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How Much Protein Is In That?

Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD

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When someone discovers you don’t eat meat, one of the first questions is either “Not even chicken (or whatever other meat they blurt out)?”, quickly followed by “How do you get protein?”

It is my genuine hope that you have a general idea of how to answer this already. Not because you have to justify your diet to other people, but so that you truly know you are eating enough!

If you remember my series on possible nutrient deficiencies for vegetarians and vegans, you should remember that protein was a potential concern.

Many people that stop eating meat may fall into the trap of relying solely on carb sources for food and can become protein deficient. So as a refresher, I thought we’d discuss how much protein is in various food sources.

I have also included the protein content of some animal meats, because, in our multivore families, the omnivores should be getting enough too!

Also, it’s nice to have a comparison, right?

Serving sizes

Meat, tempeh – 3 oz (about the size of a deck of cards)

Fish 3 oz (the size of a checkbook – remember those?)

Milk, yogurt – 1 cup

Cheese – 2 oz (1 oz of cheese – 4 dice)

Tofu – 4 oz

Beans, quinoa – ½ cup, cooked

Seeds, nuts – 1 oz (a small handful)

Protein and Calorie Content, per serving

FoodProtein (g)Calories
Hard-Boiled Egg671
2% Milk8122
Greek Yogurt, plain, low fat24179
Cheddar Cheese14229
Tofu, before cooking978
Edamame895
Black Beans7111
Lentils9110
Quinoa4110
Chia Seeds5138
Sunflower Seeds, with hulls387
Almonds6172
Baked Chicken Breast25134
Grilled Sirloin Steak17155
Baked Salmon21124
Broiled Pork Chop24164

 

What else has some protein?

You can usually find at least a gram or so of protein in various other foods. This is because protein adds structure to many plants.

However, this does not make those foods a “protein source” as the amount in those foods will not add up to much compared to our daily needs.

Most often, I hear this about broccoli. Yes, there is a bit of protein in broccoli, but to get a significant amount, you would have to eat insane amounts of broccoli.

Just add some cheese, tempeh, nuts, or seeds to get a complete meal, without the bellyache.

That being said, choosing whole grains over refined grains can add up over the day to a pretty significant increase in protein.

1 slice of white bread contains 2 grams of protein, compared to 5 grams in whole wheat bread. That’s an increase in 6 grams in your sandwich.

Interestingly, pasta doesn’t have quite that big of a difference. 2 ounces of refined macaroni contains 7 grams of protein whereas the whole grain version has 8g.  If you really need to amp up the protein content in your pasta, Banza pasta contains 13 g per serving!

How much protein do I need?

Protein requirements depend on a variety of factors including certain metabolic disorders, overall size, gender, activity level, and specific goals. To give you an idea…

A generally healthy 180 lb woman should eat about 65-82 g protein per day, ideally closer to the high end of that range.

If she wants to increase her muscle mass or lose fat stores, she should increase that to about 98 g of protein per day, along with increasing her activity level (including strength training).

Use this Protein Needs Calculator to get a general idea about how much protein you need. Keep in mind these calculators don’t know everything about you. If you are concerned about your protein intake and confused about your needs, please schedule an appointment with a dietitian.

What if I don’t get enough?

Read more about protein deficiency.

Inadequate protein intake in your diet is definitely something you want to correct.  But how can you do that when you don’t eat meat?  It’s honestly easier than you think!

  • Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream on baked potatoes and tacos, or anywhere you would usually use sour cream.
  • Switch from firm or extra firm tofu to super firm tofu.
  • Protein up your snacks. Dip fruits in Greek yogurt or nut butters.  Munch on (1 serving) of nuts and seeds. Have 2 oz of cheese.
  • Add nut butter, silken tofu, protein powder, or Greek yogurt to your smoothies.
  • Pay attention to breakfast, which tends to be our lowest protein meal of the day.  Oatmeal is great for you but very low in protein. Consider cooking it with milk and topping it with chopped nuts. Or switch to eggs on whole-grain toast with a side of fruit.
  • If you are dairy-free, use soy milk instead of other milk alternatives. Soy milk has 8 times the amount of protein of almond milk, and more closely reflects the protein content of cow’s milk. Same goes for dairy-free yogurts.
  • Include lots of beans, nuts, seeds, and lentils in your day-to-day.
  • Sprinkle cheese on vegetable soup.
  • There is a place for the mock meats as well. Gardein makes various products that are easy to cook and taste pretty good.
  • Enjoy soy Jerky.  It’s Jerky Y’all makes a great soy jerky! My favorite is the Prickly Pear Teriyaki.

I hope that this article gives you a good idea of how to fit in enough protein throughout your day. 

Let me know in the comments what your favorite vegetarian proteins are!

2 thoughts on “How Much Protein Is In That?”

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