For weightlifter and mom Meg Gallagher, CPT, (also known as @megsquats on social media), protein is an integral part of her diet as she works towards your fitness goals.
The 34-year-old intends to maximize her muscle gains, not just for her appearance but also to maintain strength into old age. Meg says, “I watched my grandmother struggle with osteoporosis and she was not one for strength training. That’s definitely what comes to mind first.
To support hypertrophy (i.e. muscle building), Meg eats about one gram of protein per pound of lean muscle mass, which equates to 130 grams per day. (Although the recommended daily protein intake has long been much lower at 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, experts now agree that active people are better off supplementing their daily intake. Supplement more than that to support tissue growth.)
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Of course, one cannot consume 130 grams of protein per day just by eating a lot of protein bars and shakes. It requires a purposefully planned diet rich in food sources of protein as well as a variety of nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits and starches.
Women’s health asked Meg to take us on an imaginary tour through her local grocery store to find out what she buys to achieve her #gainsgoals.
Meg Gallaghers Meal Prep Plan
Meg shops once a week to have enough groceries to prepare quick breakfasts and lunches, 2-3 home-cooked dinners (she makes four or more servings at a time to eat for lunch, and dinner throughout the rest of the week) and snacks.
She begins her tour around the perimeter of the store, which stocks fresh ingredients like produce and protein-rich foods like meat and dairy. Then she hits the aisles to pick up frozen and packaged foods to supplement the beef, salmon and eggs in the meal.
As a busy mother, Meg said she also doesn’t despise canned foods. If I need to sneak in some processed foods to achieve a goal or for fun, that’s my business, she says with a laugh.
First stop is the produce aisle
As a general rule, Meg doesn’t really count the small amounts of protein in fruits and vegetables toward her overall goals, so her personal product choices lean toward what will support the main dish on her plate. her: meat. (And, often, her produce comes in bags of frozen vegetables instead of fresh. More on that below.)
But when she plans a meal around produce like her favorite avocado toast, she’ll add a protein, like an egg, to boost her grams. The same goes for saladshells, buy a 50/50 mix of super greens as a base and add grilled steak slices on top.
When it comes to snacks, chopping up loads of fruit and vegetables isn’t really feasible with a toddler in tow, so Meg leans towards on-the-go treats like bananas, baby carrots and celery sticks that Baby can chew all day long. , doesn’t require much preparation.
Next, MVP Protein: Meat
Meg is a creature of habit when it comes to shopping at the butcher counter. She always adds ground protein, either beef or chicken, because both are so versatile. She’ll cook ground meat with a bag of vegetables and rice, or mix it into pasta with sauce. (She is currently obsessed with spaghetti bolognese.)
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Her other staple meats are usually chicken or salmon. (Because salmon has a short shelf life, she often stores it in the freezer.)
After choosing meat, go to the milk aisle
“I am a dairy enthusiast,” Meg says. That’s how I get my protein intake.
For milk, Meg chooses the 2% ultrafiltered version from Fairlife. She said the price is a little higher but I think it’s worth it. It filters out lactose as well as some of the carbs and fats commonly found in milk. This is a type of milk that is higher in protein compared to the calories you are getting.
With her love affair with spaghetti bolognese, Meg also reaches for shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on her pasta. (Meg explains: Fat-free helps me meet my protein goals without taking in too much fat because I get my fat from other sources.) Shredded cheese is a snack essential, as is milk. sour and fresh cheese. Although she leans toward lower-fat cheese options, Meg prefers Greek yogurt with a higher fat content (5%) for flavor.
She finished off the milk with a carton of eggs. (Meg’s husband eats so much that she often buys a pack of 18.)
As new finds are gathered, it’s time for the inner passages
With her cart full of new purchases from the store’s periphery, Meg next made her way through the aisles.
This is when I choose good alternatives that add a little extra protein or nutrients, she says.
To that end, she stops by the pasta section to get chickpea noodles or Goodles (super-charged penne and pasta packed with 10 grams of protein). Another carbohydrate option she likes that adds some diet: Daves Killer Bread, which includes 21 whole grains and seeds.
In the canned food section, she’ll get jarred tomato sauce as well as black beans if she’s planning on making something like tacos or chili. (On the other hand, she’s not a big consumer of beans or legumes.) She also reaches for olive oil for salad dressing and avocado oil to burn protein at its high smoke point.
Next, she’ll turn to the frozen foods section to add easy-to-prep bags of mixed frozen vegetables for dinner, in addition to choosing frozen fruit if she wants to enjoy a breakfast smoothie that week.
Finally, it’s impossible to leave the store without something sweet
While Meg eats a lot of protein bars (her new favorite is Alani Nus Rocky Road), Chocolatey Krave cereal is also a go-to when she’s snacking.
You pour a bowl of cereal and add milk, you’re adding protein, says Meg. It makes more sense to have cereal in the house to snack on instead of just Oreos, which I love, because that’s the easiest thing I can achieve. Because after all, that is all about protein.
Amy Wilkinson is an entertainment editor who also specializes in health and wellness. When not editing or writing, she can be found teaching Pilates as a fully certified instructor.
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