When we eat foods with protein, our bodies take apart the protein into the amino acids it’s made from (like you might take apart a LEGO structure) and use those amino acids to build new proteins in our bodies that become hair, skin, muscle, hormones, mitochondria, etc.
Our bodies use 20 different amino acids to build the proteins it needs. Nine of these amino acids we must get from the food we eat. The other eleven our bodies can manufacture, but we can also get them from food.
That’s why its so important to eat enough foods with protein in them, so our body has all the materials it needs to grow, maintain bones and muscles, make hormones and neurotransmitters, and heal itself, among many many other things.
Our bodies can also burn protein for energy. If we have enough protein for our building needs, our bodies take the extra protein and either burn it for energy or, if it already has enough energy, will store it as fat for future energy.
On the other hand, if we are not eating enough to meet our energy needs, (and especially if we are also not eating enough protein) our bodies will begin to break down the protein in our muscles to use for energy. Of course, it will also begin to break down stored fat, but most weight loss involves some muscle loss.
Now you know what protein is, but how should you eat it? How much should you eat? What are “lean” proteins? What are plant-based proteins?
Check back next week for the answers! Do you have other questions about protein? Leave it in the comments and I’ll try and incorporate it into next week’s post.
(Sorry, this wasn’t an intentional cliff hanger, it just seemed better to break it up rather than doing a super long post!)
If you want to see a list of foods that have protein, click here.
This post is a list of foods that provide protein. This list is for you if:
you’re not sure which foods have protein,
you are tired of the protein foods you are eating and want to find different ones,
you’re looking to add more protein to your diet and need ideas
Keep reading to find some new protein foods to try!
Chopped or shredded chicken
Turkey, white and dark meat
Shredded or chopped turkey
Sliced deli turkey
Liver and organ meats (pretty much any kind)
Eggs and Dairy
Cheese (pretty much any kind except cream cheese)
Various Plant Proteins
Quinoa (at least 1 cup)
Meat substitutes like veggie burgers or vegetarian sausage (always check the label for protein content)
Green peas (1 cup)
Grilled Portobello mushroom (1 cup)
A word about protein powders: Many people find protein powders helpful, however I haven’t included them separately because most of them are made from one of the foods listed above like milk, eggs, soy, or peas.
These foods, in a typical serving size, provide at least 10% of the recommended daily amount of protein (%DV). Note that many of them provide much more than 10% and that the the %DV is based on a very general figure. This post does not give serving sizes or recommend amounts of protein to eat. Protein needs vary widely, and there is a wide amount of protein intake that can be healthy! If you have questions about how much protein you need, speak with a registered dietitian or your doctor!
Listen, if you haven’t yet watched How to Dad‘s YouTube Channel, you are missing deadpan humor, adorable kids, and surprisingly helpful parenting tips. Checking it out is worth a few minutes of your time – most of his videos are less than 5 minutes long and they always make my day. But today, I’m going to talk as a dietitian about what I like in this video. ↓
This video illustrates so many true things about teaching kids to eat vegetables – intentionally or unintentionally I’m not sure – but let’s break it down. How to Dad is trying to convince his toddler to eat a plate of broccoli and carrots with varying amounts of success.
She starts out by biting a carrot, and then putting it back on the plate without eating any
This is normal and good and it is how kids explore new foods. Any exposure to new foods is a step in the right direction. Licking, biting, touching, or even just smelling a new (or less liked) food gives a child more experience with a food and means they are becoming more interested or less scared of it. Even if they spit it out, it’s still progress. (And teaching them to politely spit out food can take some of the pressure out of trying new foods)
When the vegetables are covered with cheese or ketchup, she just eats the cheese and ketchup
There’s nothing wrong with using other preferred foods to make vegetables more palatable, but know it won’t always work. Kids will eat what they want. Same goes for hiding veggies – it might work, but kids are also pretty smart and might just see right through it.
“Pounding the table” doesn’t work
In this video it results in oh my goodness tiny adorable table pounding! But in real life, ordering or forcing kids to eat vegetables is more likely to result in a power struggle than learning to eat vegetables. They might eat them, but they’re more likely to view it as a chore than to learn to enjoy eating them, and who likes chores?
They play with their food
This has varying degrees of success – in fact most of the play doesn’t result in eating any vegetables, not until the end of the video. However, it does have the advantage of increasing exposure to and familiarity with the food (see point 1)
She eats the broccoli after watching her dad eat it
This is HUGE. Kids learn by watching and imitating you. If they never see you eating vegetables, they’re much less likely to want to eat them. On the other hand, if they see you regularly eating vegetables along with all other foods like it’s no big deal, they’re likely to grow up learning that vegetables are just something you eat, like hamburgers or toast.
