Protein is an essential part of every person’s diet, but you don’t need to be a meat eater to get your daily allotment. If you aren’t a meat eater, though, you need to be mindful about getting enough protein in your day. Skimping on protein is not a good idea, as it breaks down to supply the amino acids necessary for building and restoring every part of the body. Seriously, we are talking about hair, nails, tissue, muscles, hormones, enzymes, blood, and more. If you aren’t getting enough, you might start to notice symptoms like hunger, fatigue, weakness, difficulty sleeping, or loss of muscle mass.
How much protein does a person need?
This varies widely and each person should experiment to see what feels best. For a minimum requirement, multiply .36 times your weight in pounds (for a 150 lb. person, that’s 54 grams of protein as a minimum). Use this as your base and add more depending on your gender, age, and level of activity, taking special note to add more if you are pregnant or an athlete. Tune into your body and see what feels best for you.
For comparison of animal vs. plant protein:
3 oz of chicken breast provides 26 grams of protein
3 oz of lentils provides 8 grams of protein
You can see that if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s extremely important to take the time to plan each meal with all the macronutrients: proteins, fats, and complex carbs. Not sure where to get your vegetarian protein from? Here are a few ideas:
1/2 cup quinoa = 4 grams
1/2 cup beans = 7 to 9 grams
1 tbsp almond butter or 10 almonds = 3 grams
1 egg = 6 grams
1 cup green peas = 8 grams
¾ cup goat yogurt = 6 grams
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt = 21 grams
½ cup tempeh = 15 grams
Wondering what a day might look like? Here’s a daily meal plan that would provide the optimal amount of protein.
Pea Protein Smoothie
Pea protein powder (1 serving/16 grams) with spinach (1 cup/1 gram), blueberries, and almond butter (1 tbsp/3 grams)
Total: 20 grams of protein
Lentil Salad with Roasted Veggies
Lentils (½ cup/9 grams) with roasted veggies (1 cup/3 grams), crumbled feta (1 oz/4 grams), and sunflower seeds (⅛ cup/4 grams)
Total: 20 grams of protein
Zucchini Burrito Boats
Black beans (½ cup/7 grams), brown rice (½ cup/2.5 grams), a variety of vegetables (1.5 cup/4.5 grams), and cheddar cheese (1 oz/7 grams).
Total: 21 grams of protein
While there is no exact science for how much protein each person should eat, it is important to consider your personal dietary choices, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Take the time to plan meals and consider where your protein is coming from for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Experiment with more or less protein at different meals, different times of the day, when you are more active or not and find what works best for you!