Where do you get your protein?

It’s funny sad how when you tell someone you’re vegetarian, vegan or that you don’t eat meat, suddenly they’re concerned about your diet and ask you, “Where do you get your protein? Are you getting enough protein?”

Before I answer where my protein comes from, let’s first ask the question of how much protein should I be getting?

How much protein do we actually need?

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) recommends that we take in 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh. 

Body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake

So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d need 54 grams of protein per day. This is a safe estimate, and the body physically needs even less.

How much protein do we typically consume?

With the traditional Western diet, the average American consumes about double the protein her or his body needs. (source)

Is eating too much protein bad? A diet high in protein can contribute to disease and other health problems, including: osteoporosis, cancer, kidney stones and reduced kidney function, heart disease, and weight loss sabotage. (PS: Plant protein is chemically different from animal protein and doesn’t always contribute to these problems of excess protein.)

Where can I get healthy protein in my diet?

Legumes, beans, peanuts, soy foods like tofu and tempeh, nuts, grains, vegetables, peanut butter, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, spinach, whole wheat bread… Most plant foods have at least some protein.

So let me answer the big question for you! Where do I get my protein?

What I could eat to get my 54g of protein in a day:

Black beans, boiled (1 cup) 15.2g
Broccoli (1 cup) 4.6
Chickpeas, boiled (1 cup) 14.5
Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) 8.0
Tempeh (1/2 cup) 15.7
TOTAL = 58g

For supper I could make a meal of steamed broccoli, cubed tempeh, and black beans with marinara sauce. A side of roasted chickpeas as a snack throughout the day, and a banana with peanut butter. BAM - that’s all the protein I needed. And that isn’t even a full day’s worth of meals! Totally do-able for me personally.

What happens if I don’t get enough protein?

I’ve heard that as long as you’re consuming enough calories, you’re getting enough protein. What does protein deficiency look like? It has a term, and it’s not something that happens in America. It happens when you’re not getting enough food/calories in general.

"The Protein Myth" image at the top is from another good handout from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Vegetarian Starter Kit (PDF)