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Whole Food Protein Sources: The Foundation to Your Healthy Habits

As we jump into the new year, it’s important to turn our attention towards healthy habits that will help us feel our best for the year ahead. With the holiday sweets and treats behind us, many people are looking for ways to return to a healthy, balanced lifestyle that is not only achievable but sustainable for the months to come.

We chatted with Nutrition Coach Robyn Stewart of YQL Nutrition to get her insights on one of the best ways to ensure healthy balanced eating habits: eating protein!

Robyn is a registered nurse and a Precision Nutrition Certified nutrition coach. Through her business YQL Nutrition, Robyn consults with a wide variety of clients, including athletes and non-athletes alike, to help them achieve their unique health and nutrition goals. Robyn’s mission is to help every client achieve “Your Quality Life” through lifestyle and nutrition coaching.

When working with her clients, Robyn says, “I always start with implementing healthy habits as a foundation, and one of those foundational habits is including a source of protein at every meal.”

We asked Robyn why she considers eating protein at every meal a foundational habit, and to explain the importance of incorporating protein as a part of a healthy, balanced diet. “Protein is what your body needs to build and maintain lean muscle mass, to repair muscles, regulate your hunger and promote a healthy metabolism,” she says.

Once we confirmed why protein is an essential part of a healthy balanced diet, we quizzed Robyn on the details: how much, which sources, and how can we easily include it?

How Much Protein Should We Be Consuming?

When it comes to the amount of protein you should consume, Robyn says this is an individual need depending on each person’s goals, activity levels, weight and caloric intake. It’s hard to provide a rule of thumb to the general public to measure your protein amount. Instead, Robyn recommends including some form of protein at every meal, as an overall guideline.

Which Protein Sources Are The Best?

This was our favourite question. Since we are lovers of all Alberta-based proteins, we were eager to learn if there is one source of protein that we should consider healthier than others. The answer was music to our ears: All animal and plant-based protein is a good source of protein!

This means that meat, fish, eggs and egg whites, legumes, lentils, peas and other pulses, and dairy sources such a Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are all considered great sources of protein that you can bring into your daily meals. Robyn’s recommendation is to try and get a variety of these into your day-to-day diet if you can. “They all have different amino acid profiles, so you want to try to get different sources in so you can receive different micronutrients,” Robyn says. If you’re concerned about the fat content on some sources, Robyn reminds us that fat is not a bad thing.She advises taking a look at your day as a whole, and if you choose a fattier source of protein for lunch, simply opt for a leaner source of protein for dinner.

What About Protein Powders?

Robyn assures us that incorporating protein powder, say, through a daily protein shake, is perfectly fine. The biggest recommendation is to look at the ingredients list to make sure there aren’t too many added, unnecessary ingredients. If you are able to, she recommends a whey protein isolate, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, Robyn says there are many great plant-based protein powders available as well.

Tips to Incorporate Protein With Every Meal

Now that we understand how many incredible Alberta-based protein sources are available to us, it’s a bit easier to think of all the ways to incorporate protein throughout your day. Aim for switching up your sources, like adding a side of Greek yogurt to your breakfast or having a hard-boiled egg with your morning snack. Robyn’s best tip is to prepare ahead of time. Prepare your meats for the week so you can easily add some chicken, pork or chickpeas into your salad. Have some grab-and-go snacks available too. Hard-boiled eggs are easy to prepare and store for a few days, and beef jerky (or any kind of jerky) is a great snack to keep on hand. Being prepared makes it much easier to include protein in your meals all day long.

Keep it Local!

One of the best things about including protein as a staple in your daily diet is that most of these protein sources are produced right here in our own backyard! Whether it’s chicken, turkey, eggs, pork, dairy products or pulses, you can support Alberta farmers by watching for labels that indicate your food products are grown here at home.

We loved chatting with Robyn from YQL Nutrition. To learn more about Robyn and YQL Nutrition, visit and follow along with Robyn on Instagram @robyn_yql_nutrition

The views expressed in this document are those of Taste Alberta and do not

necessarily reflect the provincial and federal governments.

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