Stop Counting Meat Pies As Protein In Your Diet, Scientists Say

Meat pie? Protein. Big Mac? Protein. Meatlovers pizza? Protein.

If this is you when you're on a "high protein" "healthy" diet, scientists are about to kill your joy.

The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score survey - which details the diets of 200,000 Australians, just showed people with "low-quality" diets obtained eight times more of their protein from junk foods than people with high-quality diets – and were more than three times as likely to be obese.

"Everyone's protein needs are different, and not all foods that contain protein are good for you," CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Professor Manny Noakes said. "The current recommendations for protein intake underestimate protein requirements during weight loss – the latest science suggests eating 1.2-1.6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for optimal weight loss."

A relatively low figure of suggested protein intake is usually quoted for an average weight man or woman looking to lose weight or follow a healthier diet. But most Australians are far from average, Professor Noakes says, with more than 60 per cent of us being overweight or obese, and "many" just aren't getting their protein from healthy foods.

A qualified dietitian can help work out what your actual intake should be, and a protein calculator has just gone up on the CSIRO website, too.

Junk foods like pies, burgers, pizza with processed meats, chicken nuggets, sausages, cakes, ice cream and biscuits, were the second highest contributor to protein intake for people with low diet scores.

Leaner people with higher-quality diets ate protein sourced from healthier whole foods, including chicken, red meat, fish, eggs, milk, cereals, nuts and yoghurt. Junk food only accounted for approximately three per cent of their total protein intake, the fancy pants they are.

"Higher protein healthy meals help to control appetite and can help to reduce the urge to indulge in junk food," Professor Noakes said.

The affordability of high quality protein wasn't addressed in the survey, but really needs to be taken into consideration here.

A CSIRO review of the latest scientific evidence in January found support for the recommendation to eat at least 25 grams of protein at each main meal to help control hunger and enhance muscle metabolism.

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