Whether your goal is to tone up that summer beach body or simply prevent muscle loss later in life, spreading out your protein intake throughout the day is just as important as the amount you consume. Most Americans (~95%) consume the current recommended levels of protein, but those intakes are skewed heavily toward dinner.
Dinnertime doesn’t have to be the only time for protein. Here are some healthy foods high in protein suitable for breakfast or lunch (amounts are for one cup or three ounces of meat or fish, except as noted):
- Cottage cheese (low fat) – 28 g
- Chicken breast (roasted) – 27 g
- White meat turkey (roasted) – 25 g
- Tuna (light, canned in water) – 22 g
- Lentils – 18 g
- Greek yogurt (6 ounces, nonfat) – 17 g
- Peanut butter (2 Tbsp.) – 9 g
- Milk (low fat) – 8 g
- Egg (1 whole) – 6 g
Healthy Adults: National and international dietary guidelines recommend that women need ~46 g of protein per day and men need ~56 g per day.
Older Adults: A recent study found that consuming protein throughout the day greatly improved lean body tissue in older adults over a 24-week period. Getting 25-30 grams of protein per meal throughout the day is a good dietary strategy to help maintain muscle mass and function. Gradual loss of lean muscle mass in older adults that occurs with aging can lead to sarcopenia.
Active Individuals and Athletes: Whether running cross-country, lifting weights, swimming sprints, or playing tennis, active individuals expend more energy than the average individual, and therefore their bodies need additional nutrients to recover from intense physical activity. Studies have consistently demonstrated benefits of protein intake post-exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends intakes of 66-94 g daily for endurance athletes (e.g., runners) and 84-119 g daily for power athletes (e.g., weight lifters).
Milk (whey and casein), egg white (albumin) and soy proteins are considered to be the highest quality proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids.