I hope that you all did last month’s Eat the Rainbow Challenge (#eattherainbow), and incorporated lots of fruits and veggie with a variety of colors into your diet. This month, our focus is protein!


Protein is a pretty hot-’n-trendy nutrient, and while some protein trends will come and go, one thing that will stay is the fact that we need adequate protein to build and maintain muscle, for appetite control, and so much more. You may have heard that protein is the building block for your body, and it’s true—we need it for muscles, tissue, bones, hormones, and enzymes, just to name a few.


When it comes to protein, you’ll probably hear differing opinions. Some people think Americans get too much protein, while others think American’s aren’t getting enough. I, personally, fall in between, and think it depends. I’ve worked with clients that will eat predominantly carbs—like a granola bar and coffee for breakfast, apple for a snack, a few slices of cheese pizza or maybe some leftover pasta for lunch, chips and salsa for a snack, and some soda throughout the day, which adds up to about 35 grams of protein. Then, they get to dinner and have a 12-ounce steak, baked potato, and broccoli, with a glass of milk, which is a whopping 94 grams of protein. The entire food for the day comes to about 2,300 calories, so about 23% of their calories are coming from protein. For many people, this would be adequate. The problem, though, isn’t the total protein, it’s that they aren’t getting enough protein throughout the day. Studies show that we should to spread out our protein intake throughout the day for the most benefits. So these clients’ days should look more like this:


Example 1 Example 2
BREAKFAST Greek yogurt, granola, fresh fruit (22g) 2 eggs, slice of whole wheat bread, orange, 8 ounces of milk (26g)
SNACK 1 ounce cashews and string cheese (12g) Apple and 2 tablespoons peanut butter (7g)
LUNCH Peanut Chicken Salad (40g) Turkey Sandwich, cucumber sticks, and hummus (29g)
SNACK ½ cup edamame beans, ½ cup grapes, and 3 ounces baby carrots (14g) Fat-free cottage cheese and 1 pear (16g)
DINNER Steak Fajita Quinoa Bowl (37g) Balsamic Chicken and Veggies (43g)
TOTAL CALORIES 1,965 1,930


In these example meals, you can see how the protein intake is spread throughout the day. Remember that your individual protein needs are going to vary, based on your body, your exercise level and type, and your goals. For example, a 25-year-old bodybuilder and a 60 year-old-speed walker will have different protein needs, but both would benefit from at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast. Breakfast is where I most often see protein lacking, and studies show that breakfast protein is important for muscle maintenance and gain, as well as for appetite control. So this month, take the challenge to get at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast (30 grams if you don’t snack throughout the day). For high-protein breakfast ideas, check out our breakfast recipes, and stay tuned for more upcoming recipes that feature Easter eggs, and—you guessed it—more protein!


We want to see your ideas, so be sure to share how you’re completing this challenge on social media with #20gbreakfast and #ifitnutritionchat. Just give it a month, and see the difference protein in the morning can make in your fitness journey!

Megan Ostler MS, RDN
iFit Dietitian