One of the most important and
essential nutrients. Most of the time, our diet tend to be skewed heavily
toward protein, especially in the form of meats. This also has the effect
of increasing the quantity of dietary fats in our diets, resulting in an
unbalanced diet that shortcuts carbohydrates, includes more than adequate
quantities of protein, and has us consuming far more saturated fat than is
necessary or beneficial.
Shifting toward leaner cuts of meat,
and away from those with high levels of saturated fats (and cholesterol),
and using more poultry, fish and foods such as dried beans and tofu are
good ways to offer high-quality foods that provide good sources of protein
without overdoing fats in the diet.
Essential Amino Acids
Proteins are composed of smaller
groups known as amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, and our bodies are
capable of creating over half of them. The remaining amino acids are
referred to as the "essential" amino acids. This indicates that in order
to produce proteins, we need to find a dietary source for that particular
acid. According to age and other conditions there may be eight or nine
essential amino acids.
Mutual Supplementation or
Animal foods, including meat, milk,
cheese and eggs, will provide "complete" protein. This means that a single
food can supply all the essential amino acids. Plant-based foods also
supply a good source of protein, even though some foods may have low
levels of particular amino acids.
This was once considered an issue of
some concern for vegetarians. If they are eating a food low in tryptophan,
for instant, they were cautioned to be sure to eat a food that was a good
source of that amino acid at the same meal. It is no longer thought to be
critical to get all of the essential amino acids combined in a single
meal, as long as you do get them over the course of the day. Most
well-balanced vegetarian meals rely on time-honored food combinations,
such as rice and beans, that provide all of the essential amino acids.
Meeting Protein Requirements in a
Getting an adequate supply of
protein in our diets is not a mysterious process. The recommended amounts
of protein for most adults of average size ranges from 56 to 65 grams each
day. In general, a single 6 ounce portion of meat, coupled with a few
servings of low or nonfat dairy foods throughout the day will meet an
individual's needs quite well.
What this means to the chef is that
the "standard" portion of 6 to 8 ounces of meat, fish or chicken is really
fine. The trick is in making it appear bountiful, attractive, and filling
to patrons who are accustomed to thick center-cut chops, platter-size
steaks, chicken halves, and whole pan-ready fish. Certainly you will not
be in the position of dictating whether or not an individual can or ought
to have more meat at another meal. But, even if this were the only meal
that person ate all day, a larger portion offers no nutritional advantage.