Why this dietitian is eating more protein


It is hard for most of us to believe that we are getting older. But, when my Medicare card arrived in the mail last week, it hit me that I’ve reached a milestone age. While I know that strength training (which I have been doing for years, but maybe not as routinely and rigorously as I should) is a cornerstone of preventing muscle mass loss with aging (called sarcopenia), protein intake is equally important.

Cheese AmsterdamAt a recent conference, protein researcher guru, Dr. Stu Phillips of McMaster University in Canada, laid out a convincing trail of research to show that the protein needs for aging muscle is greater than for younger adults. We need more protein and we need to spread our intake of protein throughout the day. Most adults eat less than 15 grams of protein at breakfast and get greater than 60% of their protein at dinner. Sound familiar? It does to me!

A few facts about protein:

  • High quality protein contains all of the building blocks, called essential amino acids (EAAs) and includes:
    • Protein from animal sources (beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt)
    • Protein from soy (tofu, edamame, soy burgers, patties, crumbles, soy milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • The following foods do not contain all of the EAAs, but they contribute to total protein intake:
    • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, etc), almond butter, seeds (sunflower, chia, flax), legumes (peanuts, pinto, navy black beans, etc, split peas, black-eyed peas), peanut butter, quinoa, rice, whole grain bread

Try these 2 things to build and maintain your muscles:

  • Eat more total protein (you need ~0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight)
  • Spread the protein out in 3-4 evenly spaced meals

Here are some sample meal and snack ideas to increase protein and distribute it throughout the day. I gave this information to my exercise class partners and one person was surprised that I didn’t include almond milk in any of the suggestions. The reason? Almond milk is a poor protein source (and a poor source of almonds according to recent reports that say almond milk has only 2-3% almonds!) A glass of almond milk has 1-2 grams of protein. Compare that to a glass of dairy milk with 8 grams or soy milk with 7 grams.

Sample meals and snacks with about 30 grams of protein: Lean Beef Stir Fry

6 oz Greek yogurt (18)*
1 oz granola (4)
Small banana (1)
Skim milk latte (6)
2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz cheese and spinach (21)
8 oz soy milk (7)
½ slice whole grain toast (2)
Smoothie made with 1 ounce whey protein powder (20)**
6 oz Greek vanilla yogurt (18)
½ cup frozen berries (1)
Large green salad with veggies (2)
4 oz grilled chicken or salmon (28)
1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (1)
1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)
3 oz tuna mixed with mayo (21)
2 slices of whole grain bread (7)
Lettuce, tomato, banana peppers or other veggies (2)
1 cup pasta (6)
3 oz turkey or beef meatballs (21)
Green salad with balsamic vinegar dressing (1)
1 cup cottage cheese (28)
1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)
3 slices fresh or canned peaches (1)
Stir fry with ½ cup tofu (10)
Carrots, broccoli, edamame (16)
1 cup brown rice (5)
3 oz cheddar cheese (21)
6 whole grain crackers (2)
8 ounces skim milk (8)

*grams protein in parentheses 

 **most protein powders have ~20 grams protein per serving, but check labels

 I recently attended a nutrition conference in London and some of the information for this article was obtained at a by Dr. Stu Phillips and sponsored by Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese. My travel and accommodations were partially provided by the event’s many sponsors. I was not asked to write this article and was not paid for my time. I have no consulting or financial interest in Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese.






How this Dietitian Savors the Flavor for National Nutrition Month

Taste is the number 1 reason why we choose the foods we love to eat. Sure, good health and nutrients are important to a dietitian, but taste rules. This dietitian savors the flavors of food by enhancing the taste of foods with umami (oo-mom-ee). Most of you know about the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter, but umami is the 5th taste, with specific receptors on our tongue for this flavor enhancer. Glutamate, an amino acid, is the trigger for umami taste receptors. When we eat foods with high levels of free glutamate, we stimulate the receptors for a real taste treat. OK, enough chemistry, what can you do in the kitchen or when dining out to get umami?

ParmesanWhat I do, and what you might do without knowing the reason, is use ingredients that pack a glutamate punch. Parmesan cheese is an “umami bomb,” says Chef Chris Koetke, Vice President of Culinary Arts at Kendall College is Chicago. So, when the wait staff asks if you want Parmesan cheese shredded or grated on your Caesar Salad or pasta, Chef Koetke suggests you say, “yes, please!” Foods that are aged or ripened are also great sources of umami, think of aged cheddar cheese or a vine-ripened tomato. Mushrooms are also umami-rich; I make a meat blend of 2/3 ground beef or turkey with 1/3 chopped mushrooms for a delicious burger or meat mixture for tacos, chili or pasta sauce. Not only does the umami-rich mushrooms bump up the taste, they also cut the fat, calories and sodium of the dish while adding a serving of veggies. (Some restaurants serve “Umami Burgers” that are made with a meat-mushroom blend). mushroomsMany Asian cuisine use fermented ingredients, like fish or soy sauce, to add umami. Another trick is to use monosodium glutamate (MSG) at home to enhance flavor and reduce sodium intake. MSG is a simply a sodium salt of glutamate. “Using 2/3 salt and 1/3 MSG means a 25% reduction in sodium,” says Chef Koetke. While MSG has gotten a bad rap, Katherine Zeratsky, RDN, LD, Mayo Clinic, says MSG has been used as a food additive for decades. “Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG, however researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms.” For those who choose not to use MSG, labels clearly identify it.” For more on MSG, see Katherine’s article at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/monosodium-glutamate/faq-20058196

So this month and every month, savor the flavor with umami.

I recently attended a nutrition conference in London and some of the information for this article was obtained at a session sponsored by Ajinomoto North America, Inc. My travel and accommodations were partially provided by the event’s many sponsors. I was not asked to write this article and was not paid for my time. I have no consulting or financial interest in Ajinomoto North America, Inc.