All About Protein
Is one of your goals this year to eat healthier or focus on better balancing your diet? Identifying and choosing quality sources of protein can be a helpful start. Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet, together with grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Proteins function as the building blocks for our bones, muscles, tissue, skin, and blood and provide essential calories, which the body uses for energy, together with carbohydrates and fat. It also provides our bodies with vitamins and minerals (based on the type of protein) that help the body release energy and assist with important systems within the body such as the immune and nervous systems.
Most Americans already eat enough protein according to USDA guidelines, but the specific dietary requirements vary according to age, sex, and level of physical activity. A general rule of thumb is 5 to 7 ounce-equivalents per day, which equates to about 50 grams of protein. It is recommended that these come from a variety of sources, both plant and animal, including seafood.
Protein Power Snacks
When most people think of protein, the first thing that comes to mind is meat—whether beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc. These sources are definitely important to the protein food group; they provide essential nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, heme-iron, and zinc. However, make sure to include plant sources in your daily protein allowance too. Beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and processed soy products provide their own special benefits as well, such as the fiber and healthy fats found in nuts, for example.
Keep in mind that animal sources of protein can be high in things like fat, cholesterol, or sodium, while plant sources (like nuts) can be high in calories. Try to look for “lean” sources of protein, vary your protein routine, and always be sure to pay attention to food labels and serving sizes.
Don’t forget grains as a source of protein either! According to the Grain Foods Foundation, they are “on par with other nutrient dense foods [and] offer a very close amount of protein compared to milk and dairy.” Take Martin’s Potato Bread, for example: a single serving (1 slice) offers 4 grams of protein.
Snacking is a great way to incorporate some healthy sources of protein into your routine throughout your day and keep your energy levels up.
Here are some examples of great high-protein snacks:
- A handful of nuts such as almonds, pistachios, peanuts, or cashews
- Nut butter on toast (preferably toast made with Martin’s bread)
- Low-sodium turkey with low-fat cheese
- Seeds like pumpkin, flax, sunflower, chia, or sesame seeds
- Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
- Chicken or tuna salad
- Legumes such as lentils, soybeans, kidney beans, or chickpeas
- A hard-boiled egg
Try adding these yummy, protein-boosting snacks to your daily meal plan:
Peanut Butter Pockets
Peanut butter is a great protein booster. This much-loved ingredient provides about 8 grams of protein per serving, along with 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates, and numerous beneficial vitamins and minerals. This nutritional profile makes peanut butter a tasty and convenient source of energy and heart-healthy nutrients (in small quantities), particularly when combined with a relatively healthy diet and exercise routine.
These protein bites use the power of peanut butter as the basis for a yummy, snackable meal. By simply enclosing a dollop of peanut butter inside crustless half-slices of Martin’s Potato Bread, you have a quick and easy snack for those times when you’re in need of an on-the-go energy boost or a convenient quick bite such as before or after a workout.
The great part about these Peanut Butter Pockets is you can make a batch in advance and store them in the freezer for quick and easy prep. They make a great alternative to often sugar-laden protein bars and granolas. They are also customizable—in addition to the peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter), try mixing in other ingredients such as protein powder, chia, flax, or sunflower seeds, oats, chopped nuts, or dried fruit!
Turkey & Cheese Roll Ups
Did you know you can use sliced bread in place of tortillas to make deli-style meat and cheese roll-ups? For these Turkey and Swiss Sandwich Roll-ups, we cut the crust off eight slices of Martin’s Old-Fashioned Real Butter Bread, layered them in a two-by-four grid so the edges were slightly overlapping, then rolled them thin using a rolling pin to create a “wrap.” We added deli-style turkey and swiss cheese, both of which are great sources of lean protein. Add some veggies like lettuce and tomato, and these roll-ups make a healthy, protein-filled power snack!
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