Getting fresh produce and lean meats can be especially tough during these times. Heck, getting any groceries is tough during these times!
So, how does one make sure they get all the nutrients they need? How does one get enough protein?
Before we tackle that, why is protein so important in the first place? Every cell in the human body contains protein. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is the building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin.
In fact, your hair and nails are comprised mostly of protein. Red blood cells also contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout your body helping supply your entire body with the nutrients it needs. Also, about half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aids in digesting food.
That’s just scratching the surface. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Eating enough protein is extremely important. But, it’s easier said than done. Fresh meat is hard to come by for many these days as we all battle through this coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, meat is not the only source of protein.
From sardines to tuna and salmon, canned seafood is an excellent source of protein. If you’re not able to have any fresh meats, I’d definitely reach for canned fish before any other alternatives. They give you as much heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids as fresh fish, and sometimes more, specifically when it comes to salmon—my fave!
Whenever possible, choose fish packed in water. Since water and oil don’t mix, omega-3 fats remain locked in the fish. When fish is packed in oil, some of the omega-3 fats mix with the packing oil. So you lose some of the omega-3 when the oil is drained.
Also, I would limit eating this to twice a week if possible. Similar to fresh fish, canned fish can also contain mercury, so it is recommended to not have fish every day.
When I’m out of chicken, or a little lazy to cook, I would flake canned tuna or salmon and add it on top of a salad or even have it on toast or with rice. With this in mind, I always keep a few cans ready in my pantry.
NUTS AND SEEDS
This is the easiest options for protein nowadays since it’s non-perishable, yet packed with other nutrients in addition to protein. Almonds, cashews, and pistachios, for example, all contain five or six grams of protein per ounce, and they make for a darn tasty snack!
My current favorite are raw almonds. Aside from the protein and healthy fats, almonds are also rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, among others. I would just steer clear from the versions with lots of added ingredients such as salt and sugar. Raw is definitely the way to go.
On the seed side, I prefer quinoa the most. Quinoa—which is often mistaken as a grain—is a unique seed in that it contains more than eight grams of protein per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair but cannot produce on its own. Replace your rice with that, and you’ll have a healthy source of both protein and carbs.
BEANS AND LEGUMES
Beans and legumes are not only fiber-rich and nutrient-dense, but they are also an excellent source of protein. Half a cup of cooked beans provides about seven grams of protein, about the same as one ounce of meat. They also come with lots of bonuses, like fiber, folate, antioxidants, and vitamins.
You can find these as both dry and canned versions so it’s easier to stock up and store in times like these. Some of my top choices are lentils and chickpeas. And yes, ‘ginasaang munggo’ falls into this category, so go for it!
Surprisingly beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories, but they really shine in terms of fiber and water content—two ingredients that make you feel fuller, faster. This means that adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived. A great option if you’re looking to cut calories!
I’m a huge advocate for getting your necessary nutrients from fresh, whole foods. When I say “whole” I refer to foods in their most natural form—not processed, packaged, or with additives and preservatives. The reality is though, these protein sources are scarce at the moment, and most people do not eat enough protein in general—with or without this quarantine. I know I didn’t until I started counting my macros. That’s where supplements can help.
Protein powder supplements are an easy way to significantly boost your protein intake—or at least maintain it. One 30-gram scoop of powder can pack in anywhere between 25 to 27 grams of protein. That’s enough protein for a full meal! You can drink it for your immediate protein fix, and also cook with it to bolster the protein level of low-protein dishes like pancakes, soups, and treats like puddings or frozen popsicles.
Another big perk is the flavor options. There are so many—chocolate, vanilla, birthday cake, strawberry, peanut butter, and the list goes go on. You’ll never get bored! My favorite breakfast lately has been protein cinnamon pancakes and my favorite ‘merienda‘ is banana walnut protein muffins. These treats are both made with protein powders. Who said all baked goods are bad for you?!
It’s also very important to note that the amount of protein we need differs from person to person. Gender, age, activity, weight, body composition, and many other factors come into play when determining one’s protein intake. If you’re interested in finding out exactly how much you need, consult a nutritionist or your doctor. You can also get a general guideline by using a macronutrient calculator.
There’s an old proverb that says “necessity is the mother of invention,” which essentially means a need or problem encourages creative efforts in order to meet that need or solve the problem at hand. Getting an adequate amount of protein is not impossible during this quarantine. You may just have to be a little creative!
If you have more questions about ways to incorporate protein in your diet or if you have a fitness or nutrition topic you’d be interested in reading about, you’re welcome to message me over Instagram (@lahainamae).