A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: The Power of Protein

Protein Power Pack @ Wawa Food Market
I found out first hand the power of protein by accident one day. Steven and I had gone to one of my medical check-ups and it was late and we were both hungry. We stopped off at Wawa for gas, and so I went in and picked up what they call a Protein Pack, which included a hard-boiled egg, a mini whole wheat bagel, a cup of peanut butter, some salted almonds, some grapes and some apple slices. I could not believe how much better it made me feel.
Protein Power Pack
So, I had to do some research to find out why. Unlike carbohydrates, protein doesn't raise blood sugar. If you substitute calories from one of these foods for some of the carbohydrate calories, the whole meal will have less impact on your blood sugar because your body takes a while to break down the protein in the foods you eat, and this slows down the digestion of the whole meal including the carbohydrates it contains, making for a slower rise in blood sugar. 

Not All Proteins Are Created Equal

Of course, all proteins are not created equal so you have to be careful about your choices of protein-rich food. Saturated fats increase insulin resistance, which is bad for your blood sugar. Fish and shellfish are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Beans, peas and lentils have the added plus of being rich in fiber.
Some of the compounds our bodies make from protein's amino acids help regulate blood sugar, so including protein in a meal means that your body will handle the carbs in that meal more efficiently, so it is a good idea to include a source of protein in each meal.
In diet studies, people on moderately high protein diets lost more body fat and less muscle. A moderately high protein diet might get as much as 30% of its calories from protein, which is a lot more than is in my usual diet. So, I began the idea of duplicating the protein packs for my snack at home. They have done a lot for making me feel better and less hungry, and they are so popular that now five out of the seven people in my family ask for them. They make me feel better and less hungry between meals. 
Incidentally, the nutrition information on the back of the packs states that they have 660 calories, 43 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbohydrates and 28 grams of protein, so I needed to figure out the best way of keeping the protein up but lowering the calories, fats and carbs. First, I reduced the amount of peanut butter.
I use little cups to measure my peanut butter in. I use anywhere from 1-2 Tab. of peanut butter and I use only half or a quarter of a whole wheat bagel, a hard-boiled egg (sometimes pickled with beets), about 10-14 nuts such as almonds, some fresh fruit such as apple or blueberries and a small square of dark chocolate, which of course is not part of the protein, but is a small treat that keeps me from wanting a bigger (and worse) dessert, and dark chocolate has its own health benefits (which I will go into in another post.)

  • 1-2 Tab. peanut butter: 94-188 calories, 8-16g fat, 3-6g carbs, 4-8g protein
  • 1/2 Thomas' Bagel Thins: 55 cal., .5g fat, 12g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 hard-boiled egg: 78 cal., 5g fat, .5 carbs, 6g protein
  • 1 apple: 72 cal., .2g fat, 19g carbs, .3 protein or 1/2 cup blueberries: 42 cal., .5g fat, 21g carbs, 1g protein
  • 14 almonds: 85 cal., 8g fat, 2g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 sqaure Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate: 66 cal., 6g fat, 6g carbs, .5g protein
So, my homemade packs are about 420-544 calories, 27-36g fat, 42-47 g carbs and 14-15g protein and serve as a combination of snack and dessert.

Improving the Protein Packs

The best proteins are found in beans and peas, with lentils being the best and lima beans being the least good of this category. The next best proteins are nuts and then diary and soy drinks. Peanuts are the best for blood sugar and cashews are the least good. Low-fat yogurt with fruit is a good source of protein, but be careful about the added sugar in commercial yogurts. I was thinking that perhaps I could do better with my protein packs by adding 8 oz. nonfat yogurt and only half the fruit I had been using to the yogurt, it would add about 40 calories, but reduce the carbohydrates 15g instead of 21g (or the Wawa Packs of 52g) and add 10 grams of protein, for a total of 25g of protein, nearly as much as in the Wawa Packs.

Portions control is also something that is to look at when you are making choices.

Perfect Portions

Beans, Lentils,Peas: 1/2 cup
Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Lamb, Pork, Shellfish: 3 oz. twice a day*
Eggs: 1-2
Milk, Yogurt: 3 8-oz.(1 cup) servings of low-fat milk or other dairy products
Nuts: 1 oz. (because they are so high in calories), which is about 20 almonds, 10 walnut halves or 45 pistachios
Peanut Butter: 1 Tab. (because it is 100 calories per Tablespoon)
Seeds: 1-2 Tab.
Soybeans: 1/2 cup
*That's only about the size of a deck of cards.


  1. Wow. We pick up food donations ( left overs) from Wawa two times each week for the homeless ect. I will have to look at this Protein Pack! One of my favorite pick me ups is a hard boiled egg, peanutbutter on celery, and some fruit. So this would do if I was out and about.

  2. Phyllis, Have you watched "Forks Over Knives"- I know it seems extreme, but I took some very good info from it. I think you would enjoy it. It is of special interest to anyone who has dealt with cancer. Not sure if you have netflix, but it is available with streaming. http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/70185045?sod=search-autocomplete

  3. I love this Phyllis. You have so much goodness to share. It's interesting about the portion sizes of meat, and also the difference between peanuts and cashew nuts - I wouldn't have guessed that at all! Thank you so much for sharing with us!

  4. Thank you for all this wonderful information! I was never happy with store bought yogurt and learned to make my own so that I can control the sugar and "other natural flavors" (never figured out what that really contains.)