March 6, 2020

When’s the Best Time to Eat Protein?

When’s the Best Time to Eat Protein?

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Protein is essential for health. From muscles to the immune system to bones, hair, and skin—protein plays a role in body tissues and in all phases of metabolism. And it’s the “golden nutrient” today.  In the IFIC 13th Annual Food and Health Survey, when consumers were asked what they would eat to address their health concerns, the top answer was: protein.

The 2019 Technomic Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report indicates that there is a rising halo over seafood. They found that 45% of consumers eating more seafood are doing it for health reasons.

But when should you eat protein? Does it matter whether it’s 6 ounces of chicken at dinner or some high-protein snacks throughout the day? 

According to a research review published in Advances in Nutrition, including protein in snacks during the day increases a feeling of fullness and can help a person limit total caloric intake. The researchers said, “Snack foods have the potential to contribute to satiety, with higher-protein snack foods having the strongest effect.”

Berkeley Wellness points out that spreading out protein intake across several meals in shots of 25-30 grams per meal “may be best for muscle metabolism as well as weight control.” 

People who work out are usually tuned into the connection between protein and muscle repair. There’s so much research on this that the International Society of Sports Nutrition has taken a stand: “Meeting the total daily intake of protein, preferably with evenly spaced protein feedings (approximately every 3 hours during the day), should be viewed as a primary area of emphasis for exercising individuals.”

These are strong reasons to focus on protein intake at breakfast, lunch, and snack times. Why wait for dinner?

How much protein?

To check Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for yourself or any client, try this interactive DRI calculator from the USDA. The calculator gives individual protein recommendations customized to a person’s size and activity level.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that a healthy eating patterns includes “a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products.” The Guidelines say we should limit saturated fats and trans fats.

Seafood for protein

As for seafood, USDA advice is to eat at least 8 oz. per week of seafood “for the total package of nutrients that seafood provides, including its EPA and DHA content.” They advise specifically including fatty fish with high omega-3s. Salmon and tuna are top examples.

Meet consumer demand in your foodservice

Are you riding the tide of consumer demand for healthy protein throughout the day? Try the Tangy Salmon Melt recipe in your breakfast menu, or Spicy Tuna Stuffed Mushrooms on the lunch line-up. Explore more on-trend foodservice recipes.

Learn more about consumer demand for protein, and check out the free CE course, Protein on the Menu.

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