She is having fun
Obviously these two have a positive relationship. Even when the dad is “pounding the table” she thinks its a fun game. And every interaction, even the ones that don’t result in eating vegetables, is happy. Obviously it’s unrealistic to expect you to have 100% happy moments with your kids (especially with a toddler), but making mealtimes an overall positive environment by having positive conversations, promoting good table etiquette, not creating power struggles, etc. can make a big difference in promoting an overall healthy relationship with food, not to mention trying new foods.
She eats the most vegetables when How to Dad isn’t even paying attention to her
The food is there in front of her, but there’s no pressure on her, and no one’s trying to get her to do anything.
There are a lot of attempts and not a lot of actually eating vegetables
Studies show kids may need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they even try it, not to mention liking it or eating it regularly. Being exposed to a food can eating it, but it can also include playing with the food, helping prepare the food, and smelling it, touching it or licking it (see the first point). It may seem like kids will never eat new foods, but don’t give up! If they never see it or interact with it, they will surely never learn to eat it!
I know it can be hard and frustrating, but you can do it! They can do it! You’re just helping them practice the skill of eating new foods, which like any skill, takes practice!
In summary, what should you learn from this?
Keep serving the vegetables, keep eating the vegetables (and let your kids see you doing it), don’t make it a big deal, be prepared that it might take a long time, and know that that’s ok.
Note this also applies to any other food that you want your kids to learn to eat, just substitute “fish”, “beans” or “croissants” for vegetables in the article above 🙂
If you’re looking for more information and encouragement on this topic, I also recommend checking out feedinglittles.com or following @feedinglittles . Great accurate information (they are a dietitian and occupational feeding therapist team), practical tips, and overall great positive attitude!
Finding and choosing recipes, constructing meals out of ingredients we have, grocery shopping – these are all valuable skills. But they are skills that take time and effort to learn!
It can be overwhelming to suddenly find yourself cooking at home 5x more than you’re used to, or meal planning because you can’t grocery shop as often as you normally do. (Especially if you are dealing with an extra stressful environment, which so many of us are right now). So if the tips above seem like just ONE MORE THING to think about, it’s ok. You just do your best and it’s the best you can do.
I started Nutrition for Real Humans to make healthy eating less overwhelming. My goal here is to make things like meal planning, and using the tips above, easier and more accessible. I hope the resources you find on my blog, resources page, and my Pinterest help provide some inspiration or helpful advice.
One super useful resource isYummly, a recipe search engine, where you can look up recipes by the ingredient you want to use. They even have a new meal planner that will generate a shopping list from the recipes you’ve chosen!
Also, I’m super excited about this –
I will soon have meal plans available for instant download!
They will include:
delicious and nutritious recipes
a complete shopping list
easy to follow directions, including
step-by-step directions for prepping ingredients all at once to make each day’s meal time super easy
friendly and positive nutrition notes
Look for them early next week! Sign up for my email list or follow me on social media if you want to know as soon as they are available!
(Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for email signup and my social media)
I can also work with you personally to create a meal plan just for you with the things you already have at home – or with the things you usually have in your pantry – or a flexible meal plan that has a little give so it will still work if you can’t find a specific ingredient. Click here to schedule with me for a free, no-obligation consult.
So I am writing this post because I wanted to link to this recipe but realized I have been making it so long (and have changed it so much) that I no longer know where I learned the original recipe. It is one of my brainless crowdpleasers and an easy and affordable way to eat more fish (for those healthy omega-3 fatty acids).
This is probably the meal I am most likely to be able to make from what is in my pantry. I realize not everyone has the same pantry, but the instructions are pretty flexible so you can adapt the ingredients to what you might have available.
Here’s what you need:
1/2 an onion (or like 1 small onion, usually my grocery store has giant onions)
Garlic, a few cloves (or you could use 1 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic)
15-oz can tomatoes/tomato sauce or 1 small can tomato paste + enough water to make it about 15-oz/2 cups
1-2 cans tuna (you can probably also use canned chicken or canned beans/lentils)
1/2-1 lb pasta (I like to use whole wheat, but use what you have – gluten-free, lentil pasta, or rice pasta should work just as well)
Oil of some kind – I used olive
Spices (I like dried basil primarily for this, but last time I threw in some thyme and rosemary as well and it was good. You can also use an Italian seasoning)
You will also need a cutting board and a knife to chop your onions, a small pot/pan to make the sauce in, and a pot to boil your pasta. And a stove.
