15 February 2010

Action Item: Chart My Protein

Last Friday, I set myself a to-do item for the weekend. To get an accurate handle on how much protein I was really eating -- and how much I was lacking -- I knew I needed to look at the numbers. So I put an action item on my calendar to consult a protein chart, print it out, and see what foods have the most wallop for my calories/fat/cholesterol/conscience.

I found a couple charts, and, using my J-school fact-checking skills, cross-checked them to make sure they were in sync. Then came out the big guns: Excel, and math.

I listed all the meals I've eaten in the last week -- noting both what I ate pre Dr M visit as well as post.

I inserted a column for the foods I ate, another to track whether said meals contained meats, and a column for notes. Today I stuck in another column to track protein, in grams.

I've spent the last hour calculating approximate values of my meals, then aggregating them for a daily total.

Before we get to the bottom line, here's a fun fact from my analysis: a 4-ounce serving of either cashews or almonds have nearly as much protein as 3 ounces of red meat. True, that means I’d have to eat ½ cup of nuts -- much more than the 'palm-sized' scoop that is supposed to be the appropriate serving per person. But it would be delicious going down...

And so, the numbers. Though I knew I was deficient (based on blood work), the results of the rough-analysis startled me. And embarrassed. I used to be such a good vegetarian, contemplating and balancing my proteins, matching beans with rice and eating heaps of lentils...

If the recommended daily allowance of protein is in the 55-60g range, I'm getting roughly half that. On an average meatless day, I intake approximately 35g protein. On meat (read: fish) days -- which happen only about twice a week, on Friday or Saturday when we dine out, and on Monday when we grocery-shop -- I get closer to the mark, with about 55-57 g.

That means, on most days, I'm at least 25g shy of the recommended dose -- the equivalent of 3.5 servings of black beans; 3 veggie breakfast sausages; 2 servings of cottage cheese; or 1 silly serving of meat.

One serving. That seems manageable.

According to these numbers, I wouldn't even have to eat "meat" meat -- if I add one extra dose of fish per day, or even one of those delicious Field Roast apple-sage sausage links (packing a whopping 26g per), I'd be set.

So I'll try integrating high-protein foods into my normal repertoire -- like sprinkling nuts on salads, and even trying cottage cheese in unexpected places (like fajitas tonight; or, on a weekend brunch, in pancakes -- ala the "cloud cakes" at Endolyne Joe's.)

I am up for the challenge and am looking forward to seeing the results.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, it's been way too long since I stopped by here...note to self to do so more often! :) Totally interesting journey you're beginning and it's one I can certainly relate to. Growing up vegan macrobiotic until I tried chicken for the first time (in Ireland of all places) at 22, I know it's a tough decision.

    The only thing I'd consider in this protein discussion is soy...there's so much out there right now about the dangers and benefits of soy, and it's easy to overdose on it by eating anything prepared...and it's hard to control for non-GMO varieties. Oooh, I'm looking forward to reading more...