A healthy and balanced diet is necessary to maintain your health. In fact, the majority of people eat enough lipids (fats) and carbohydrates (sugars, starch and fibre) at each meal. However, the distribution of proteins is often not optimal. Here’s an overview of their importance in your diet, followed by some tips to better include them in your daily life.
What are proteins used for?
Proteins are comprised of essential and non-essential amino acids. Along with carbohydrates and lipids, they are macronutrients that provide important vital functions in your body. They make up the muscles and provide all the materials necessary for the growth of children and adolescents. Protein also helps repair tissue after injury and is involved in the immune defense, protecting you against many diseases.
Moreover, unlike non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids are little or not synthesized by the body. They must therefore be present in your diet. To meet your protein needs, eat foods that are rich in protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, dairy products, legumes, soy, nuts and seeds, during every meal of the day.
Distribute protein well throughout the day
Most people get enough protein. The problem, however, lies in its distribution during the day, since people eat more at supper rather than at breakfast. In fact, the latter is often composed of sugar-rich foods, such as cereals, jams and fruit juices, leaving little room for protein. These also have significant benefits in terms of energy in addition to influencing food intake during the day.
How to increase protein intake at breakfast
Several options are available depending on the time you have and your personal tastes. First of all, dairy products are a good source of protein. Their protein content varies a lot from food to food. For example, 175 ml of regular yogurt, Greek yogurt and Skyr Icelandic-style yogurt provide 9 g, 17 g and 21 g of protein, respectively. In order to reach the recommendations, consider adding other sources of protein to your yogurt depending on the product chosen and the amount consumed. Milk and soy drinks also contain a good number of proteins and blend in very well with your smoothie, oatmeal or your bowl of latte.
Another interesting and easy food to incorporate into breakfast is undoubtedly the egg, which contains 6g of protein per unit. Besides, since you’re always in a hurry in the morning...did you know eggs can be cooked in the microwave? It's fast and nutritious! Don't forget the hard-boiled egg too! It can be a good choice and will keep for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. Pasteurized egg whites can also be added to your smoothies or scrambled eggs to increase their protein content (around 3g of protein per 30ml of egg whites).
In addition, nuts are excellent sources of protein, especially since they are easily added to many types of breakfast, such as smoothie bowls, cold or hot oatmeal, and toast (with a nut butter). They provide around 6g of protein per 60ml serving and can be eaten just as they are.
Finally, in the absence of high protein foods, you may lean towards a powdered option. Some are whey-based (contained in milk) and other formulas can also be obtained from a mixture of vegetable products (pea protein and rice protein, for example). This is also the case with VEGA One proteins that you will find at Familiprix. These provide 20g of protein per 46g serving of powder. They’re easy to add to smoothie, muffin and pancake recipes.
Look for products with a short list of ingredients and avoid powders sweetened with sweeteners. The Pure Protein 100% whey powder available at Familiprix is a good choice, as it’s prepared from a whey protein concentrate and provides 25g of protein for each 39g scoop.
High protein meal replacements: what to watch for
Complete meal plans that are high in protein, like you find in some energy drinks and bars, can be good options if properly chosen. In fact, properly analyze the nutritional label and the product’s ingredients. Check for the protein content, the amount of calories, then the presence of sweeteners ("false sugars"), carbohydrates and lipids. A product may contain enough protein (around 25g), but be low in carbohydrates. Moreover, this type of product often contains a large amount of sweeteners to provide a sweet taste, but thereby lowering calories. The product is then not sufficiently supportive and complete enough to replace a meal.
If you opt for these substitutes because of their benefits, you can still supplement them with a serving of fresh fruit, a whole wheat grain product, a bowl of latte or a piece of low-fat cheese. So, when you buy this type of product, you’ll only have to follow these criteria in order to enjoy a nutritious and balanced breakfast!
Finally, make sure that you eat protein at all meals. It should be the first thing to think about when preparing your meals!
Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier
Blom, WA, Lluch, A., Stafleu, A., Vinoy, S., Holst, JJ, Schaafsma, G., & Hendriks, HF (2006). Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83 (2), 211-220.