The Scoop on Protein

by Emily LoTurco, TCM Intern

Getting enough protein can be difficult, but it is also incredibly important for the health of mother and baby during pregnancy and beyond. Protein builds muscle, bone, red blood cells, and helps to make enzymes that perform essential functions in the body.  It also promotes satiety, and makes us feel fuller longer.  The RDA (Recommended Dietary Amount) of protein for non pregnant women from ages 19-70+ is 46 grams a day. Pregnant women are recommended to consume 70 to 80 grams of protein, which amounts to 25 or extra grams of protein daily. This can be a lot for mothers with varying appetites. What different types of food options are there to help make up this increase in protein needs?  

The world of protein foods is divided up into two categories: complete, and incomplete.  Complete protein foods include meats, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, and soy.  They are called “complete” because they contain all of the essential amino acids that make up proteins and are needed in our bodies.  If a protein is “incomplete,” this does not mean that the food is not healthy or not a good source of protein.  Instead, it means that incomplete proteins, such as grains, nuts, beans and seeds simply do not contain all of the nine essential amino acids.  However, combining several different carefully chosen incomplete sources of protein in one meal can create a dish that satisfies all protein needs.  Choosing complete proteins with a few incomplete proteins thrown in for variety is a good way to get your protein in for the day.  

For ideas on how to combine incomplete proteins, check out this link:

Here are some examples of foods that contain protein.   



Grams of Protein


3 oz



3 oz



1 cup


Protein Powder

1 scoop

20-25 (depending on the brand)


1 large


Greek Yogurt

A 6 oz container


Cheddar Cheese

1 cubic inch


Swiss Cheese

1 cubic inch



1 cubic inch


String Cheese

1 stick


Cottage Cheese

1 cup


Whole Wheat Cooked Spaghetti

1 cup


Oat Bran

1 cup



1 cup



1 cup



1 cup


Wild rice

1 cup


Natural Peanut Butter, Crunchy

2 Tablespoons



¼ cup



¼ cup



*1 oz of poultry or fish contains 7 grams of protein

So, what does eating 70 to 80 grams of protein in a day look like?  Here is a sample meal plan.

Meal Amount Food Protein (g) Total Protein (g)
Breakfast 1 cup Oatmeal 6 6
1 large Egg 6 12
1 cup Pregnancy Tea 0 12
1 medium Banana 1.3 13.3
Snack #1 1 medium Apple .5 13.8
2 tablespoons Crunchy Peanut Butter, Natural 9 22.8
Lunch 2 cups Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup 13.5 36.3
1 slice Whole Grain Bread 4 40.3
1 tablespoon Butter 0 40.3
½ cup Cooked Spinach 2.6 42.9
Snack #2 1 6 oz container Greek Yogurt 16 58.9
½ cup Blueberries .5 59.4
Dinner 1 cup Whole Wheat Cooked Spaghetti 7.5 66.9
½ cup Tomato Sauce 0 66.9
2 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese 4 70.9
½ cup Broccoli 2 72.9
Snack #3 ¼ cup Almonds 7.5 80.4
2 tablespoons Dark Chocolate Chips 1 81.4



Getting enough protein each day is completely feasible.  Including a few proteins snacks throughout the day and placing protein in every meal should make it easy.  As you can see, there are many ways to get protein in your diet without having to include a lot of meat. Choose foods that are delicious to you!

*all protein contents for foods were found at <>

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