Though most of us do just fine meeting our needs, sometimes it can be a challenge to work protein in consistently throughout the day. I find that many of my clients who complain of feeling hungry are falling a little short of their goal or having most of their protein at one meal rather than spreading it out throughout the day. This also comes up when someone is transitioning to a plant-based diet that involves less of the animal proteins they’re used to.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for most healthy adults. For a 150-pound person, that’s about 55 to 68 grams of protein per day. Vegetarians should aim for the higher end of that range, since they may need slightly more grams of protein coming from different plant sources to cover their bases for all the essential amino acids we need, since most plant foods contain only a few, whereas animal proteins contain all nine. Things like activity level, age, and certain medical conditions or medications can affect our needs. People who are very active, for example, may need more. During pregnancy and lactation or when healing from surgery or an injury, needs also increase.
While we’re talking protein, can we please kill the myth that avocados are a good source? I have no idea where it started, but it confuses the heck out of people. Yes, avocados contain protein, but only about 1 gram per serving. Ideally, you want to aim for at least 15 grams per meal—that would take a lot of avocado!
The good news is that adding protein throughout the day can make it easy to meet your needs. Make protein powder, bars, and fortified foods your last resorts instead of staples, and instead, try these easy real-food approaches to up your protein intake: