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April 2024

Getting Enough Protein on a Budget

An essential macronutrient, protein is responsible for building muscle and other tissues in the body. But getting enough protein may be a challenge due to rising food costs.  Smart shopping and meal planning can help save money, which will help to ensure you are able to get enough protein.

Protein Rich Foods
Protein can be found in animal and plant-based foods. Here are some food sources:

  • Lean meat, poultry and eggs
  • Fish and seafood– tuna, salmon, sardines, herring
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products– milk, Greek yogurt
  • Legumes, soy, nuts and seeds– beans, lentils & nut butters

Budget Tips for Getting Enough Protein

  • Plan Ahead – take inventory of what protein foods you have to ensure you have adequate servings for the week and to minimize waste.
  • Protein Rich Food Tips
    • Beans are an inexpensive source of protein (8 gm per 1/2 c) and fiber with many health benefits. Rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium. 
    • Canned fish is an excellent source of protein (21 gm per 3 oz. ) This can be made into a salad or have as a snack with fresh fruit & crackers.
    • Chicken is versatile as a main entrée, to top salads or to add to soup. If you choose not to purchase raw, rotisserie chickens are an option and can provide protein for multiple meals.
    • Eggs have the best quality protein (6 gm per 1 egg). Have for breakfast or make an egg salad.
    • Greek yogurt provides not only 22 grams per 1 cup, it is also an excellent source of calcium.  Purchase the larger container of plain Greek yogurt and add fruit to it to sweeten naturally.
    • Nut butters contain a fair amount of protein (4-8 gm per 2 Tbsp); however, they are also high in healthy fats, contributing to a higher calorie content.
    • Soy products are an alternative option with approximately 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup in tofu.  Avoid the highly processed soy products.
  • At Home – Check store ads for weekly deals, use coupons and Cal Fresh benefits.
  • Make a List of what you need and stick to it! This will help avoid impulse buying.

Getting Enough Protein?
Aim for 15-20 grams of protein per meal and 8 grams of protein for snacks.

Grams of Protein at Meals:
Breakfast: ____Lunch: _____Dinner: _____

Grams of Protein at Snacks:  ________

Total Protein for the Day:  _____
Your protein needs may differ if you have certain medical conditions such as kidney disease. Check with your physician before making dietary changes.

Optimize Protein

  • Have protein throughout the day.
  • Vary protein: include fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs and low-fat dairy products. This is to optimize leucine, an amino acid critical to building muscle.
  • Plant-based proteins can give you enough protein; however, you will usually need to eat more of them. Soy protein is considered to contain the most leucine.
  • Breakfast and snacks tend to be lower in protein. To boost protein, include protein-rich foods.


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