Health Advice



Protein at Every Meal

Charlyn Fargo on

We hear a lot about the need for protein, but many of us may not realize the need for protein at every meal. We do a great job of getting protein at a dinner meal, but perhaps not such a good job at breakfast or with snacks.

How much do we need? A 120-pound adult would need between 45 and 70 grams of protein each day, but the key is to spread consumption out over our meals and snacks.

Our bodies can only utilize 25 to 30 grams of protein (the equivalent of about four ounces of meat or chicken) at a time to maximize muscle building and repair, according to a 2009 study by T.B. Symons on skeletal muscle protein synthesis published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Getting protein at breakfast can help curb hunger and start your metabolism. Every meal should contain a combination of protein, fats, fiber and complex carbohydrates. Not only does that support weight loss and sustained energy levels, but it also helps preserve and build muscle mass, according to a study by Madonna Mamerow on dietary protein distribution and muscle protein synthesis published in the 2014 Journal of Nutrition.

So how do you get protein at every meal? Think Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, protein powder added to smoothies or oatmeal, nuts, seeds and ancient grains such as quinoa. Rather than a giant bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee, start your day with overnight oatmeal, a peanut butter smoothie or a protein pancake. Avocado toast with a fried egg or slice of turkey sausage makes a great breakfast.

For snacks, add a piece of string cheese to your air-popped popcorn, or grab a handful of almonds. Hummus with fresh veggies can be satisfying as well. Protein helps slow our digestion of carbohydrates and helps us feel full.

And if you add consistent exercise to protein throughout the day, it can help preserve muscle mass. As we age, that's even more important. Muscle mass loss begins as early as age 30, and after age 50, it occurs at a rate of 1% to 2% per year, according to Nathan Meiser with the Department of Kinesiology at Concordia University Irvine in California.

The bottom line? Aim for protein at every meal.

Q and A

Q: Does celery have much nutritional value, or is it mainly water?

A: Celery stars as a low-calorie snack and is packed with nutrients. A cup of celery has 37% of the daily value for vitamin K and is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and folate. It's also high in antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of cancer. The crunchy, green stalks are proven in the kitchen for their versatility and flavor. Along with onion, carrots and parsley, celery is the base for stews and soups, gives crunch to tuna and chicken salad and adds flavor to the Thanksgiving stuffing. I'm reminded not to look down on celery just because it's a familiar veggie. Dip it in hummus; stuff it with peanut butter; or use add it to a stir-fry.


This recipe will help you rediscover the great taste of Brussels sprouts. You can cook them on the grill or roast them in the oven. The recipe is adapted from Hy-Vee.


Servings: 6


1 pound Brussels sprouts

1 large apple, cored and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup aged bourbon barrel maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Nonstick cooking spray

1/2 cup candied pecans

3 slices thick-sliced sweet, smoked bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

To roast in oven, place oven rack in upper third of oven. Line a 15-by-10-inch baking pan with foil. Place pan on oven rack. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (To cook on grill, place large cast iron skillet on grill to heat up. Meanwhile, cut large sprout pieces lengthwise in half. Place sprouts and apple in a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together syrup, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper; drizzle over sprouts and apple. Toss until coated. Remove baking pan from oven and lightly spray foil with cooking spray. Transfer sprouts and apple to prepared pan. Spread in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes. Stir and roast 5 minutes more, or until sprouts are caramelized and apples are tender. Add pecans and bacon; gently toss to combine.

Per serving: 180 calories; 4 grams protein; 27 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fat; 5 milligrams cholesterol; 20 grams sugar (0 added); 330 milligrams sodium.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at




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