Research shows that people over 50 need a bit more protein than younger adults and they need to make sure they eat protein regularly throughout the day. For those of you who take part in sports or gym training several times a week, your requirements may be higher still and you will need a protein hit as soon as possible after exercise. This might all sound pretty complicated so I thought I’d make it practical and show you how over 50’s can pack a protein punch.
First if all it’s important to note that most people will not need specialist high protein powders or expensive but fashionable high protein versions of regular foods. A few tweaks here and there should get you on the right track.
Easy post-exercise protein
A tall glass of skimmed milk and a handful of nuts is pretty ideal from a nutritional perspective. It will give you all the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) your body needs in the right amounts to build muscle. We’re not talking about body-building here just helping repair and strengthen your muscles.
What are the best options for breakfast?
Fat free Greek yogurt with some berry fruits and a handful of nuts is a great high protein start to the day. If that doesn’t float your boat try some oats with skimmed milk and fruit. For toast fans just pop egg on top (scrambled, boiled or poached) or have some reduced sugar/reduced salt baked beans. If breakfast is a grab and go thing for you then blend up some fat free Greek yogurt or silken tofu with some fruit and nuts and take it with you to drink on the train.
What about lunch?
If you like a sandwich, make sure you choose one that packs a protein punch without too much fat. It’s best to make your own and use wholegrain or sourdough bread with loads of salad vegetables and some lean chicken, turkey, tuna, egg or salmon. If you love a cheese sandwich bear in mind that it can be very high in fat. Go for half fat cheddar, cottage cheese, feta or mozzarella as these contain less fat. But beware retail portions as they tend to be way too big. It’s best to make your own or find a friendly deli where they will make your sandwich to your specification.
Personally I’m totally over sandwiches for lunch. I much prefer a big leafy salad and I add beans for protein and high fibre carbs. Microwave a piece of salmon, open a tin of mackerel or grill some chicken to have with it. An omelette is another great way to boost protein.
And don’t forget the value of leftovers. What could be easier than taking a portion of yesterday’s evening meal to re-heat for lunch.
What’s the deal with main meals?
This bit is pretty easy. It’s simply a case of having some meat, fish, eggs, tofu, quorn, textured vegetable protein, beans or lentils. The options are endless. Fill about a third of your plate with your protein food.
You can boost your protein further with a few new habits.
- Switch up your snacks – Try snacking on nuts, beans and chick peas. Little snack packs of roasted beans and peas from the supermarket can be great but watch the salt. If you can make your own then you can flavour them without adding salt or you can use a reduced sodium salt. There’s a great recipe here: Roasted Chick Peas
- Get sprinkling – adding a handful of seeds to salads, yogurts, porridge and cereal is another great way to add a bit more protein. A couple of tablespoons a day can add around 4-6g protein.
- Be adventurous – Try swapping your usual rice, cous cous and pasta for quinoa or amaranth. These are known as pseudo-grains and they are higher in protein than the usual grains we eat. Some people find them a bit tricky to cook but there are some great tips here: How to cook “pseudo-grains”
- Go nutty with butter – Instead of using butter or margarine to make sandwiches try using a little nut butter. You could also have fruit with a little nut butter as a snack.
Boost your protein and you will build and maintain strength as you age, which will keep you active and able to get the most from life for longer. Enjoy!
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