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8 Weeks to REAL FOOD Week 4: Protein

8 Weeks to REAL FOOD: Week 4 PROTEIN

The typical American diet is high in meat consumption. We tend to rely mainly on meats to get the required protein intake that we need. However, meat is not the only way to get adequate protein intake.
 The typical American diet consist of a lot of animal meat under the philosophy that all protein is great and healthy. Consuming meat three times a day (at each meal) displaces fresh produce and plant based proteins resulting in an unbalanced protein intake. So first, lets see what protein is:

What is Protein?
Proteins are the primary component of numerous body tissues. They are the main component of muscle tissue. Protein helps muscle development, increases strength, and improves athletic performance. Proteins also make up the outer layers of hair, nails and skin.

What is the Function of Protein?
The most important function of protein is to build up, keep up, and replace the tissues in your body. Your muscles, your organs, and some of your hormones are made up mostly of protein. Protein also makes antibodies and hemoglobin (responsible for delivering oxygen to your blood cells).

What is Protein Made of?
Proteins are made up of sequences of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids. Our body is able to produce 14 of the 20 amino acids. We have to get the remaining amino acids from the foods we eat. The amino acids that our body is able to produce are called Non-Essential Amino Acids. The amino acids that our body is unable to produce are called Essential Amino Acids.

We need a diversity of protein intake in order for us acquire the 6 different amino acids our body does not produce.

So, where can we get protein from?


What will eating a diversity of protein accomplish?
• Help boost the effectiveness of last week’s FAT challenge by balancing the type of fat consumed in the diet
• Replacing meat with veggies and plant based protein will increase the daily fiber content
• Increasing your veggie intake will increase the micronutrient intake, reducing many health risks

Now this is a big challenge, one that I still struggle with. There are some weeks where I do better, and some weeks not so good. Please remember to take your time and not get discouraged. we are all learning as we go.

Here are some steps you can take to help increase your veggie intake

  1.    Make one dinner a night a vegetarian dinner. You can do this by having a veggie pizza  night, or a veggie soup night. There are lots of yummy vegetarian recipes on the web
  2.   Begin learning how to use various filling veggie proteins, such as legumes and beans. Adding these to your dish can replace meat, thus helping with your REAL FOOD budget, reduce your exposure to hormones and antibiotics in conventional meats, and increase your fiber intake.
  3. Work on improving the quality of meats you do eat. Look  for free range, small farmed, antibiotic or hormone free animals
  4. Work on a goal of either 1) meat consumption at only 2-5 dinner meals per week or 2) do not make meat the main focus of your dinner.

For me, I try to do one vegetarian dinner a week. I find this the easiest by making soups. My easiest meal is homemade tomato soup (with loads of extra veggies) with grilled cheese (good antibiotic, hormone free, sometimes raw cheese on homemade sourdough or sprouted bread). I have also begun to make the veggie at the meal be the main focus. When I plate the food, I make sure the largest portion on the plate is a vegetable, bean, or legume. One way I have recently seen a drastic increase in veggie intake in my home (and raw veggies at that) is by putting out a plate of cut up raw veggies (broccoli, summer squash, cucumber, snap peas, peppers, cauliflower, carrots, ect) at the center of the table and include a dip (homemade veggie dip or, even better, yummy homemade hummus). There’s just something about dipping the veggies that make it more fun.


Always remember, that you have to assess your own situation and see how it needs to be changed. If you are a vegetarian, focus on increasing your produce intake. If your family consumes a lot of locally grown meats, you may want to look at decreasing your intake, and make sure you are getting lots of veggies.

Some Recipes:
Hummus:
 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ c liquid from chickpeas
¼ c tahini
1tb of lemon juice
2 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
Paprika to taste
Combine all ingredients except for paprika in a food processor and blend until creamy. Place in serving bowl and garnish with paprika

My personal favorite hummus recipe so far, from  A Love Affair with Hummus: classic delicious hummus recipes by Rachel Lane
Avocado hummus
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup of liquid from chick peas
1 large avocado, pitted and peeled
¼ fresh tomato, diced
2 tbs Tahini
3 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt

Process in food processor and eat!!!

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