a scoop of Vega One in a Smoothie. Dinner is whatever the family meal entails, which has something for everyone. Lunch, though? That is not just leftovers from the night before (Turkey Chili is my go-to, but so is the aforementioned Taco Chicken on a salad), but a little extra. I might add Collagen again to my tea, or a serving of Whole Milk yogurt with honey and granola. While it’s tough for me to get lunch in, having this much protein midday gets me ALL the way to dinner time! 

Reach for the proteins first! When I do get “snacky,” I have a couple of strategies, but they are both protein first. Meat sticks like Epic Bars are a great place to start, or a small bowl of yogurt if I didn’t have one at lunch. In the morning, if I’m still hungry after my very filling smoothie (which almost never happens anymore), a cup of tea with collagen will tide me over until lunch.

Keto/low carb culture — Products that boast “X grams of protein per serving!” may have the right idea, but in relation to the carbs or fats, where does it fit? An RX Bar has 12 grams of protein, but 23 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fats. Not a big deal, but in the “Ellie Economy,” this would count as a carb serving before a protein. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s the sneaky little marketing trick that people have found to sell.

Of the 3 Macros so far, though, Protein is the toughest for me to wrap my head around. I still want that bowl of Cheddar Goldfish sometimes and bumping up protein intake midday is really hard, but if I can do that, my day is dialed in, and I have energy well into the evening. 

What are your favorite protein sources? 

*I’m making #EllieEconomy at a thing. It’s her standard of measurement instead of weighing and counting…ie, a fist size is a serving of veggies, half a fist for a serving of carbs or proteins, etc. It’s brilliant!

Heather Jergensen

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