I’ve been wanting to write this column for a while. Of all the questions I get asked on a day-to-day basis, this is one of the most popular. While it may not always be “am I getting enough protein?” It’s often pretty close.
It might sound something like: “What kind of protein powder do you use/recommend?” “Look at this protein powder/diet pill/supplement I’m about to buy.” “If you’re a vegan/vegetarian how do you get enough protein?” (Full disclosure: I’m not, but I often blur the lines between these two labels.)
Let me let you in on a little secret: you are probably already getting more than enough protein.
The recommended daily intake for a healthy adult male is 56 grams of protein a day. Ladies, it’s about 10 less for us — 46 grams. Most American adults eat more than twice that!
I’m going to challenge you to track and calculate just one day to see how much protein you’re consuming. For help with this and so many other useful and practical healthy eating tips, visit choosemyplate.gov. I’m guessing the number will shock you. (If you do, I’d love to hear about it.)
I read and saved a really interesting article from the New York Times not too long ago that highlighted a study by the Hartman Group. In summary, it said that nearly 60 percent of Americans are actively trying to increase their protein intake. I think the blame for this can be pretty equally distributed between trendy diets like Atkins or paleo, retail chains that are dedicated solely to supplements and “diet tools” and, because Americans are so busy that they are often eating at their desk or in the car, and a bar or shake is convenient and filling.
I think many people want to feel better and lose weight, and they are willing to believe there is a shortcut to health. Eating more protein when you’re stressed or tired, haven’t eaten a piece of fruit/veggies in ages, and living off diet soft drinks is not the path to better health or the magic cure.
Let me start by saying that you do not need to consume protein powder/supplements to meet your daily protein needs. You can get plenty of protein through even a completely plant-based diet. Beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of proteins. With all that being said, I do still use a protein powder most days. I will also add that while the market is flooded with options, there are only a handful I recommend.
I start most every day with a smoothie for myself and my daughter. It usually consists of: a cup or so of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, ½ cup to 1 cup of whatever frozen fruit I have on hand (this tends to be bananas that are about to go bad or unsweetened frozen fruit I find on sale), three to four large handfuls of spinach, 1 tablespoon of ground flax, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, a sprinkle of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, a date (depending on how much sweetness you’re hoping to add) and either a scoop of Vega One unsweetened natural or Amazing Grass Kidz SuperFood.
This smoothie alone (when using the Vega) provides around 30 grams of protein per serving — over half of my daily need — and a serving of fruit and veggies. No meat necessary.
Now I know some of you are looking at these ingredients and thinking “gross” or “I can’t drink veggies first thing in the morning.” I promise if you will just try this recipe, I really think you will like it! You cannot taste spinach — especially frozen.
When you’re choosing a protein powder/supplement, do you feel overwhelmed and confused? As I mentioned above, while the market seems to be flooded, I can’t say it’s with great choices. I’d love for you to pick a veggie-based protein powder, i.e. pea, hemp or brown rice.
No matter what protein powder you choose try to avoid protein isolates. As with anything with a label, less is more and if you can’t pronounce it/don’t know what it is, probably best to avoid. When shopping for protein powder, I’d also recommend picking one that provides some additional benefits like probiotics, vitamins and minerals and additional servings of fruit and veggies.
I like to get a bigger bang for my buck. As I mentioned in my smoothie recipe, my two go-tos are Amazing Grass Kidz SuperFood and Vega One. I am not a paid spokesperson for either one (if someone from either company reads this little bi-weekly column and wants to send me some, — great!).
On the days that my daughter only wants to eat cookies or “hops” (Annie’s brand Cheddar Bunnies) I feel much better about starting her day with a smoothie.
Amazing Grass (available via Amazon, most health food stores or chains, or their website) helps achieve the daily recommended dosage of fruits and vegetables. There are no artificial colors, flavors or fillers. It’s also certified organic, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. Vega One (available at Walmart, Amazon, health food stores, GNC, their website) provides 20 grams of plant-based protein, veggies and greens, 50 percent of the daily value of 12 vitamins and minerals, probiotics and fiber.
If you ever heed any of my advice or try one of the recipes featured in this column, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Again, I promise you won’t taste the spinach — and don’t be afraid of the color green!