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Watching Your Protein May Be Key to Weight Control

Study Shows Diets With 15% Protein Help Keep Eating Under Control

The 'Protein Leverage' Effect continued...

The final analysis reported on 22 men and women, all very lean. Their average body mass index (BMI) was 21.8. A healthy BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9.

"This study provides a bit more support -- [but] it is a short-term study -- that consuming protein helps us feel full longer," says Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. She reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

"So including some [protein] each time we eat can help us make better food choices and trim what we eat the next time we eat," she says.

Figuring Out Protein Needs

"Aiming at 15%-25% of total energy intake as protein seems about right for a moderately active person," Gosby says. "The take-home message is to avoid foods high in fat and simple sugars, as recommended in current dietary guidelines. These foods dilute the proportion of protein in the diet." And that can encourage people to overeat, take in too many calories, and gain weight.

So how to figure out if you're eating a diet that typically includes 15% protein?

If you eat 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight, a 15% protein diet would include 300 calories as protein, Gosby says. That translates to about 75 grams of protein. One gram has 4 calories.

Her suggested menu to keep protein at 15%:

  • A bowl of cereal, piece of fruit, toast, banana, and orange juice. That provides 48 calories of protein or 12 grams, total.
  • For lunch, a slice of ham and cheese with salad on a roll, yogurt, and a piece of fruit. That provides 28 grams of protein or 112 calories.
  • For dinner, a piece of chicken, vegetables, mashed potato, and ice cream with fruit -- one scoop. That provides 148 calories, or 37 grams of protein.

If you skip the yogurt and eat a chocolate bar and eat cake instead of fruit with your ice cream, then add two soft drinks, your protein intake will stay at about 300 calories, she says. "But your total energy intake will have increased by approximately 600 calories."

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