The question: In the winter, I eat oatmeal in the morning, soup at lunch. Do I need solids in there?
The answer: I do recommend that you add a source of protein to your meals. Protein helps slow digestion and keeps you feeling satisfied and energetic longer after eating. Protein-rich foods like meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs and legumes also supply the body with amino acids, key components used to build and repair muscles, connective tissue, hormones, enzymes and immune compounds. If your diet is chronically low in protein, protein building and repair will slow down.
How much protein you need each day depends on your age, body weight and activity level. If you are sedentary, you need roughly 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. After the age of 50, I recommend a protein intake of 0.45 to 0.55 grams of protein per pound body weight to slow age-related muscle loss.
Regular cardiovascular and resistance exercise increase daily protein needs to repair muscle damage that occurs during exercise and to support muscle building.
If you include regular cardiovascular exercise in your routine – e.g. running, power walking, biking, hiking, aerobics classes – you need 0.55 grams of protein per pound per day. Regular strength exercise can increase your protein requirements to 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound per day.
Use the list below to see how much you need to eat to meet your daily protein requirements.
Protein content of selected foods
Meat, 3 ounces 21-25
Poultry breast, 3 ounces 25
Salmon, 3 ounces 19
Tilapia, 3 ounces 22
Tuna, 2 ounces (about ½ can) 15
Egg, 1 whole, large 6
Egg, 1 white, large 3
Milk, 1 cup 8
Yogurt, plain, ¾ cup 10
Yogurt, Greek, ¾ cup 18-21
Cheese, hard, part skim, 1 ounce 7
Black beans, cooked, ¾ cup 11.5
Lentils, cooked, ¾ cup 13.4
Soybeans, cooked, ¾ cup 21.5
Soy nuts, 2 tbsp. 7
Soy burger, 1 12
Tofu, firm, ¾ cup 30
Almonds, ¼ cup 7.5
Here are a few suggestions to add protein to your diet:
•Add ¾ cup yogurt or 1 cup of milk or soy beverage to breakfast. Each will provide about 8 grams of protein. Greek yogurt has 18 to 21 grams of protein per ¾ cup serving.
•Include a protein-rich morning and afternoon snack such as ¼ cup of nuts, 1 ounce part skim cheese, yogurt or one hard-boiled egg. Pair one of these choices with fruit.
•Include protein at lunch. Make sure your soup has protein – beans, lentils, chopped firm tofu, chicken or lean meat.
•Depending on your protein requirements, include 21 to 30 grams of protein at dinner.
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