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In one of my previous blogs, I mentioned that carb intake should be a minimum of 2 exchanges in every major meal in a day. The most common answer to this recommendation I hear is “this is too less…I am going to starve” or “I will feel hungry again within an hour”. That is where proteins come to the rescue...

The right amount of protein intake in every meal will not only reduce hunger and improve satiety but also limit muscle mass loss. Patients with diabetes lose around 1 pound of their muscle mass every year as they age and eating a diet lower in protein is one of the biggest contributing factors. The body uses more energy to digest protein than it does to digest fat or carbs thus preventing a steady and fast rise in blood glucose level and helps achieve weight loss long-term.  

Proteins to the rescue, again….  Taking a rice meal in moderate proportion is alright if you are consuming a healthy proportion of legumes or lean cuts (without skin) of chicken or fish with it if such a meal is planned with other fibre rich nutrients like green leafy and non-starchy vegetables.

Proteins are made of different amino acids. Some of these amino acids that are necessary for the body cannot be made by it — we have to obtain them from our diet and hence the term “essential amino acids”. Complete proteins contain ample amounts of all the essential amino acids and are found in fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, and milk. Incomplete proteins do not contain all of the essential amino acid like protein in grains, legumes, and vegetables.


Although, if the above is true, it might seem like meat eaters are better off than vegetarians, it’s not necessarily true. Even though it is important to consume the essential amino acids, it is not necessary to get them only from animal sources.  


Good news for vegetarians…There is a dietary strategy called mutual supplementation in which you combine complementary partially complete protein food to supply adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example – beans and brown rice are both quite rich in protein, each lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. However, when beans are combined with brown rice the result is equivalent to a complete protein that can substitute chicken or meat.


Unlike most beans, soybean products (such as tofu and soymilk) are complete proteins. They contain the essential amino acids. Tofu, soy flour, soy-based meat substitutes, soy cheese, and many other soy products are healthy ways to make a meatless diet ‘nutrient complete’.

Some more combinations that can be tried are: Thick lentil soup with a serving of almonds on the side; Kidney beans/Pinto beans in a corn tortilla; Whole-grain pasta tossed with peas; Bean soup with whole grain crackers; Corn tortillas with beans and rice, Soy curry and rice; Milk and oats.

How much protein do I need in a day? It is preferable to calculate daily protein intake for patients with diabetes as grams per kilogram of body weight and not as a fixed percentage of total energy intake. Patients with diabetes should not reduce protein intake to less than 1 g/kg of body weight, while protein intake of 0.8–1 g/kg (of body weight) should be recommended for patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

Try the following options to meet your recommended protein intake:

  • Ensure consumption of 1 medium bowl of legumes / 1 medium bowl of low fat cottage cheese/ 2 egg whites/ 1 fist size pc of lean chicken or fish in every meal.
  • Keep your snacks protein rich like low fat yoghurt/ sprouts/ a cup of low fat milk etc.
  • Keep consumption of lean cuts of chicken and fish to not more than 2-3 times /week. Avoid shell fish like prawns, crabs, lobsters and red meat.

One of the findings in my experience as a clinical nutritionist is that more than 80% of patients don’t meet their recommended protein intake, and out of that about 80% vegetarians are unable to meet even 40% of the recommended amounts.

How about you? As I mentioned, you need 1 gram/ kg body weight of protein (if you weigh 65 kilograms you need 65 grams of protein / day).

If 1 cup milk/ 2 egg whites/ 1 fist size piece of lean chicken or fish/ 1 med bowl of legumes and pulses/ 1 med bowl of thick yoghurt will give us approximately 7 grams of protein, can you calculate the amount of protein that you consumed yesterday?

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