How Do Nutritionists Help Clients Balance their Protein Sources?

    How do you help clients balance their protein sources and can you share a specific example?

    Navigating the protein puzzle can be complex, so we've gathered insights from registered dietitians and nutritionists to share their wisdom. From diversifying protein with Meatless Mondays to incorporating anti-inflammatory protein choices, explore the eight strategies our experts recommend for balancing protein sources effectively.

    • Diversify Protein with Meatless Mondays
    • Learn Protein Content Guidelines
    • Combine Plant and Animal Proteins
    • Offer Personalized Protein Recommendations
    • Adjust Proteins for Digestive Health
    • Mindful Balancing of Protein Sources
    • Set Specific Protein Goals
    • Incorporate Anti-Inflammatory Protein Choices

    Diversify Protein with Meatless Mondays

    I encourage clients to eat a variety of different protein sources, both plant-based and animal sources. Many animal sources of protein are higher in saturated fat, like beef, pork, and full-fat dairy. Varying sources of protein can help meet protein requirements while limiting saturated fat intake.

    Animal sources of protein, including lean meats (chicken breast, turkey), fish, eggs, and dairy, are complete sources of protein that provide all essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. Plant-based sources of protein often provide fiber along with protein and are relatively low in saturated fat.

    Implementing a 'Meatless Monday' meal each week is a good example of how to vary protein sources. One idea is a leafy green salad with chickpeas, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds. Another idea for varying protein sources is a turkey chili with kidney beans.

    Victoria Whittington
    Victoria WhittingtonRegistered Dietitian, Victoria Whittington Nutrition

    Learn Protein Content Guidelines

    Protein intake is a constant struggle for clients, especially because knowing how much protein is in food is not necessarily intuitive. I generally recommend eating about 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal so that you are hitting at least 75 grams per day minimum. Rather than having clients weigh and measure foods, I encourage them to learn general guidelines.

    1. An egg is equal to 6 grams of protein, so they'll need to eat at least two or three at a meal, depending on what else is in it, to get a good foundation.

    2. Collagen can be a protein boost since it can be added to anything, including tea, coffee, protein shakes, or yogurt. Serving sizes usually range from 10 to 15 grams. I add one scoop to my morning mocha!

    3. Cottage cheese is a simple, protein-packed option that blends great with eggs. One-half cup is equal to about 14 grams. It's also a low-histamine protein source, which can be used in a protein shake in lieu of protein powder.

    4. One quarter-pound burger is about 20 grams of protein.

    I also generally recommend eating a protein-packed breakfast rather than waiting until later meals to play catch-up. And some find it better to set the tone of their day with a more savory breakfast rather than a sweet meal, so they aren't craving sugar all day.

    Jennifer  Fugo
    Jennifer FugoClinical Nutritionist, Chronic Skin Rash Expert, Host of the Healthy Skin Show, The Healthy Skin Show

    Combine Plant and Animal Proteins

    To ensure a balanced intake of protein, include a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet. Combine both plant- and animal-based protein sources, recognizing their varying iron content. Animal products like poultry, fish, eggs, and cheese contain heme iron, a valuable dietary source. Opt for lean animal-based proteins such as chicken, turkey, and fish to minimize fat intake and promote heart health.

    Additionally, incorporate plant-based options such as legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and leafy greens for non-heme iron. Pairing these with vitamin C-rich foods enhances iron absorption from plant sources. This approach is particularly beneficial for individuals on a vegetarian or vegan diet, incorporating items like beans, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and plant-based dairy alternatives like soy milk.

    Lisa Young
    Lisa YoungNutritionist and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, Dr. Lisa Young Nutrition

    Offer Personalized Protein Recommendations

    I help clients balance their protein sources by offering personalized recommendations aligned with their individual health goals and dietary preferences.

    For example, if a client is looking to increase their protein intake while minimizing animal products, I might suggest incorporating a variety of plant-based options, such as tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, and lentils, to name a few.

