Hi LC readers! It’s Allison here. Between low-carb crazes, vegan fads, and every other popular diet and lifestyle trends that have arisen in years past, I often find myself getting lost in a world of food facts. It seems that there are new bandwagons to jump on daily. And I have to be perfectly honest… it gets confusing! I’ve experimented with following a few different diets in the past—ranging from vegan to paleo—and the one thing I have learned is that you have to stick with what works for your body. 

Everyone’s bodies are different, so our diets should be different too. With this topic in mind, I recently chatted with Karena and Katrina, the girls over at Tone It Up, who gave me a few tips about one extremely crucial factor that everyone’s diet should include. So whether you’re a devout meat lover or a strict herbivore, here is the truth about protein…

1. How much is enough?

According to Karena and Katrina, the amount of protein each person needs in their daily diet depends specifically on their activity level, body type, and fitness goals. “An active woman may need anywhere from 50-60 grams per day, but you may need more or less depending on your routine.” To put that into perspective, one egg has about six grams of protein, a cup of Greek yogurt has 18 grams of protein, and chicken breast that’s about the size of your fist has 30 grams of protein. Furthermore, Livestrong says that 10 to 35 percent of our daily calories consumed should come from protein. The more active you are, the closer your daily intake should be to 35 percent. And similarly, the less active you are, the closer your protein intake should be to 10 percent. Eating some source of protein at all of your meals and snacks each day will help you get the amount you need. And if you’re going to kick up your workout routine, make sure to up the ante on your protein intake too!

2. How can vegans and vegetarians eat enough protein throughout the day?

Vegans and vegetarians have a bit of a protein puzzle of their own because they exclude meat or animal products (or both!) from their diets. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, it’s important to know which foods will help you get enough protein throughout the day. Karena and Katrina recommend trying quinoa and spirulina, which are some of the few complete sources of plant-based proteins. “Add a little quinoa to your lean, clean and green salad.” You can also combine certain foods, like legumes with grains or nuts, to create complete proteins. Below is a little list I found on the Vegetarian Resource Group of vegan and vegetarian foods and the grams of protein they have per cup. Keep this in mind the next time you want to make a protein-packed meal:

  • Lentils – 18 grams per 1 cup
  • Chickpeas – 12 grams per 1 cup
  • Tempeh – 41 grams per 1 cup
  • Black beans – 15 grams per 1 cup
  • Tofu – 11 per 4 ounces
  • Quinoa – 9 grams per 1 cup

3. Are there wrong and right types of proteins?
Contrary to common belief, just because something is high in protein doesn’t mean it is good for you. There are wrong and right types of proteins, and you just have to keep an eye out for the healthy ones. For example, fatty meats like hamburgers, pepperoni, sausage or meatballs are not lean sources of protein. In fact, all of these meats are some of the highest sources of saturated fats, according to Healthaliciousness. Steer clear of saturated fats and opt for lean protein sources like fish, chicken, or any of the vegetarian options listed above. And those protein bars you like to eat every morning?  Most of them aren’t exactly great either. When you eat a protein bar or a protein shake, you may think you’re getting as much protein as eating a piece of chicken. But you are actually loading up your body with chemicals, hidden calories, extra carbs, and tons of sugar (so that they don’t taste like chalk!). If you’re on the go and you need a quick protein fix, grab a bar or whip up a protein shake, but only once in a while. You are much better off getting the nutrients and vitamins from eating real foods like chicken or quinoa than gulping down a processed, powdery shake.

I hope you liked figuring out this protein puzzle with me! And I’d love to know…

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Team LC

Sources: Tone It Up, About Exercise, Livestrong, The Vegetarian Resource Group, Healthaliciousness, Greatist