I hope you all had a great first week of National Nutrition Month! Last week we discussed
increasing your fruits and vegetables. As a reminder, they are nutrient-rich foods and provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. They tend to be lower in calories and higher is fiber, which is why your half of your plate should contain them. Now, what goes on the other half of your plate? You should have 1/4 protein and the other 1/4 a starch. The image to the left is an excellent example of how your plate should look. This will help to ensure you are getting enough carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Most American's eat much more protein than that the recommend amount. The amount of protein that a person needs differs from person to person. The size of a person, their age, activity level, and comorbidities help to determine this amount. However, by eating a balanced diet it should provide you with an adequate amount of protein. If this is something you are concerned about you many want to talk to a Registered Dietitian (me!) to make sure you are providing your body with enough protein. To ensure adequate protein you want to make sure you are eating a serving of protein at every meal. A serving size of protein is 3 oz or this size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards! Typically, 1 serving of protein (3 oz) will provide you with around 21 g of protein. Your body can not process much more protein than that in 1 sitting, so any additional protein consumed will be urinated out. Additionally, depending on the meat you are consuming, you will only be providing your body with saturated (unhealthy) fat.
Speaking of saturated fat, this is an area that you can "put your best fork forward!" Saturated fat causes your LDL (bad) cholesterol to rise and puts you at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke. It is found naturally in many meat and dairy products. When choosing beef choose cuts that are lean or contain less fat. The best option when choosing ground beef would be to choose ground turkey- this is much lower in saturated fat! When choosing poultry, consume white meat over dark and remove the skin! The skin contains additional fat, which is not needed in our already high fat, American diet.
If you are looking to reduce the fat in your diet even more and make healthier changes for yourself and the environment you many wait to look into meatless, protein options! Plant-based veggies contain amino acids, which mean they contain protein. The body makes some of these amino acids, however the ones they do not are called essential amino acids and they must be consumed through foods. No, this does not mean you need to eat rice and beans for every meal! Research has found you do not need to consume a complete protein (a food that contains all 9 essential
amino acids) at one sitting, as long as you consume them all within one day. What does this exactly mean? If you are eating meat, poultry, fish, or soy you are consuming all of the essential amino acids. If you are not eating any of those then it is important that you eat a variety of foods. Adding legumes to your diet and having them a few times per day is an easy way to ensure you are getting all of the amino acids. Legumes contain lysine, which most other foods are lower in and legumes are lower in methionine, which are found in most other plant foods. Therefore, by adding legumes to your plant based meals will give you a complete protein!
I hope this didn't confuse you even more. Take home: 1/4 of your plate should be a low-fat protein source. This could be a meat, poultry, or fish option or a plant-based source. If you consume only plant-based source you want to make sure you have variety in your diet to get all of the essential amino acids!
Do any of you eat a plant-based diet? What are some of your favorite recipes? I am a pescatarian, and I am always looking for new plant-based recipes to try out! Next week we will finish the plate, and dive into grains!