Put a few tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium-high heat and once that is warm, add your onions and a little bit of salt (like 1/2 teaspoon) and let them cook while you…
Mince up a few cloves of garlic, or if you are using minced garlic or garlic powder, skip to the next step.
Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds-1 minute (garlic burns fast).
Add your spices. I like to use a lot of dried basil, but you can use Italian seasoning, rosemary, thyme, oregano, or a combination.
Dump in your canned tomatoes or tomato sauce or the tomato paste that you have mixed with water.
Stir this so it’s combined, then turn up the heat to bring to a simmer (so it is very slowly bubbling). Then cover it with a lid and turn it to low.
While this is simmering, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box – I find this takes 15-20 minutes counting the time for the water to boil which is a good amount of time for the sauce to simmer.
Once your pasta is cooked and drained, drain the tuna as well and flake it into the sauce and stir until it’s combined, then combine the sauce with the pasta
This is even pretty good leftover and doesn’t even smell too fishy when you warm it up. It’s also good with Parmesan on top.
As you can see the amounts are flexible – if you like a saucier pasta, use less pasta or more tomatoes. If you want a higher protein/lower carb ratio, use less pasta and more tuna. If you used canned tomatoes and don’t like chunks, mash the sauce or use an immersion blender or food processor (in small batches please) to blend it before you combine with the pasta and tuna.
This batch was made with ~1/2 lb of pasta, 2 cans of tuna, and 1 can of tomatoes, just give you an idea of what those ratios look like.
Below is the recipe card I dug out of the box – in case you want to just have a picture of the recipe 🙂
I realize it’s almost spring, but it is still the time for winter vegetables – at least in the northern hemisphere. I’m thinking of squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash, kobacha, and delicata squash. I’m also thinking of those hearty root vegetables: potatoes, turnips, carrots, and onions to name a few.
I’m here to tell you that if you have an oven, or even a toaster oven, roasting vegetables is highly recommendable. Why?
Out of the total cooking time, only a small portion actually requires you to be in the kitchen. The rest is done by your oven while you read a book or wash your dishes or make the rest of your dinner or scroll through Instagram. I am writing this post while Brussels Sprouts roast in the oven
It brings out the natural sweetness and tenderness of these veggies – sometimes this can make them more palatable to kids (or adults) who aren’t vegetable fans
Roasted vegetables are versatile: they can be a side for meat or eggs, stirred into pasta or cooked grains, cooled and put in a salad, or pureed to go in a soup or sauce.
Everyone needs to eat vegetables. Roasted vegetables is a delicious way to eat vegetables that is adaptable to almost any diet pattern
It’s a flexible and pretty forgiving method for cooking
It will warm up your house and make it smell good
Imagine half your plate full of delicious roasted vegetables, either tender and sweetly-flavored or savory, browned, and crisp.
1. Preheat your oven so it can be heating up while you prepare your vegetables. Preheat to 350 F if you want slow-cooked, tender and sweeter vegetables. Preheat to 500 F if you want crispy, browned vegetables that will roast faster. Or go for something in the middle. If you have something else you are baking (meat, fish, bread) and it needs a certain temperature, you can roast the vegetables at that temperature so it can all be in the oven at the same time. It’s flexible 🙂
2. Wash and cut your vegetables so they are pretty evenly sized (or skip this step altogether by using frozen vegetables, which are already washed and cut for you). It doesn’t really matter what size the pieces are as long as the size is fairly consistent. This is important so they will cook at the same rate. If they’re not exactly the same, it’s ok; they’ll just be cooked to slightly different levels. Watch this video from America’s Test Kitchen for instructions on how to cut vegetables safely. (Have a butternut squash? Here’s a video specifically on how to cut this sometimes tricky vegetable)
3. Put your veggies in a bowl and toss with oil. I like to add oil because it helps the seasonings stick, and it helps the vegetables not stick to the pan.
From a nutritional perspective, using a vegetable oil like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil can add some healthy fats, which are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A (which you’ll be getting from those yellow and orange veggies). Use a small amount if you are aiming for a low-fat or low-calorie diet (a teaspoon will go a long way). If you prefer to avoid adding oil altogether, I will refer you to the Minimalist Baker who has written this great post about oil-free vegetable roasting; it’s not an area where I have much experience.
