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You Ask, I Answer: Serving Sizes/Protein

Posted Aug 25 2008 6:55pm
If I need, say, "3 servings of protein" per day, what the best way to calculate this is?

For example, a serving = 8 oz, but a lot of protein items aren't equal to a cup or 8 oz.

Instead of going by serving size, if you are to have 3 servings a protein a day does that equal a certain amount of grams that I can calculate daily? That would be easier than me trying to find out if I have had 3-2-1 servings of each layer.

I'm guessing it can't be done that way since all different 8 oz or 1 cup of food have different grams of protein in it. Anyway to make this easy will be helpful.

-- Jessica Hubbs

Louisville, KY

The United States Department of Agriculture defines a serving of meat as three, not eight, ounces.

So, a recommendation to consume three servings a day comes out to nine ounces.

If you wish to convert this to grams, you are talking about roughly 250 grams a day.

Visual cues often help.

One serving of meat (3 ounces) is very close in size to a deck of cards/the palm of your hand.

If you're an 80's lover, you can also equate that to a cassette tape. If your technological trends are more current, picture an Ipod.

This is not to say you should be eating no more than three ounces of meat at a time, but, if the chicken breast you are eating is roughly the size of two decks of cards/palms, you can estimate that to be two servings of meat.

One ounce of meat -- whether beef, chicken, or fish -- contains 7 grams of protein .

What changes the caloric content of different meats is the amount of fat (i.e.: sausage and bacon vs. a grilled chicken breast), but the protein level is always the same.

When it comes to food items considered meat "alternatives" (i.e.: peanut butter, tofu, beans) one serving is considered whatever amount contains roughly 7 grams of protein.

In the case of peanut butter, that comes out to two tablespoons (or one ounce).

If this is all making you dizzy, I don't blame you. This jumble of figures and terms is one reason why the USDA's MyPyramid has been heavily criticized.

This is also partially why food labels require so much multiplying to figure out what you are eating.

Since a serving of ice cream is considered half a cup by USDA standards, that is the amount listed on any ice cream pint's label. As we all know, though, that isn't the most realistic of serving sizes.

Many times, people forget that if they eat a cup of ice cream, they have to multiply every value on that label by two.

One last thing I want to mention in regards to your question is this concept of "a serving of protein." People often erroneously interchange the words "protein" and "meat."

Although meat -- and its alternatives and derivatives -- contains significant amounts of protein, it is not the exclusive owner of this nutrient.

Whole grains offer their share of protein: a cup of brown rice contains 5 grams, a cup of oatmeal delivers 6, and a cup of whole wheat pasta will add 8 grams to your day.

Vegetables also have protein. A cup of broccoli offers 5 grams, a medium baked potato has 3 grams, and eight asparagus spears (1 cup) add up to 4 grams.

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