In Our Pantry
Simple Snacking: Easy Protein Options for Busy Women
Isn't it crazy that everything we were taught about nutrition when we were growing up was based on now outdated ideas? Remember the carb-heavy food pyramid and the reduced-fat food craze? It's no wonder that in my late 30s, I only have a superficial understanding of what my body actually needs. Add to that the ever-changing trends (sea moss gel, anyone?) and the fact that my 40s are just around the corner, and it all feels a bit overwhelming.
This month, I decided to focus on something incredibly basic: protein. It's often referred to as the "building block of life," and for good reason. However, it's also has the most unintuitive set of guidelines out there. Even chatGPT couldn't tell me how much protein a woman in her 40s needs to counteract the loss of estrogen and lean muscle thats just around the corner.
I found a few great resources I’ll drop below, but here were the headlines:
- Sarcopenia, the decline in muscle mass and function, affects women more than men as we age. Menopause-related hormonal changes can be a key driver of sarcopenia because of the loss of estrogen, which is important for maintaining muscle and bone mass.
- Getting a good amount of protein can help slow the loss of lean muscle. Studies show that when women consume on the higher end of protein (~92 grams per day) through middle and later life, they had a 30% lower risk of loss of physical function.
- Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines for how women should increase or change their protein intake as we age. One research study suggests having 0.4 grams per kg of bodyweight (about 25 grams of protein) at each meal - and also at one snack- “to enhance the body's appropriate use of protein to maintain skeletal muscle mass as best as possible.”
I don't think knowing all of this is going to drastically change the day-to-day eating habits in my home. However, now that I know what's ahead, I feel like making small changes is necessary and entirely doable. To start, my goal is to replace one snack per day with a higher protein option. Here are a few good options to consider if you want to do the same:
Nuts, Seeds, Legumes
- Nut Butters - I have no shame in eating these by the scoop, but it’s also perfect with an apple or mixed into my yogurt. Some of my favorites: a classic no-sugar peanut butter, Justin’s Honey Almond Butter, and the Rx Nut Butter.
- Biena Chickpeas- There’s about 6 grams of protein in my favorite ranch flavor, which is perfect when I have a salty craving.
- Nuts - This is a classic, and I usually reach for pecans or walnuts.
- Beecher’s Cheese Stick - My kids have string cheese and I have Beecher’s. It’s so perfect with a handful of walnuts or with a few crackers.
- Cottage Cheese - I haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, yet, but I know this is a protein powerhouse.
- You can’t go wrong with anything Siggi’s. I love the non-dairy option, and my kids are obsessed with their squeeze pouches.
- For plain yogurt, we usually end up with Ellenos or Fage.
- In a pinch, I’ll grab some turkey to roll up with whatever cheese is available.
- When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add this Prosciutto to my cart. It’s perfect on it’s own, but Julie recently introduced me to wrapping it around an apple and cheese with arugula and balsamic glaze.
And finally, when all else fails, you can always reach for a good old protein bar. I keep a few on hand for those times when I don't even have the energy to open the fridge. Currently, I find that Rx Bars and GoMacro are big winners - they offer good flavors and simple ingredients.
Let us know if you have any favorites we should add!