10 Ways to Eat Your Daily Protein

10 Ways to Eat Your Daily Protein

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Sheela Prakash
Apr 20, 2017
10 easy ways to eat 50 grams of protein a day
(Image credit: Photography: Christine Han. Photo illustration: Susanna Hopler)

One of the big myths about protein is that you have to work hard to get enough in your diet, filling your plate with chicken breasts or eggs at every meal.

The truth, however, is that it's actually quite simple to eat your daily dose of protein. If you're eating a balanced diet, you're almost certainly getting enough protein. What does enough actually look like? We rounded up 10 days' worth of food, with each including a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that easily meet, and usually exceed, the recommended daily serving of protein.


How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, someone who consumes 2,000 calories a day should be eating about 50 grams of protein a day.

This number is a very rough average — the USDA states that women need a little less (46 grams) and men need a little more (56 grams), and it goes up or down depending on the calories you consume in a day.

Your level of activity, age, and a number of other factors, like pregnancy or illness, can also shift that number up or down, but 50 grams is a good average to discuss during this conversation.


The average 2,000 calorie diet = 50 grams of protein

How much is 50 grams? To put this in perspective, a six-ounce piece of salmon (which is often the serving size for one person in many recipes, including ours) has about 44 grams of protein in it. If you ate that for dinner and had even just one egg at some point in the day — maybe boiled as a snack, or fried on toast for breakfast — you'd be at 50 grams, as one egg had six grams of protein in it.

So the reality is, if you're eating a well-balanced diet, you're probably getting your fill of protein, and perhaps eating a good amount more than your daily requirement, without even trying.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

A Note on Serving Sizes

It's important to note that the recommended serving sizes, jointly determined by the USDA and the FDA, aren't necessarily how we all eat in real time. A good example is that salmon fillet I previously mentioned. A serving size of meat or fish is three ounces — take a look at the palm of your hand and that's roughly the equivalent size. Not only do most recipes rarely have you cooking that size serving, but also if you pick up a bag of frozen salmon fillets at the grocery store, the fillets are probably going to be double that size.

These images below aren't meant to depict a day's worth of calories. We used these recommended serving sizes simply as reference when calculating what a daily serving of protein looks like to keep things consistent, but it's important to take these serving sizes as suggestions and then adjust accordingly based on what you know to be the amount of food that's good for you, your lifestyle, and your energy needs.

A Daily Serving of Protein: 10 Ways

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup blackberries and 1 ounce almonds
Lunch: A salad of 2 cups arugula, 1/2 cup chickpeas, and 1/4 cup crumbled feta
Dinner: 1 chicken thigh with 1/2 cup brown rice and 1/2 cup roasted broccoli

TOTAL = 66 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 cup rolled oatmeal and 1 small banana
Lunch: Turkey and cheese sandwich (using 3 slices deli turkey and 1 slice deli cheese) on whole-wheat bread
Dinner: 1 (3-ounce) salmon fillet with 1/2 cup roasted potatoes and 1/2 cup sautéed spinach

TOTAL = 57 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Lunch: 1 cup lentil salad and 1 string cheese
Dinner: 1 cup spaghetti with 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

TOTAL = 52 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with 1 slice whole-wheat toast
Lunch: Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) and jelly (2 tablespoons) sandwich on whole-wheat bread
Dinner: A salad of 2 cups arugula, 3 ounces skirt steak, and 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes

TOTAL = 56 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 cup Cheerios with 1/2 cup 2% milk
Lunch: 1 baked potato filled with 1/2 cup black beans and 2 tablespoons salsa, along with 1 string cheese
Dinner: 1 cup spaghetti with 3 ounces shrimp

TOTAL = 55 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey
Lunch: Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) and jelly (2 tablespoons) sandwich on whole-wheat bread
Dinner: A salad of 2 cups arugula with a 3-ounce salmon fillet and 1/4 cup crumbled feta

TOTAL = 55 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1/2 an avocado, sliced, and 1 fried egg
Lunch: 1 cup chickpea salad and 1 ounce roasted almonds
Dinner: A salad of 2 cups arugula with 3 ounces chicken breast and 1/2 cup sliced cucumbers

TOTAL = 54 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 smoothie made with 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup of fruit
Lunch: 1 tuna sandwich (using 1/2 can of tuna) on whole-wheat bread
Dinner: 3 ounces skirt steak with 1/2 cup brown rice and 1/2 cup sautéed spinach

TOTAL = 57 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 cup Cheerios with 1/2 cup 2% milk
Lunch: Turkey and cheese sandwich (using 3 slices deli turkey and 1 slice deli cheese) on whole-wheat bread
Dinner: 2 cups lentil soup with 1 cup arugula salad and 1 whole-wheat dinner roll

TOTAL = 53 grams of protein

(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Breakfast: 1 hard-boiled egg with 2 slices of bacon and 1 slice whole-wheat toast
Lunch: 1 cup pasta tossed with pesto and 1/2 cup chickpeas
Dinner: 3 ounces shrimp and 1/2 cup broccoli over 1/2 cup brown rice

TOTAL = 53 grams of protein


Who I Am (and Why I'm Writing to You)

As a food editor who is also a Registered Dietitian, I know the confusion of our fractured landscape of diet information. But if you strip away the study-of-the-day and fad diets, there is solid information we can all learn about basic nutritional building blocks.

We're offering these unsexy yet useful tools to empower cooks to make decisions that suit them with solid, science-driven resources.

This especially applies to protein, the first topic in our new Nutrition 101 series. We want to give you the tools for confident eating and a more wholesome diet — something we can all get behind.

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