The Truth About “High Protein” Foods
Question: What foods besides eggs, peanut butter, chicken, lima beans are high in protein?
Answer: There’s a difference between foods that have protein IN it and foods that are considered HIGH protein. As a rule of thumb, I don’t consider a food high in protein unless it is getting the majority of calories from protein.
Eat More Protein
The above question was a real question someone asked me that made me want to write this blog. And, I continue to get similar questions. For instance, just this week I was talking to a new client recently about diet. She started telling me what she was eating on her new diet, starting with eggs and a side of toast with peanut butter on it. She was under the assumption she was eating a high protein diet with her morning eggs and peanut butter. Little did she know, she had accumulated a lot more fat than protein in (nearly 50gms and 400 calories worth) before she even started lunch.
This is a popular mistake. People know they should be eating protein but, sadly, they often are relying on random articles, facebook posts or marketing ploys to decide what to eat.
It is common to see a magazine highlight one good feature about a food but leave out the rest of the story. And, popular brands also confuse the public by putting “high protein” on packages if it has a little more protein than it used to, or more protein than a competitor. But, that doesn’t mean it is a high-protein food. I can’t tell you how many grocery store items I have seen at the store that boasted high protein on the front label but had barely any protein at all on the label that really counts (the nutrition label). And, like many whole foods (like eggs, nuts, etc), there are many foods that have protein in it but it shouldn’t be considered a “high-protein” source.
What is High-Protein?
A high protein food is a food that gets the majority of its nutrients and calories from protein alone. Egg whites a lone would be considered high in protein but as soon as you add the yolk, it throughs the ratios off because the majority of the calories in a whole egg are now coming from fat in the yolk.
Breaking It Down
One of the easiest ways to demonstrate this is to show you pie graphs for each popular “high-protein” food. There are approximately 4 calories in one gram of protein, 4 calories in one gram of a carbohydrate and 9 calories in a gram of fat. Below are graphs of common protein sources so you can visually see the breakdown of substrates for each food. Now, let’s see how some of these “high-protein” foods weigh in using the Lose It! app’s pie graphs.
First on your list were eggs. Two whole eggs are 154 calories with 10.6gms of fat, 1.1gms of carbs and 12.5gms of protein. If you are looking at grams of protein vs. grams of fat, it appears eggs have more protein than fat – but look a little closer. If fat has 9 calories per gram and protein has only 4 calories per gram, this means 95.4 calories come from fat and only 50 calories come from protein. The easy way to boost protein in your favorite egg dish and to reduce the number of yolks you eat, if you decide to eat them at all.
If you take out the yolk, it’s a totally different ball game, changing the profile to 92% of the calories coming from protein and only 3% of the calories from fat. If you throw out one yolk, you can reduce fat calories and still get the yolk’s nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids.
The next food I mentioned was peanut butter. Although peanut butter does have protein in it, you’ll want to go light on this condiment after seeing how it breaks down. 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter has 188 calories, A WHOPPING 16.1gms of fat, only 8gms of protein and 6.3gms of carbs. This means 72% of the calories come from FAT and only 15% of the calories from protein, with the remaining 14% of calories coming from carbs. As you can see, this is one fatty, high calorie food you’ll want to use sparingly – not to mention the extra sugar packed in most of the name brand nut butters.
Next up is chicken. 4 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast is the winner on your list with 183 calories, 34.5gms of protein, 4gms of fat, and 0gms of carbs. Now this is a protein source – with a whopping 80% of the calories coming from protein. Ding! Ding! Winner Winner Chicken DInner!
Lastly, let’s look at beans. For instance, a half a cup of cooked limas has 110 calories, 17.4gms of carbs & only 5.7gms of protein. With 65% of the calories coming from carbohydrates, and only 18% from protein, I would consider this a carbohydrate more than a protein. (and I LOVE me some lima beans!)
While there are plenty of foods with protein in them, meat proves to be the best choice. Other great sources include seafood, cottage cheese, edamame (soybeans), greek yogurt and tofu. Look at the graphs below to see how your favorite food adds up.
Recommended Protein Intake:
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends athletes (and people who are actively working out, strength training, etc) get 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight. So, if I want to be 140lbs, I would aim for 140 grams of protein a day. Do you know how many grams of protein you get a day? Download the LoseIt app and start tracking now!
Since I’m not a big meat eater, I have to supplement to get the protein my body needs. I personally love the undenatured whey protein products from Isagenix, for the highest quality of healthy protein.
My Favorite High-Protein Breakfast:
Strawberry IsaLean Shake
Sooooo yummy and refreshing after a hot morning run!
Chicken, beef, eggs, peanut butter and whey – that’s all I need! Oh and some turkey once Thanksgiving rolls around 🙂