Healthy Children - February 2016

Make Your Protein Work Harder for You 

Protein Can Help Power Your Plate and Your Lifestyle

Maximize the power of protein

Although most Americans meet their protein needs, some people may benefit from diets higher in protein such as athletes, aging adults and those trying to manage their weight. This face sheet will help you learn how to maximize the protein in your diet. From helping build muscle with exercise to providing easy and tasty options at meals, high-quality protein foods, such as dairy foods, can help you meet your health and wellness goals.

What exactly is protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient (like fat and carbohydrate) your body needs each day. Not all proteins are equal- quality can make a difference. High- quality protein foods make it easy for you to get all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscles and help your body work properly.

Where can I get protein?

Protein is naturally found in animal foods and some plant foods, but the amount of quality of protein varies. The quality of protein is measured by the type and amount of amino acids. It provides and by how well the body uses the protein.

What are high-quality proteins?

Dairy foods such as milk, flavored milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and Greek-style yogurt are good examples of high- quality protein. * High quality protein provides all the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own. The high-quality protein found in foods such as dairy foods, eggs, lean beef and pork, skinless poultry, fish and soy offer convenient options to help your meet your protein needs.

What exactly is whey protein?

Whey protein is a high-quality protein that is naturally found in milk. It can help provide the protein your body needs each day and can be conveniently added to foods and beverages to increase the protein content.

What about plant proteins?

Plant proteins can help meet nutrition needs, too. But unlike animal foods, it may not be as easy because most plant foods, including many beans, peas, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and grain products, do not provide the significant amounts of essential amino acids the body needs. Therefore, a variety of plants proteins are often needed to ensure amino acid needs are met.

What are amino acids?

The basic structure of protein is not a single, simple substance, but a multitude of chains of amino acids of amino acids, which are building blocks that help build, repair and maintain body tissues. There are a total of 21 amino acids; the body makes 12 of them, which are called nonessential amino acids, but the other 9 are called essential amino acids, because the body cannot make them so they must come from food.


Did you know? A little more than half of people are trying to get more protein in their diets, and about 20 percent of adults indicate they’re actively doing something about it, such as checking labels or changing their eating behavior. Potentially, this could equate to more than 45 million people! Do they know something you don’t? Choosing high-quality protein sources can help benefit a variety of health wellness goals.

Fast Facts:

  • Your body uses protein all day long to actively build, repair and maintain muscle tissues. Try eating foods containing high quality protein as an easy way to help get your protein throughout the day. Your protein can work better for you, if you choose high-quality sources to help insure you get all the essential amino acids you need. Don’t forget to include high-quality protein as an easy way to help get your protein throughout the day.
  • Your protein can work better for you, if you choose high-quality sources to help ensure you get all the essential amino acids you need. Don’t forget to include high-quality protein with breakfast- many people skip this important meal altogether!
  • If you are planning meals with less meat, include high-quality protein such as that found in milk, cheese, yogurt or whey as a convenient way to help younger the essential amino acids your body needs.

Did You Know?
In addition to protein dairy foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt) are important sources of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, D and B12 and riboflavin in the U.S. diet.
Dairy proteins are high-quality proteins that can help build and repair your muscles following a hard workout.
Diets high in protein have been shown to help slow muscle loss that occurs as you get older, help curb hunger and help maintain a healthy weight. 

Protein in Common Foods (grams)

Milk/ 1 c. / 8-10 grams/Choose low-fat or fat free varieties including flavored or lactose free items.
Cheese/ 1.5 oz. / 9-11 grams/ Choose reduced-fat or low-fat cheese
Cottage Cheese/ ½ c. / 13 grams/ Choose low-fat varieties
Greek-Style Yogurt/ 6oz. / 14-18 grams/ Choose low-fat varieties
Traditional yogurt/ 6oz. / 5-7 grams/ Choose low-fat varieties
Lean beef/ 3oz. / 22-27 grams/ Choose cuts with round or loin in the name, such as sirloin, round tip, tenderloin and top round
Learn pork/ 3oz. / 24-26 grams/ Choose cuts with loin in the name, such as tenderloin, top loin and Canadian bacon.
Lean poultry/ 3oz. / 25-26 grams/ Choose breast meat and remove the skin before eating.
Seafood and fresh water fish/ 3oz. / 18-22 grams
Eggs/ 1 Large/ 6 grams
Beans/ ½ c. / 7-8 grams/ Choose beans such as kidney or pinto
Nuts/ 1oz. / 6-8 grams
Peanut Butter/ 2tbsp. / 8 grams
Tofu/ 3oz. / 6 grams

Get recipes that include protein at wheyprotein.nationaldairycouncil.org and nationaldairycouncil.org