Protein sources

As we discussed in last week’s post, most of use are woefully deficient in protein consumption as older adults. We talked about the rough estimates for grams/kg. But what are actual sources of protein?

You probably already know that lean meats are basically made of protein – a lean meat is a muscle cut, with little to no fat. So, a cut of meat that’s about 6 ounces and a trace of fat provides about 46g of protein. At this point, let’s discuss that fact that we’re tracking grams when it comes to macronutrients, so it makes sense to convert our ounces into grams to understand this better. 6 ounces is about 172 grams, but not all of this is the protein – some is water, and some is fat. Let’s say there’s a bit of fat, accounting for about 10 grams. What’s left is about 160-ish – we divide the weight by about 3.4, and that gives us the grams of protein. It’s a LOT easier just to use a nutrition calculator, to be honest. But sometimes it’s good to look at the numbers behind those values a calculator just spits out. If you can divide the grams of your lean protein by 3.4, that will tell you about how much protein you can expect to consume.

Another handy guide for animal proteins is to use the deck of cards or hand-without-fingers method of eyeballing it – just compare the animal protein you want to eat to a deck of cards, or just look at your hand, front and back, and ignore your thumb and fingers. If the protein is about that size, that’s about a 4 ounce/100g serving which will get you….(100g/3.4….29.4, but let’s call it 30) 30 grams of protein. On the end of your arm is a handy device that can tell you if a serving of meat is about 30 grams! Nice, eh?

It’s less easy to eyeball the vegetable and dairy proteins….it’s also messier. Your best dairy options are lowfat versions of cottage cheese. These will net you 28g of protein in an 8 oz. measuring cup. If you don’t want to use cups, get a small kitchen scale and aim for 226 grams. Greek yogurt? The same size serving gets you about 20g. Beans are a great source of protein, with soy beans, lentils, chick peas, and black beans leading the list.

The next big thing – how much protein can your body use at once? The goal is about 30 grams of protein per meal. How many calories does that account for in your meal? Well, a gram of protein and a gram of carbohydrate each contribute 4 calories to you when you eat them, so multiply 30 x 4 = 120 calories from that protein alone. If you eat protein at every meal and you eat 3, protein will contribute 360 calories to whatever your total calories are, and if you eat 4 meals, that’s 480.

What do you you think your protein intake is? Have you ever tried to measure it for a few days? Try it – it might really surprise you. You can use a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal or EatThisNotThat to get the quickest sense of how you’re doing. For many people, protein is far behind carb and fat intake, and knowing where you stand is the first step in demystifying your body & your health.

Stay well!