4. Add seasoning and toss some more. This can be as simple as salt and pepper or a seasoned-salt. You can also get creative – use curry powder or garlic powder and oregano or taco seasoning – whatever sounds good to you. For a lower-sodium option, use only spices for flavor – no salt. Go light on seasoning at first. You can add more after it’s cooked if it’s too bland.
5. Roast! Spread the veggies out on a baking pan. You can line the pan with parchment paper, foil, or a silicone mat to help with clean up, but it’s not necessary (especially since you added some oil to your veggies). Now put them into the oven! Set your timer for 15 minutes.
6. After 15 minutes, shuffle the vegetables around on the pan by pushing them around with a big spoon or spatula and check to see if they are done by poking them with a fork to see how tender or crisp they are.
7. Keep roasting for 5-30 more minutes, (unless they are already done) until they are the texture you like. The amount of time will depend on which vegetables you are using (harder vegetables will take longer), the temperature of your oven, the size of the cut, and the texture you want.
Eat and enjoy!
What vegetables do you like to roast? How do you like to eat them? Share in the comments, or on instagram or facebook with #nutritionforrealhumans
It seems to me that there are infinite “easy” cooking recipes out there that range from actually easy, to probably easy for someone who grew up in the kitchen, to maybe easy for a trained chef who has a fully stocked kitchen and a sous chef.
The goal with this series (starting with sandwiches and wraps) is to be a list of ideas that require (as the title says) zero cooking. Because maybe you like cooking, but are in a crazy busy season of life and don’t have time. Maybe you live in a place with only a mini fridge and no utensils to prep with. Or maybe you just don’t like cooking and have better things to do than spend time chopping, slicing, braising, sauteing, and/or cleaning up. Granted, some of these things will take a little prep, but – stay with me – it’s mostly opening packages and dumping things together or maybe spreading something with a knife. I’ve even made this list so you don’t even need to heat anything up.
The components for all of these meals are a bread or grain wrap + filling (usually protein) + fruit or vegetable
This model makes sure the meal includes at least 3 food groups on USDA’s MyPlate. If there is already a fruit or vegetable in the filling, adding another fruit or veggie on the side, makes it even closer to the goal of 1/2 the plate being fruit and/or vegetables.
Bread or Wrap:
Sliced whole grain bread
Whole grain tortilla
Whole grain pita
Gluten-free sandwich wrap
Whole grain waffles
These are just some examples, as there are so many bread options. Choosing a whole grain option will make for a higher-fiber and more filling meal.
Fruit or Vegetable:
You can use a whole fruit or vegetable that’s ready to eat, like an apple or carrot (just rinse these) or banana or mandarin orange.
You can also use packaged produce that is already prepared, like bagged spinach, baby carrots, or a jar of pickles.
Most grocery stores also sell pre-washed and cut fruits and veggies in the produce section.
A grocery store with a pay-by-weight salad bar can also be a resource for purchasing already washed and prepared veggies in smaller amounts (think shredded cabbage, pickled beets, or sliced cucumbers).
Nut butter and jelly
Nut butter and honey
Nut butter and sliced fruit
Nut butter and lettuce/spinach + optional mayo (I know it sounds weird, but some people like it)
Turkey (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, Sriracha, horseradish or even guacamole)
Turkey and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, Sriracha, horseradish, or guacamole)
Turkey and cheese (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, Sriracha, horseradish, or guacamole)
Turkey and cheese and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, or guacamole)
Roast beef (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, guacamole, or Sriracha)
Roast beef and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, guacamole, or Sriracha)
Roast beef and cheese (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, guacamole, or Sriracha)
Ham (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, or guacamole – not sure if guac would go well with ham but fine if you want to try it)
Ham and cheese (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, hot sauce, or guacamole)
Baloney (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, hot sauce, or guacamole)
Cheese (any cheese besides cream cheese can work as a protein food)
Cheese and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, or guacamole)
Salami/pastrami/hot dog (salami and other sausages are higher in fat and sodium, so better to choose this less often, however – still provides protein)
Tuna salad (many stores sell tuna salad already mixed OR make your own by mixing canned tuna with mayo or guac or yogurt and some salt or pepper)
Chicken salad (see above – you can add flavor to either of these with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, or a spice mix packet)
Hummus and veggies – particularly ones with crunch – snap peas, lettuce, shredded carrots, small tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, sliced cabbage
Egg salad (buy egg salad already made or mash up some hard-boiled eggs with mustard, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, paprika or whatever other spices you like in your hard-boiled eggs)
Eggless salad (same as egg salad, but mash up tofu instead)
Tofu and veggies (definitely want to add some flavor to this using soy sauce, hot sauce, Sriracha, etc. as tofu is pretty bland)*
Pre-cooked chicken, lettuce, and Caesar dressing*
Beans (baked beans or black beans, pinto beans or garbanzo beans, chili beans or white beans – add hot sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, or taco seasoning to plain beans)*
Bean and cheese *
Bean and salsa/guac/hot sauce*
Bean and cheese and salsa/guac/hot sauce*
Yogurt and fruit*
Yogurt and fruit and nuts*
*These would probably work best as a wrap, but you could certainly make them into a messy sandwich
Some of these ideas might seem obvious, but just because they are super easy and common doesn’t mean they aren’t a good meal. Feel free to share your sandwich/wrap ideas in the comments.
