Protein, The Truth About Animal and Plant Sources, And How Much You Really Need

Photo credit:  rawpixel

Photo credit: rawpixel

Let’s talk protein. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids (this happens when your gut is working and you are able to digest and absorb nutrients from the food you eat).

Those amino acids build everything in your body. Cells, organs, tissues, hormones, neurotransmitters, bones, joints, hair, skin, RNA, DNA, your genes. Seriously everything.

There are 21 amino acids your body needs to function.

Nine of them are called essential which means you need to get them from foods you eat because your body can’t make them.

Non-essential amino acids, your body can make out of the essential ones. But in times of stress (physical, chemical, emotional, any form of stress), some of those nonessentials become conditionally essential, meaning you also need to get them from foods you eat because your body isn’t able to make them under those conditions.

When you are struggling with symptoms and health problems like digestive symptoms, skin rashes, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease, and other health problems, this is a significant source of chronic stress, and under these conditions you need to get essential and conditionally essential amino acids from food to support your body so that it can repair, and continue to function.

Protein Sources

Animal foods like chicken, beef, fish, and eggs contain ALL essential and conditionally essential amino acids, and therefore are considered complete proteins. Plant foods do not, and are not complete proteins.

I was asked about broccoli, and am often asked about beans and legumes being good protein sources.

One serving of broccoli is 1/2 cup, and 1 cup of broccoli has 5.7g protein. For one serving of broccoli you’re getting less than 3g of protein.

A ½ cup of cooked beans is a serving size. This quantity of chickpeas contains 20g of protein, and of lentils, 9g.

Let’s compare, 3oz steak has 25g; a small chicken breast 50g; and fish, around 25g in 4oz. Eggs, around 6g per egg.

Plant foods like broccoli, beans and legumes are important because they contain a wide array of vitamins, minerals (as do animal foods), and phytonutrients, which are natural and healthy chemicals that are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. And you can get some protein from them.

How Much Protein Do You Need

Adults need about .36g per pound of body weight each day. So a sedentary man needs about 56g per day and a woman about 46g per day. BUT these guidelines really are meager and may prevent deficiency, however they may not ensure optimal health and body composition. They do not account for any activity level, illness, injury, stress, or a healing journey.

To nourish your body with the protein it needs to grow, develop, repair, function and thrive, you need anywhere between 70-120g per day for adults so that’s about .53g per p0und of body weight for a 150 pound person to get in 80g (and certainly higher quantities if you’re on a healing journey). Standard recommendations are only .36g per pound of body weight for a 150 pound person and that’s to get in 54g protein per day.

For kids age 4-13 the standard recommendation is .5g per pound of body weight, so a 40 pound child would need 20g protein per day. Remember too that kids are growing and developing and this makes quality protein intake important for them, and even more so when they are on a healing journey (they may need even more).

As an adult, if you want to get all your protein from broccoli you’re going to need to eat at least 12 cups of it, based on a need for 70g per day.

To get the protein you need from beans and legumes based on a need for 70g per day, you’d need to eat almost 2 cups of chickpeas, or almost 4 cups of lentils.

Remember also that beans and legumes are not complete proteins.

It is true that conventional animal foods can be problematic, so we want to focus on quality sources, which are grass fed, free range, pastured, wild caught and organic.

Serving sizes

Kids age 1-3 (3 servings per day)

  • 1 ounce of meat, fish, or chicken

  • 1/4 cup cooked beans

  • 1/2 egg

Kids age 4-6 (3 servings per day)

  • 1 ounce meat, fish, or chicken

  • 1/3 cup cooked beans

  • 1 egg

  • 1 Tbsp nut butter

  • 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds

Kids age 7-10 (3 servings per day)

  • 2-3 ounces meat, fish or chicken

  • 1/2 cup cooked beans

  • 1 - 2 eggs

  • 1-2 Tbsp nut butter

  • 1 ounce nuts or seeds

For older kids and adults (3 servings per day)

  • The size of your palm for meat, fish, or chicken

  • The size of a clenched fist for beans and legumes

  • 2 Tbsp for nut butters

  • A small palm full of nuts

I’m not one for measuring and counting and really, there is so much variation, including quality protein with each meal is my rule of thumb. Not only does it support your body’s need to grow, develop, repair and function, it also balances blood sugar levels (prevents HANGRY), supports better mood, and body composition (more lean mass and less fat mass).

