September 1, 2023

Pack Your Plate with the Power of Protein



Are you trying to use nutrition to increase the health and balance of your lifestyle? Then you have probably heard or seen the word “protein” buzzing around your research of the best nutrition practices. Many trending media platforms give the impression that the more protein you eat, the stronger and healthier you will be, and that protein supplements like protein powders or shakes are the only way to get enough protein into your meals and snacks. With so many conflicting recommendations out there, how can you know what is the healthiest option for you? In this article, we will discuss evidence- based recommendations to help you recognize the power of protein, learn how much you need, and answer a few of your most pressing questions about it. Get ready, because you might just come away with a better understanding of how to fit protein into your diet while still respecting your lifestyle and nutrition preferences – without going overboard!

What is Protein?

Protein is made up of something called amino acids. Amino acids are essential to maintaining several bodily functions. The building blocks of muscle and other tissues throughout your body are made up of 20 different amino acids. Protein is used in the production of hormones and enzymes, and as energy if needed. Protein gives your body the power to move and grow in the way it needs to.

How Much Do I Need?

The amount of protein that you need to eat in a day depends on several factors, such as weight and lifestyle variations. It is recommended that the average adult eats 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight.  

The Equation

Weight in pounds/2.2 kilograms per pound = Weight in kilograms
Weight in kilograms X 0.8 grams of protein = Recommended grams of protein in one day

Try it Out!

Tai Chi

Addi is 160 lbs. and is working on developing a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

How much protein should she eat on an average day?

160 pounds/2.2 kg per pound = 72 kg

72 kg X 0.8 g protein = 57 g protein

Addi can eat 1 egg on whole grain toast with breakfast, green salad with mixed vegetables and cottage cheese on the side with lunch, and shredded chicken in a burrito for dinner to reach 57 grams of protein in a day.

Those who choose to live a very active lifestyle may benefit from increasing their protein intake above the general recommendation. If a woman is pregnant, or breastfeeding, they should also increase their protein intake. Certain medical conditions may be causes for increasing or decreasing your protein intake as well. If you think this may apply to you, please seek the advice of a registered dietitian.

Where can I find Protein?  

Protein can be obtained from two places - animal and plant sources. Do you remember the phrase amino acids from earlier? Let’s dive a little deeper into them. Animal sources of protein contain all 20 amino acids that our bodies need for optimal function, while plant sources are missing several of those building blocks. For this reason, it is recommended by MyPlate ( to vary the sources you choose to rely on for the protein in your diet, especially if you are choosing to follow a plant-based diet. If you consume protein from several different plant sources, you will likely manage to get all 20 amino acids into your diet throughout an average day.

Animal Sources: Animal sources are the most common sources of protein, with 69% of the average person’s protein intake coming from meat, eggs, and dairy products. While these protein sources do contain all amino acids, it is still important to include plant proteins in your diet so you don’t miss out on important vitamins and nutrients that are only found in plants.

Plant Sources: While less common than animal sources of protein, you can fulfill your protein needs while consuming protein only from plant sources. Plants and plant-based foods that are rich in protein include beans, lentils, and chickpeas, soy products such as tofu or tempeh, whole grains, nuts and seeds, hummus, and edamame. These foods also provide other important nutrients and can pair well with animal sources of protein to round out a nutritious and balanced diet.

Protein supplements: Supplements come most often in the form of powders and shakes and are also a popular option to increase the protein in a person’s diet. These supplements can be made from plant or animal sources. Some popular examples are whey, casein, and soy. Shakes are a very convenient way to get protein into your diet and can be more appealing than real food sources for this reason. The protein supplement industry often paints the picture that for your diet to be complete, you must have protein coming from a supplement. Let’s debunk this myth!

The Truth Comes Out

Although there is a large market for protein supplements, most American adults get more than enough protein from the foods they are eating. The average daily intake of protein is 80 grams per day, which is 24-34 grams above the recommended daily intake for most men and women, respectively. Your body is likely using the protein you are feeding it from real food to work as effectively and efficiently as it needs to be without adding any extra protein from a supplement!

There are several potential dangers that may come with using protein supplements as a main protein source in your diet:

  1. Protein supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means they could contain ingredients that are not listed on the packaging that could be harmful to the consumer.
  2. Protein supplements often contain limited amounts of important vitamins and minerals that are found naturally in plants and animals.
  3. Another major drawback is that protein powders can be very expensive. If you buy Amazon’s #1 best-selling protein powder for just over $35, you are paying $1.25 for a single serving of protein. To put this into perspective, you can buy a bag of black beans and get the same amount of protein for $0.54 – less than half what you are paying for a serving of protein power!

It is also interesting to note that protein supplements are not included in the MyPlate recommendations of the most ideal sources of protein.

If you are concerned about getting enough protein in your diet, here are some ways that you can increase your protein intake without adding a supplement to your grocery list.

Easy Trades to Increase Protein

Common Food

Protein Rich Substitute

Yogurt/Sour Cream/Mayonnaise

Greek yogurt




Chickpea pasta

Salad dressings

Cottage cheese



Cream cheese




White bread/tortilla

Wholegrain bread/tortilla


Protein Rich Meals

  • Rice/Grilled Chicken/Side salad with beans or boiled egg
  • Burrito (with or without meat) with beans, corn, avocado, and other veggies
  • Fried rice with scrambled eggs and chopped ham
  • Oatmeal with peanut butter/banana/milk
  • Wrap on wholegrain tortilla with sliced turkey, hummus, and vegetables

Your Turn!

Now that you have a few more facts in your toolbelt, you are ready to find healthy protein options for your diet that will add power to your life! Adequate protein intake is important to support the normal functions of your body and there are so many healthy options to meet your needs. Mix things up, try something new, and enjoy the process of maximizing your health through the power of protein!


Ross, A. C., Taylor, C. L., Yaktine, A. L., & Valle, H. B. D. (2011). - Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D - NCBI Bookshelf [Text]. National Academies Press (US).

Hoffman, J. R., & Falvo, M. J. (2004). Protein—Which is Best? Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 3(3), 118–130.

Protein Foods | MyPlate. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2023, from

Shoshan, T., & Post, E. (2021). Prevalence of Protein and Pre-Workout Supplement Use among High School Football Players and Potential Product Contamination. Global Pediatric Health, 8, 2333794X2110312.

Zhubi-Bakija, F., Bajraktari, G., Bytyçi, I., Mikhailidis, D. P., Henein, M. Y., Latkovskis, G., Rexhaj, Z., Zhubi, E., Banach, M., Alnouri, F., Amar, F., Atanasov, A. G., Bajraktari, G., Banach, M., Bartlomiejczyk, M. A., Bjelakovic, B., Bruckert, E., Cafferata, A., Ceska, R., … Zirlik, A. (2021). The impact of type of dietary protein, animal versus vegetable, in modifying cardiometabolic risk factors: A position paper from the International Lipid Expert Panel (ILEP). Clinical Nutrition, 40(1), 255–276.


Paytin Durbin, Dietetics Student

Lea Palmer, MPH RDN LD