And of course, this are general ideas and guidelines. They are not intended to treat any specific health condition. Speak with your doctor or dietitian about your specific dietary needs.
I wanted to share with you what my weekend was like to illustrate what my more abstract definitions look like practically. Weekends seem like maybe they would be easier because extra free time, but I find when I don’t have the weekday routine, sometimes things get a little piecemeal and hectic. So here’s how it went, food-wise, and how it fits into my definition of nutrition for real humans.
The menu of my weekend
Saturday Breakfast:Fried eggs, whole grain rolls, a perfectly ripe amazing pear, and a cup of coffee with almond milk. So – some protein (even pasture raised eggs because they were on sale – oooh), whole grains, fruit, and some calcium-rich liquid.
Saturday Lunch: Leftover squash soup (yeah veggies!) and whole grain rolls, with pepper jack cheese for some protein and calcium
Saturday Dinner: Slow cooker pot roast with potatoes and carrot: an all-in-one meal with protein, starch, and veggies. Slow cooker meals are awesome for weekends as long as I remember I planned them and start them before it’s 5:30 and we’re getting hungry. Heheh. Thankfully this weekend I put all the ingredients in while we were making lunch and it went about cooking and making the house smell delicious while we went about doing our chores and relaxing.
Saturday Dessert: Cookie dough ice cream. Which while it does have more sugar and fat then say, a glass of milk, is also a source of calcium
Sunday Breakfast: almonds on the way to church and a mini-chocolate donut when we got there because we got up late. Not the ideal breakfast, but better than no breakfast.
Sunday Lunch:Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar (read: box mac and cheese) because we had to rush to a friend’s place to hang out and ate ½ a LaraBar (fruit and nuts) on the way. Still not my ideal nutrition but at least there were more than 2 food groups included and again, better than not eating.
Sunday Second Lunch: Vegetable chili and meat chili and a roll and some shredded cheese and chips made by our friends (and some Halloween candy).
Sunday Dinner:Leftover pot roast with hot sauce – I didn’t love this pot roast, but it provided sustenance.
Sunday Dessert: Microwave brownie with peanut butter and milk. The peanut butter adds some protein and the milk some calcium, but mostly it’s just a winning combination. How can you go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter?
1) Evidence-based. I try and make my day look like USDA’s MyPlate. Obviously not each meal (and sometimes not each day) looks like these portions, but that’s my overall goal for the day. Protein and fruit or veggie with each meal, and multiple calcium-rich servings/day – keep in mind these are the things I’m focusing on. What you focus on may be different which leads me to…
2) Each person has unique needs/goals/preferences. I know for me it’s important that I eat at regular intervals through the day or I can’t think straight. Thus why for me a mini chocolate donut is better than no breakfast.
3) Life and meals don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re affected by your family’s preferences (that’s why we eat dessert more often – I’m married to my husband), friend outings, waking up late, or forgetting the meal you planned.
4) Do-able and practical is better than perfect! It’s why I have Lara Bars and boxed mac and cheese – because having convenient healthy-ish fast meals and snacks can make it easier to eat a meal or snack at home, rather than going out, or eat a healthy snack at all. It’s also why I had leftover pot roast with hot sauce on Sunday because even though it wasn’t my favorite, it’s still fuel.
5) What I eat doesn’t determine if I’m a good person. If Sunday’s nutrition was not “ideal”, it provided me with calories and nutrients to go through my day, and Monday is another day.
Please note, this is a description, not a prescription. See #2: every person has unique nutrition needs and goals, so what you need and what works for you might be different 🙂
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