Know This

If you struggle with chronic and complex symptoms and health problems and exclude foods, food groups, and categories of foods from your diet, your ‘healthy’ diet may in fact be part of the problem.

Restrictive diets are a form of chronic stress on your body because your body isn’t getting the nourishment it needs to function.

When your body isn’t getting nourished, imbalances develop and symptoms and health problems follow.

Many of my clients are on restricted diets when they come to me. I commonly see they’ve removed complete proteins from their diet a handful or so years before they developed chronic symptoms and health problems. This is not a coincidence. As we start adding foods to their protein toolbox, symptoms and health problems begin to resolve.

This is the biochemistry of your human body.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), diet, and the gut microbiome

Photo credit:  Anna Kolosyuk

Photo credit: Anna Kolosyuk

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

Health begins in the gut.


It's where 80% of your immune system is located. If your gut health is impaired, so is your immune system.


Your body runs on nutrients from foods you eat. Those nutrients are the gas that fuels your engine. If your gut health is impaired, so is your digestion. If you can't digest food appropriately, you won't be able to get nutrients from the foods you eat. Every system in your body will experience ill effects over time. Think about it, your car can't run without fuel, right? How can your body?


Your gut microbiome, which is the billions of bacteria that live in your gut (large intestine/colon to be exact) impacts your health in its entirety. We know this now from scientific research linking the gut microbiome to various health conditions and disease states, both inside and outside the gastrointestinal tract.


One of those health conditions is autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Not only does diet play a role in ASD, so does the gut microbiome.



Let's talk about diet first. If your child has ASD, or behavioral problems, step 1 is to look at their diet. Are they eating gluten, lots of carbs, and/or dairy?


I see a lot of children with ASD and behavioral disorders, and the first thing we do is REMOVE GLUTEN. Celiac disease, diagnosed gluten intolerance/sensitivity/etc. or not, REMOVE GLUTEN.


Every case I've worked with a child with ASD or behavioral issues where we've removed gluten from the diet resulted in symptom improvement. EVERY CASE.


You don't want to go cold turkey, especially with children, because removing gluten can cause withdrawal symptoms. Here's what you can do:

  • Take gluten out of breakfast for week 1

  • Take gluten out of breakfast and lunch for week 2

  • Take gluten out of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for week 3

Start there, and give it some time. Often it takes a while for the body to stop reacting to gluten, even after it's removed from the diet.


You also only want to remove only 1 food at a time to see what works and what doesn't. Elimination diets can be dangerous and lead to worsening of health problems as I mentioned last week.


If removing gluten doesn't help, you can explore additional diet changes, but do so with guidance from a professional to avoid the pitfalls of elimination diets.



Now let's touch on the gut microbiome. Imbalances here are linked to ASD and behavioral issues in children.


Along with diet changes, exploring the gut microbiome and resolving imbalances there can bring symptom relief.


This involves a functional stool test, like GI Map, or GI Effects. These stool tests are different than what you get from your conventional medical doctor, and are far (FAR) superior to kits like Viome, Biome and other direct to consumer testing that's available nowadays.


If you are investing in your child's health and exploring gut testing, don't waste time and money on subpar interventions. Do it right.


For questions and guidance, get on my calendar for an introductory consultation and optional free functional health assessment! CLICK HERE!

Caffeine, Friend or Foe?

Photo credit:  Nathan Dumlao

Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao

Coffee is probably the most popular source of caffeine, and it’s estimated that 95% of Americans consume caffeine from food and drinks, and their daily intake ranges from 110mg - 260mg per day.

An average cup of coffee contains between 80mg - 100mg of caffeine, and it’s recommended that adults consume no more than 400mg per day. Adolescents 12 - 18 years old should consume less than 100mg per day, and kids under age 12 should consume less (if any at all) than 2.5mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.

Caffeine Pros

Caffeine Cons

Caffeine metabolism (how your body breaks it down and gets rid of it)

Caffeine affects everyone differently. That’s because your biochemistry is as unique as your fingerprint. Some people don’t feel the effects of caffeine. This might be you if you’re one of those folks that can have coffee after dinner and sleep just fine.

