Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth, hormone production, fluid balance, and nutrient transport to name a few. Getting enough lean protein with meals and snacks is vital to overall health. I recommend a minimum of 20 grams of protein with each meal but sometimes it’s hard to know what 20 grams looks like, so here are some examples.
Chicken Breast: A 3-ounce serving of grilled chicken breast typically contains around 26 grams of protein. If you were to dice the chicken this would equal about ½ a cup.
Eggs: Eggs are a versatile and nutritious protein source. Two large eggs provide approximately 12 grams of protein. Eating four eggs to reach the 20-gram goal isn’t as realistic and increases fats quite a bit from the yolks. You can add three egg whites to two whole eggs to reach the 20-gram mark. You could also add some diced chicken, ground turkey, tofu or cottage cheese to increase protein and keep saturated fats and cholesterol down.
Greek Yogurt: Known for its high protein content, approximately 7 ounces of plain, Greek yogurt contains about 20 grams of protein. Picture a small yogurt cup that you commonly find in stores, filled to the brim.
Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese is another dairy product rich in protein. To get around 20 grams of protein from cottage cheese, you’ll need roughly ⅔ to ¾ cup of it.
Lentils: Lentils are a great plant-based protein source. To reach 20 grams of protein, you need approximately ¾ cup of cooked lentils.
Tofu: Tofu, a popular vegetarian protein option, is made from soybeans. Roughly 3.5-ounces of extra firm tofu contains about 17 grams of protein.
Salmon: A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked salmon typically contains 23 grams of lean protein. For a visual, this would be a deck of cards or the size of a checkbook.
Protein Powders: Sometimes we just need something quick and easy. There are a number of different protein powders and are okay to use in moderation. It’s best to get your meals from whole foods but that is not always possible. Choose a protein powder with a short ingredient list and no artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc…) or sugar alcohols (xylitol and erythritol). An unflavored one is most versatile and can be added to baked items such as muffins without compromising flavor or texture.
Protein is a vital component of a well-balanced diet and knowing what 20 grams of protein looks like can guide you in meeting your daily protein requirements. Whether you prefer animal-based sources like chicken breast or eggs, or plant-based options like lentils and tofu, there are various ways to incorporate protein-rich foods into your meals. Remember variety is great in the diet and don’t be afraid to mix and match, eggs with leftover lentils anyone?