The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

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A while ago, Craig from Gettin-Ripped asked me for my thoughts on protein and here’s my response.


What is the first word that appears in your mind when I say “protein“? Did the word “meat” pop up in your mind instantly?

Indeed, meat is a key protein source for many people, but there are actually many other great protein options out there that have long been overlooked (or forgotten). In this post, I’ll like to introduce you to my top 5 protein food choices:


150g tofu is roughly a serving of meat alternative under Canada’s Food Guide for Healthy Eating. Tofu is not only rich in protein, it can also a good source of iron and calcium. A serving of firm tofu contains about 11g protein, 30% of the daily value for calcium and 15% of the daily value for iron. Plus, tofu is plant-based, so you don’t have to worry about consuming too much saturated fats or cholesterol when you golf down that block of tofu (you won’t have to picture your arteries getting plugged up by blobs of floating fat in your blood vessels! Yay!) To find out more about the awesome health powers of tofu, visit WHFoods: Tofu. Miso-marinated tofu (same method as mis0-marinated eggplant) makes a delicious main dish for a simple weekday dinner, and make sure you grill extra so you have some tofu left for next day’s lunch (great on a bed of brown rice or a special spinach salad topping).

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes is another great protein-rich meat alternative. A 3/4 cup portion size counts as one serving, which contains about 8g – 14g protein, nearly 30% of the daily value for iron, and a whole lot of fiber! A serving will give you about10 – 13g of fiber — that’s a huge boost in helping you to get the recommended daily fiber dose of 25g). Fiber has multiple health benefits. The obvious benefit of keeping you regular and helping your body to maintain good digestive health. Fiber can also help to slow down digestion and hence plays a role in regulating blood sugar level. It will keep you full for longer, help to diminish the craving for nibbling and avoid the evil sugar spike that makes you tired and sleepy. Among all beans and legumes, my favourite choice is edamame. Shelled edamame comes in convenient frozen packages. So whenever you need a protein quick-fix, you  simply take it out from the freezer and throw it into whatever you’re cooking without needing to thaw or do any preparation beforehand. How convenient! Try adding edamame to tofu oatmeal for an additional protein punch to jumpstart your morning.


Eggs are the ultimate fuss-free, healthy and protein-rich on-the-go snack. They can be prepared within minutes and it can be incorporated into different dishes. The simplest way to enjoy eggs is to cook up a big batch of hard-boiled eggs and keep them in the fridge (they keep well for about a week). Then, when you’re hungry after a hard workout, you can easily open the fridge and get a quick protein boost by peeling some eggs. Reaching for eggs instead of going for a protein bar will satisfied your protein needs (each egg contains about 5.5g protein) and provide additional good-for-you nutrients. In particular, eggs is an excellent source of lutein, which is an important nutrient that helps to maintain eye health and  skin health. Although lutein can be found in other sources, the lutein found in eggs is much more bioavailable (a.k.a. the body can readily access the lutein in eggs, absorb it and use it). For more information on eggs, visit WHFoods: Eggs.


An 8oz container will give you about 10 – 14 grams of protein, and it will also count as a dairy serving, fulfilling your calcium needs for strong bones and teeth. I prefer yogurt over other dairy foods because it is a fermented dairy product that has added bacterial culture. These bacteria helps to improve the overall health of the digestive system by altering the environment of the small intestine so that it favours the growth of the “good” bacteria and makes it less desirable for the “harmful” bacteria to cultivate. To get optimal health benefits from yogurt, make sure to choose yogurt with probiotics and consume it on a regular basis to keep the digestive system healthy! To get an extra protein boost, try topping low-fat, plain probiotic yogurt with granola or nuts. To learn more about the goodness of yogurt, visit WHFoods: Yogurt.

Nuts / nut butter

I’ve written an extensive article on the goodness of nuts before — nuts are seriously that good for you that they deserve a separate post dedicated to praising them! I really enjoy tossing in a quarter cup of nuts into my salad or my morning cereal because they give an extra crunch plus an additional flavour. Nuts are also easy to carry around – I like to pack a small handful of nuts with me when I’m on the road so when I get hungry, I can munch on nuts instead of blindly rushing into a fast food store around the corner. Adding in a quarter cup of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter is an easy way to add 4g – 5g protein to your diet. Honestly go nuts with nuts! 🙂

There you go! My top five protein choices.

At this point you may think I dislike meat? No, no, no! I enjoy meat, but I just tend to choose these foods more often because they offer a lot more than just protein.

I find that these foods will not only satisfy my protein needs, but also give a dramatic nutritional boost, making it a lot more easier for me to adopt a healthier lifestyle.Next time you dive into your huge steak thinking it’s the only way to get enough protein, look around and think again! Have a yogurt with nuts, or serve beans as a side dish — try to get protein from different sources.

Expand your diet, get healthier!



The Silly Nutrition Undergrad has moved. Come to Juicy Fresh Bites for new content on health and nutrition!

Recent study shows that most Canadians are not meeting the serving recommendations set by Canada’s Food Guide, especially in the dairy and fruits and vegetables section.

Most people have no problem adding in fruits into their diets, but if you find it challenging to have more veggies, read about my suggestions on how to increase your vegetable intake.

Many people tend to think the dairy food group does not provide much health benefits and hence, I is easily neglected in our diet. However, consuming dairy products not only helps us to meet our calcium needs, it also plays a supportive role in reducing the risks of chronic illnesses, including osteoporosis, and certain types of cancers. Thus, getting enough milk products is not just about keeping our bones strong, it is also about keeping optimal health!

In tackling the problem of not eating any dairy, the possible list of solutions shrinks. The problem is slightly more complex than adding in more vegetables since lactose intolerance seems to bother most adults these days and for others, they just don’t really have new ways to enjoy dairy products (I’m one of them!). Thus, instead of offering solid ways to significantly boost your dairy intake, here I can only offer you a few methods that I’m trying out to boost my dairy intake.

Substitute milk for water in cooking.

Instead of cooking 1 cup oatmeal with 2 cups of water, I try to substitute half in 1 cup low-fat milk. The result yields a slightly sweet flavour (due to the presence of natural sugar in milk, lactose) and the colour of the oatmeal becomes more creamy and it actually tastes more creamy too! If you prepare a big batch of oatmeal and reheats it the next day, you can add in a bit more milk to thin it out.

Add cheese to your meals or snacks.

Try added some grated low-fat cheese to your main dish or side dishes – not only will it enhance the flavour, but it will be a quick calcium boost too. Or how about adding a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese to your fruit salad snack. The protein in the cheese will slow down digestion and prevent sugar spikes from the sweet fruits.

Instead of drinking juice, try a yogurt drink.

At many occasions, we tend to choose fruit juice over other beverages thinking that it will add to our fruits and vegetables intake (which it does, but provides minimal benefits in comparison to consuming whole fruits). In many cases, the health benefits that fruit juice offer is very minimal compare to the negative health impact that it can have. Very often, commercially prepared fruit juice are loaded with sugars and hence, we’re basically tricking ourselves to think that consuming sugar-coated fruits and vegetables are good for us! Thus, it may actually be smarter to substitute dairy beverages. This is especially suitable for those who have lactose intolerant (the fermentation process in yogurt consumes most lactose in the milk, with only trace amounts remaining).

In attempt to boost my own dairy consumption, these are the three easiest ways for me to include more dairy products in my life. How do you boost your dairy intake?

To find out more about dairy consumption and calcium intake, here are a few helpful resources:

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