Or, if you’re like me, the caffeine in dark chocolate is enough to cause insomnia, anxiety and nausea! If this is the case for you too, it means you are a low acetylator. That means you detox more slowly (through your liver), and caffeine stays in your blood longer rather than being excreted (it’s a toxin), so it has a greater effect for a longer period of time. In this case, caffeine is something you want to avoid (especially in larger quantities) because you’re more likely to experience caffeine cons versus the pros.

Caffeine content

Brewed coffee - 8oz = 95mg caffeine

Cold brewed coffee - 12oz = 153mg and 238mg caffeine

Decaf coffee - 8oz = 2mg caffeine

Instant coffee - 8oz = 62mg caffeine

Espresso - 1oz = 63mg caffeine

Chocolate (dark, 70-85%) - 1oz = 23 mg caffeine

Tea (green) - 8oz = 28mg caffeine

Tea (black) - 8oz = 47mg caffeine

Energy drinks - 8oz = 40mg - 316mg caffeine

Should you consume caffeine?

As you can see, that’s not a clear cut answer! Generally, in amounts less than 400mg per day, consuming caffeine is safe for most people.

Keep YOUR uniqueness in mind, and listen to YOUR body rather than just following recommendations you find online.

Questions? Book a call with me, and I’ll answer them for you.


Organic Produce, Is It Better?

Here's what you need to know about organic produce.

It does not use pesticides, and it is not genetically modified (GMO).

From a research perspective the jury is still out if GMO is harmful (true story). Personally, I prefer to avoid GMO. While the research isn't conclusive, I don't think we have enough information available to know that GMO does NOT cause harm long-term.

Organic can be more expensive. To help manage your budget, refer to the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists. The clean 15 are not as important to buy organic. The dirty dozen are more important to get organic.

Watch my interview with Isabelle Willis to learn more, and use the Environmental Working Group’s shopping guide as your cheat sheet at your local supermarket.

Isabel Willis LMU Broadcast Journalism Midterm final draft
Environmental Working Group Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Environmental Working Group Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Organic produce contains more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to conventional produce.

Here's where it gets interesting...

Because organic produce contains more phytochemicals (natural and often beneficial chemicals found in plants) it can be higher in phenols and therefore salicylates (which are phenols).

This is something to keep in mind if salicylates make your symptoms flare (skin rashes, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, or others). 

There are 2 pieces to this.

  1. Salicylates tend to cause reactions in people that have impaired gut health and leaky gut. We can restore your gut health so you can beat your symptoms and health problems including digestive symptoms, skin rashes, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, thyroid problems and food sensitivities.

  2. Salicylates require sulfates and certain liver enzymes to break them down so they can be eliminated from your body. Some people lack these factors and salicylates can build up in your body (there’s a cumulative effect), causing symptom and reactions. We can support detox in these cases to help, and of course look at diet interventions.

Number 2 can be the case in children with behavioral issues, head banging, and in those that are on the spectrum. In children the problem is more likely to affect the central nervous system, which is why symptoms like these result. 

So... is organic better?

Generally I believe so, however it depends on your body, your health status, your budget, and what your goals are.

Everyone is unique.

Serving Sizes, How Much You Should Be Eating

Graphic Credit:  Stay Fit N Young

Graphic Credit: Stay Fit N Young


How Much Should Your Little One Be Eating?

Graphic credit:  Mommy Maricel

Graphic credit: Mommy Maricel

If you’re struggling with understanding serving sizes, these graphics can provide some guidance!

Here are the general ‘rules.’

  1. Start with non-starchy vegetables, and fill your (or your little one’s) plate 1/2 way with them

  2. Add your protein

  3. Add your fats

  4. Add your carbs

  5. Eat until satiated, not stuffed

  6. Fill up on non-starchy vegetables first

More on protein —> click here

More on fats —> click here

If you are looking for more guidance on what to eat, the JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid can help.

Jennifer's Whole, Real Food Pyramid And Diet Plan

The JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid provides direction to get your diet on track.

Remember, we start at the base of the pyramid and work our way up. So eat more from the base, and what's on top should be consumed in lesser amounts, if at all.

And as we say, eat the rainbow!

JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid

JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid

The JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid and Diet Plan provides guidance on what to eat. This anti-inflammatory diet plan will:

  • Help you understand which foods to avoid if you are embarking on an elimination diet

  • Teach you which healthy foods contain natural chemicals that can trigger symptoms including skin and gut issues, among MANY others

  • Show you what those natural food chemicals are

  • Teach you what foods are common allergens

  • Guide you in choosing what foods to eat and in what amounts


Here’s a sneak peak at the table of contents.

Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid Diet Plan Table of Contents
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How To Save Time Preparing For Your Diet Plan

Photo credit: Jan Sedivy

Photo credit: Jan Sedivy

One of the biggest challenges to making changes to your diet and sticking to your new plan is the time it takes to prepare good-for-you meals and healthy snacks.


Here are some tips to help you save time and stay on track!


  • Chop vegetables ahead of time, place in containers or bags so you can grab them on the go as snacks, or throw together a quick salad

    • Have a favorite vinegar on hand (balsamic, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, fresh lemon or lime) and healthy oil (extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil) to make a quick dressing for salads

    • Add vegetables and the dressing to a container (even a large zip lock bag), shake to mix, and eat

      • Great for a quick on the go salad, and you can take it to work for lunch or a snack

      • Add hardboiled egg, chicken, nuts, or any other protein of choice to make it a meal

  • Invest in a crock-pot or instant-pot

    • Recipes are available everywhere, throw in your ingredients before you leave for work in the morning, turn on the machine, and when you arrive home, you’ll have a hot, home cooked meal waiting for you

    • Leftovers can be taken to work with you the next day for lunch

  • Shop online for groceries, there are a variety of options for this nowadays

  • Cook in large batches, divide food into smaller containers or freezer bags, and freeze to enjoy throughout the week, or to take with you to work

  • Cook with friends, and take turns making meals together to increase the fun factor and turn the work of cooking into a fun and social activity

  • Purchase pre-made meals and snacks, Territory FoodsBlue ApronFreshly, and Graze are examples of companies that deliver fresh ingredients to your door on a weekly basis, and you can search for more such companies in your area online**

    • Many deliver precooked meals, and also cater to special dietary needs

    • Some meal kits are now sold in stores, and the Guide to Cutting Meal Kit Costs provides helpful tips on how you can take advantage of savings


Need more assistance or have questions? Contact me today!


*Adapted from the Bioindividual Nutrition Institute

**This is not an endorsement for any particular company, these are simply examples of companies that provide meal services

If you need guidance on what to eat, The JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid and Diet Plan will help. The program will:

  • Help you understand which foods to avoid if you are embarking on an elimination diet

  • Teach you which healthy foods contain natural chemicals that can trigger symptoms including skin and gut issues, among MANY others

  • Show you what those natural food chemicals are

  • Teach you what foods are common allergens

  • Guide you in choosing what foods to eat and in what amounts

Tips For Navigating The Supermarket

Photo credit: rawpixel

Photo credit: rawpixel

First, you might be wondering what functional foods are. Functional foods are foods that may have positive effects on health, reaching beyond basic nutrition. Functional foods are health promoting and reduce the risk for disease. Where do you find functional foods? Read on.

Shop the perimeter of the store (avoid the aisles as much as possible because this is where the processed foods are). This is where you will find your produce, protein and dairy products, the functional foods. Start in the produce section and fill up your shopping cart with a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables and select a variety of bright colors. Aim to try at least one new ‘fun’ fruit or vegetable per week.

Buy your meats at the butcher counter and buy organic/grass-fed/pastured/free-range products when possible. These types of animal products have a healthier fat and overall nutrient profile than their processed [grain fed] counterparts.

Purchase full fat dairy (and other) products. Low-fat and nonfat versions have sugars and other substances added to them in order to improve the taste and texture of these processed foods, so avoid them.

When it comes to condiments, read the labels. For oils, look for organic, and first cold pressed products. Avoid condiments that contain added sugars and high fructose corn syrup, and even agave (many salad dressings are loaded with extra sugars like this for example).

Because you are buying functional foods, many of them will not come in labeled packages, and this is good! When purchasing foods that do contain labels, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t buy it. Also, the fewer listed ingredients the better (5 or less is best). Remember that functional foods don’t have ingredients because they are ingredients!

Need more assistance or have questions? Contact me today!


