Myth: You need to eat meat to get protein
Fact: There’s plenty of protein in plant foods
It’s a popular view that you need to eat meat to obtain protein, however this is far from the truth. Protein exists in many plant-based foods and in appreciable quantities.
How much do protein do we need? Well, not as much as you might think. The recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) in Australia is 46g a day for women and 64g a day for men aged 19-70 years. Check out how much protein you get from these different foods (we have rounded the figures).
Eggs contain perfect quality protein against which all other proteins are measured. Protein quality is a reflection of the number and balance of essential amino acids (protein building blocks) present.
Dairy foods are great sources of protein.
- One 50g egg contains around 6g protein
Fish & seafood are excellent sources of protein. Pesco-vegetarians eat fish but not meat.
- 1 cup of reduced fat milk contains around 9g protein
- 200g/7oz of low fat yoghurt contains around 13g protein
- 40g/1½oz of cheese (hard variety such as cheddar) contains around 9g protein
Legumes (pulses) are great low GI sources of protein.
- 100g/3½oz white fish (cooked) contains a hefty 25g of protein
- 100g/3½oz prawns/shrimp (cooked) 24g protein
- 100g/3½oz squid/octopus (cooked) 21g protein
Breakfast cereals, breads and grains are surprisingly high in protein, and the relatively high protein content of wheat is one of the reasons it has become such a widely grown staple food crop. Here are some low and moderate GI examples:
- ½ cup baked beans in tomato sauce provides around 7g protein
- ½ cup canned, drained cannellini beans provides around 8g protein
- 2/3 cup cooked red lentils provides around 9g protein
- 1 cup cooked split peas provides around 12g protein
- 1 cup cooked soy beans provides around 23g protein
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) tofu (raw) provides around 12g protein
- 1 cup light soy milk provides around 5g protein
Nuts and seeds are super nutritious foods that also contain protein.
- ¾ cup Kelloggs Special K Original provides around 6g protein
- ¾ cup Kelloggs All-Bran provides around 7g protein
- ¼ cup raw traditional rolled oats provides around 3g protein
- 1 slice soy and linseed bread provides around 6g protein
- 1 cup cooked brown rice (GI 59–86, so check the tables and choose a lower GI one) provides around 5g protein
- 1 cup cooked pasta provides around 7g protein
- 1 cup cooked soba/buckwheat noodles provides around 9g protein
- 1 cup cooked pearl barley provides around 6g protein
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa provides around 4g protein
Menu: If you enjoyed the following plant foods over the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, you’d easily meet the RDI for protein for men (the highest requirement).
- A small handful (30g/1oz) of most nuts or seeds will deliver around 5g protein
So, you don’t need to eat meat to get enough protein because it is easily available in plant foods. However the nutrients meat does provide more efficiently than plant foods are iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Vive le Meatless Monday!
- ½ cup oats 6g
- 1 cup milk 9g
- 2 slices soy and linseed bread 12g
- 20g cheese 5g
- 1 cup soba noodles 9g
- 100g tofu 12g
- 1 tub yoghurt 13g
- 30g mixed nuts 5g
- TOTAL 69g
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of Eat to Beat Cholesterol, Heart Food and Belly Busting for Blokes.