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Stop the Clock with Lean Protein

By Cheryl Forberg

To maintain a healthy strong body, you need to exercise and build or maintain muscle. (Remember – strong is sexy!)

The current Recommended Daily Allowance for protein—the amount that people are supposed to get each day—is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for adults. I recom­mend a guideline of 30 percent of your daily calories to be contributed by protein (with 45 percent from carbohydrate and 25 percent from fat).

Experts are discovering that many older people aren’t getting enough protein in their diets... and that the 0.8 gram per kilogram recommendation may not be enough in the first place. Whether or not your goal is weight loss, if you’re trying to build muscle (and burn fat), it’s crucial that your protein needs are met. Indi­vidual protein recommendations vary per person, depending on weight and body composition. If you have any health conditions, such as kidney disease, that may affect your protein requirements, consult with your medical provider to determine your protein requirement.

Remember to include protein with each meal and each snack so your body can use it throughout the day. There’s plenty to choose from in three different protein groups: animal protein, low (or fat free) dairy protein and vegetarian protein.
  • Choose a variety of proteins each day in order to meet your calorie goal.
  • Limit your servings of lean red meat to twice a week. Red meat tends to be higher in saturated fat.
  • Fish is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and selenium. Cold-water fishes contain more hearty healthy fats – they also have more calories.
  • Avoid all processed meats -- bologna, hot dogs, sausage; they’re generally high in fat and calories. They may also contain nitrites, which can form cancer-causing compounds.
Top choices include skim (fat-free) milk, low-fat (1%) milk, buttermilk, plain fat free (or low fat) yogurt, fat free (or low fat) yogurt with fruit (no sugar added), fat free or low fat Greek-style yogurt, fat free (or low fat) cottage cheese, fat free or low fat ricotta cheese.

Vegetarian Protein
Excellent sources of vegetarian protein include beans, legumes and a variety of traditional soy foods. Many of these are also loaded with fiber.

Animal Protein

In selecting fish, try to choose wild (not farm-raised) fish and seafood that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fish include salmon, sardines (water-packed), herring, mackerel, trout, and tuna.

Lean cuts, such as pork tenderloin, lean cuts of beef including round, chuck, sirloin or tenderloin. USDA Choice or USDA Select grades of beef usually have lower fat content. Avoid meat that is heavily marbled and remove any visible fat. Try to find ground meat that is at least 95% lean.

Leanest poultry is the skinless white meat from the breast of chicken or turkey. Egg whites are an excellent source of protein and are fat free.

Michael and Maria’s Mexican Turkey Burgers
These burgers are so tasty, you don’t need to add condiments! I like to prepare extra burger mixture, form it into single-serving patties, and freeze. This allows me to prepare a quick lunch or snack on the go. Serving these burgers on whole grain buns kicks up the fiber content or wrap them in romaine lettuce to enjoy them "protein-style”. Skip the unhealthy fats in mayo and top these juicy burgers with a few slices of creamy avocado and fresh salsa…yum!
Image of Michael and Maria’s Mexican Turkey Burgers
Makes 6 burgers

1 (20-ounce) package extra-lean ground turkey breast
1⁄3 cup diced fresh mushrooms
1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro
1⁄4 cup diced red onion
1⁄4 cup diced red bell pepper
1⁄4 cup low-fat Mexican-blend cheese or 1 tablespoon Mexican seasoning or fajita seasoning
1 teaspoon minced garlic
6 Orowheat Whole Grain Sandwich Thins
1 1⁄2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons salsa
6 tablespoons plain non-fat Greek-style yogurt

In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, mushrooms, cilantro, onion, Bell pepper, cheese, seasoning and garlic. There will about 24 ounces (11⁄2 pounds) of mixture, or 4 cups. Divide into 6 (4-ounce) patties. Grill the burgers for 3 minutes on each side, or until the inside is no longer pink. Serve on Sandwich Thins topped with avocado, salsa and yogurt (instead of sour cream).

Nutritional Analysis Per serving (burger only):
120 calories, 23 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates (0 g sugars), 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 40 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 30 mg sodium With bun – 220 calories each With bun, avocado, salsa and yogurt – 280 calories each.

**Adapted with permission from THE BIGGEST LOSER 6 WEEKS TO A HEALTHIER YOU by Cheryl Forberg, RD, and The Biggest Loser Experts and Cast with Melissa Roberson. Copyright (c) 2010 by Universal City Studios Productions LLLP. By permission of Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.
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