Zeratsky K. Healthy Lifestyle. Nutrition and healthy eating. Mayo Clinic. April 11, 2015. Accessed July 11, 2017.

If you need guidance on what to eat, The JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid and Diet Plan will help. The program will:

  • Help you understand which foods to avoid if you are embarking on an elimination diet

  • Teach you which healthy foods contain natural chemicals that can trigger symptoms including skin and gut issues, among MANY others

  • Show you what those natural food chemicals are

  • Teach you what foods are common allergens

  • Guide you in choosing what foods to eat and in what amounts

17 Healthy Snack Ideas

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema

Healthy snacks are fuel to keep your engine burning optimally so you can crush your day. Your body needs macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in order to carry out the wide range of biochemical reactions it needs to so that your heart beats, your lungs breathe, and your muscles move.


Keep in mind that not all foods are tolerated by all people. There are common food triggers that cause the majority of food reactions people experience. 


  • Milk and dairy products

  • Eggs

  • Nuts

  • Soy

  • Wheat and other gluten containing grains like barley, rye, and oats (look for oats that say gluten free on them)

  • Fish and shellfish 

Always take into account your individualized needs. If you need help determining what your personal tolerances are, contact me today to learn more about how I can help guide your journey to better health. 


The following snacks contain a variety of macro and micronutrients (make sure to account for your unique food tolerances):


  1. Hard-boiled eggs - protein, healthy fat (if sensitive to chicken eggs can try duck eggs)

  2. Seeds and nuts - protein, healthy fat, fiber, wide range of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients

  3. Dried fruit - carbohydrates, fiber, high in sugar so go lightly

  4. Sliced avocado

  5. Fresh fruit and vegetables - carbohydrates, fiber, wide range of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients

    • Cut up and dip in nut or seed butters, guacamole, and/or hummus if desired

  6. Vegetable chips/kale chips/beet chips

  7. Nut and seed crackers

  8. Roasted chickpeas, or other beans - protein, carbohydrates, fiber, wide range of vitamins and minerals

    • Drain canned chickpeas or other beans, place on a cookie sheet, add favorite seasonings, bake until crisp

  9. Natural beef, salmon or turkey jerky

    • Look for as few ingredients as possible

  10. Lara Bars, Rx Bars or Epic Bars

  11. Coconut yogurt 

  12. Fruit and nut/seed balls

    • Dried fruit (dates, raisins, prunes, apricots, etc.), nuts/seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, etc.), add to a food processor and mix/blend until sticky, roll into balls, can roll in raw cacao powder (antioxidants, and minerals) if desired, keep refrigerated

  13. Cooked chicken thighs or cooked chicken breasts, meatballs or turkey balls, keep them ready in the fridge to grab on the go or in a pinch when you need a protein rich snack

  14. Dark chocolate, the darker the better, about 1 oz serving – antioxidants, minerals

  15. Power smoothie (in a blender, can use any combination of these items or similar items)

    • Protein powder of choice

    • Nuts, seeds, nut/seed butters

    • Kale, spinach, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, other vegetables

    • Blueberries, other berries, banana, apple, other fruit (go lighter on fruits, they add sugar, berries are lower in sugar/lower glycemic so use those when possible)

    • Almond milk or coconut milk (avoid soy milk, it can act like estrogen in the body, especially problematic for young boys)

    • Raw cacao powder, turmeric, cinnamon, other spices - anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients

    • Avocado - healthy fat, fiber

    • Coconut oil - healthy fat

    • Coconut flakes

    • Ice

  16. 'Ice cream' the JCB Nutrition way

  17. Avocado chocolate pudding (seriously tastes like chocolate pudding)


Tip: Eating healthy sources of protein and fat throughout the day will help balance blood sugar levels, and therefore your mood and energy levels, and help you feel full longer. Ideally you should have some protein and healthy fat with each meal.

Need help or have questions? Contact me today! 

If you need guidance on what to eat, The JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid and Diet Plan will help. The program will:

  • Help you understand which foods to avoid if you are embarking on an elimination diet

  • Teach you which healthy foods contain natural chemicals that can trigger symptoms including skin and gut issues, among MANY others

  • Show you what those natural food chemicals are

  • Teach you what foods are common allergens

  • Guide you in choosing what foods to eat and in what amounts