    I would educate the client about complementary protein sources to ensure they receive all the essential amino acids.

    Portion control and timing of protein intake throughout the day would be emphasized for optimal utilization by the body.

    Additionally, I might provide guidance on incorporating lean animal proteins like poultry or fish for those open to a mixed-source approach.

    Regular monitoring and adjustments to the dietary plan would be part of the ongoing support, allowing me to fine-tune recommendations based on the client's progress and feedback at their weekly check-in.

    This collaborative and individualized approach helps clients attain a well-balanced and sustainable protein intake.

    John Gaule
    John GauleNutritionist, John Gaule Nutrition

    Adjust Proteins for Digestive Health

    I start by evaluating each client's nutritional needs, considering their unique situation and health condition. My guidance includes a range of protein sources that align with their food preferences and tolerances, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and tofu.

    During IBD flare-ups, I recommend easily digestible proteins like skinless chicken breast, fish, eggs, tofu, and smooth nut and seed butters. In remission, I advocate for a wider variety of proteins, including fiber-rich beans and lentils, made gentler on the stomach by blending or cooking with kombu, if needed.

    I also instruct on meal timing and preparation methods to boost nutrient uptake and minimize digestive issues. This ensures that my clients enjoy a well-balanced diet suited to the ebbs and flows of their condition.

    Danielle Gaffen
    Danielle GaffenRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Eat Well Crohn's Colitis

    Mindful Balancing of Protein Sources

    It's super easy to balance protein sources in the diet with mindfulness and consideration. Obviously, it's a bit easier if one eats animal foods.

    Beef, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs all contain the nine essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. Whether one is a vegan or a meat-eater, it's still ideal to include plant-based foods such as beans, tofu, seaweed, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and some fruits.

    Plant foods do not always contain all nine essential amino acids, but eating a balanced diet throughout the day with variety ensures one will get adequate protein. There is also the option of protein powders. Many people find these convenient and tasty to fill in nutritional gaps.

    Kim Ross, MS, RD, CDN
    Kim Ross, MS, RD, CDNIntegrative Nutritionist, Kim Ross Nutrition

    Set Specific Protein Goals

    I help clients balance their protein intake by individually determining their daily needs based on age, weight, specific fitness goals, and medical history. Protein intake is best spread throughout the day and included with every meal or snack. Breaking down realistic and specific protein goals for these meals and snacks will help make it more manageable.

    For example, a goal of ~25-30 grams of protein at breakfast could include 1 cup of Greek yogurt (17 grams), 2 tablespoons of walnuts (4 grams), and 1 hard-boiled egg (6 grams). Balancing protein intake with both carbohydrate and healthy fat macronutrients in this way leads to lasting energy that will sustain until the next meal.

    I encourage a diverse range of protein sources, including chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef and pork, eggs, dairy, legumes, tofu, and quinoa to ensure a well-rounded nutritional approach. As always, continuous adjustments are needed to optimize protein intake and assure adequacy and balance with any meal plan.

    Beth Lewis
    Beth LewisAuthor and Dietitian, Citrus Press

    Incorporate Anti-Inflammatory Protein Choices

    In my practice, I focus on helping people with chronic pain and fatigue implement anti-inflammatory diet principles in sustainable ways. With protein sources, there are a few specific areas to look at.

    First, we want to include fatty fish regularly, ideally two to three times per week. This will give you EPA and DHA, which are powerful anti-inflammatory fats. Second, focus on reducing processed proteins, including things like pepperoni or even some of the vegan protein options.

    One great option that is severely underutilized in North America is legumes! Beans, peas, and lentils are great sources of protein, fiber, and micronutrients such as magnesium and zinc. Work on improving one meal at a time, with balance in mind, to find your path to wellness.

    Samantha Holmgren
    Samantha HolmgrenDietitian & Wellness Coach, Anti-Inflammatory Path to Wellness