Meeting Your Protein Needs

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What am I? I’ll give you some clues. I can be difficult to eat enough of, especially in the first few months after bariatric surgery. The hardest time of the day seems to be breakfast, although lunch can be a problem when I’m restricted to only a few options on top of a Cruskit. I’m important to eat first, and that’s because I help you feel full until your next meal, and also because I look after your muscles, hair, skin, and nails like a mechanic looks after your car.

Yes, you win the trip to Fiji, I am protein, and here I’ll talk about ways of improving your intake without necessarily having to eat more food. In other words, I’ll try to inspire you with ideas of sneaking more protein in at breakfast, lunch and dinner - only you’ll know how well I’ve done at the end of this blog.

I’m thinking you already know that breakfast and lunch can be tough times for eating enough protein. Some people say they “just don’t do breakfast” while others are saying there’s simply no time. Of course, that makes me sad for two reasons. Why? Firstly, as a creature of habit I’m a diehard breakfast fan – it really is my favourite meal of the day. Secondly, it’s one of your three regular meals each day without snacking, and that means it’s your time to achieve at least a 20g intake of protein for getting you through until lunch time. Ultimately, it’s a long-term habit we’re aiming to establish as normal, so let’s start talking about increasing protein at breakfast.

Are you a breakfast skipper? Is that because of time, habit or both? 

·      What time are you getting up? Do you think you could get up an extra half an hour earlier to make and eat your breakfast? That extra half hour can mean preparing a protein-rich breakfast and then having time to do your 20/20/20 for enjoying that meal without suffering from eating too fast.

·      If an earlier rise is out-of-the-question, can you prepare your breakfast in the evening so it’s ready to put together and eat in the morning? For example, mixing up some Calci-milk with flavourless protein powder and soaking rolled oats or Weetbix in it overnight in the fridge? Adding two tablespoons of skim milk powder to that mix will increase your protein and calcium intake without adding more volume too. In the morning, you can zap your breakfast in the microwave for a warm start to your day as these Winter days roll on.

·      Is breakfast first thing in the morning a habit you’re struggling to make fit for your lifestyle? Would you rather go to the gym or go to work first? Can you consider a time later in the morning to have your breakfast? Any time up until about 10am is fine, especially if that means you can sit down and enjoy your breakfast at home or at work.

·      Are you used to nothing except say coffee or tea for breakfast? Does chewing food of any type before midday seem really strange? If so, can you consider a protein shake or smoothie for breakfast? What about a pottle of single-serve protein yoghurt? For some texture, you can add some oats but remember the protein will be the hero of this dish. For a lovely aroma and flavour, how about sprinkling cinnamon or nutmeg on your yoghurt to get those taste buds going without adding sweeteners like fruit or honey?

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·      Are you “so over” the idea of protein shakes or eggs at breakfast? How open are you to ‘out of the box’ ideas right now? As you may know, I’ve been living in Korea and I’ve returned to NZ with my eyes opened to the world of tofu as a source of protein, calcium and iron in my cooking. As an example, I use soft tofu instead of scrambled eggs at breakfast or lunch. 

Speaking of lunch, are you eating more carbohydrates than protein at lunch because there’s just not enough protein options available? Let’s put tofu in my hot seat for opening up a whole new world of protein options at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Drew’s Hot seat – Tofu

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Tofu is a great way of increasing your protein intake. It comes in two forms - soft or firm, and it’s really affordable. Sadly, tofu seems to cop a lot of flak for being bland, but that’s what makes it a real gem in my mind. It can be added to soups or stews for taking on those flavours, or it can be eaten alone if you’re having taste changes and feel unable to tolerate cooking with any flavour. Also, tofu is perfect for adding to soups or broths that either already have or may be lacking any protein like the hearty vegetable soup you may have made for getting you through this Winter. 

The two textures of tofu are an asset. If you’re struggling with chewing some textures like steak, chicken or some fleshy fish, you may like to try firm tofu as an alternative ingredient for your evening meal. Firm tofu can be revved up with whatever herbs or spices you might like to try - and cooked in soy sauce or even fish sauce can make it a meal to remember for you and your family. Soft tofu can be used in the same way, or it can be hidden or melted into foods like cheese without adding more volume or affecting the taste. Remember, you can add other legumes like lentils or chick peas to your dishes with tofu, and that can give your meal some crunch while boosting the protein even more.  Cook enough, and you’ll have some leftovers for lunch the next day too.

Here’s a recipe you might like to try for breakfast, lunch or tea – if you’re interested in learning some more, please feel free to email me and I’ll happily guide you to some great ideas.

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Simple Scrambled Surprise

Prep & cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: Two

Ingredients: Soft tofu (1 pack), ¼ teaspoon turmeric, salt & pepper


1.    Add soft tofu (without water) to your non-stick frying pan

2.    Break large pieces with wooden spoon 

3.    Mix and add turmeric, salt and pepper

4.    Fry on high for 10 min - stirring every now and then so it doesn’t burn

5.    Serve with a garnish like parsley


·      Use a block of firm tofu instead of soft

-       Slice into 1-inch cubes & then crumble it with a fork or fingers, to your preference

·      Add other vegetables for variety & flavour while cooking

-       E.g. cherry tomatoes, spinach, green onions, capsicum, mushrooms

·      Add extra condiments for flavour

-       E.g. soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic sauce, lemon juice

·      Add flavourless protein powder for an extra hit of protein

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The Take Home of This Blog

At the end of the day, it’s the habit of three regular protein-rich meals each day you’re working towards as your normal. As a meat lover, I never thought I’d go near tofu – but daring to try it has let me see the value it has for meat-lovers and vegetarians alike. You can get it from most supermarkets, although I get mine from the local Asian grocery store which is a great place for finding neat spices too (and the tofu is much cheaper).

So, how well have I done? Are you feeling like you can increase your protein intake after reading this blog? I hope so. I’m looking forward to the next instalment from Drew’s Desk next month.  All the best until then.