Protein is always a hot topic in pop-nutrition, with very opposing views. Most of my fellow vegans will tell you that protein is in all foods. This is true, all whole foods do contain some amount of protein; even a portion of salad will give you half a gram, and it does all add up. But what concerns me is that this leads people to the conclusion that protein is something we don’t need to give any consideration to and in this blog I’ll show why this is not wise.

At the other end of the scale are people who seem to view protein is as having a sort of superfood status with 2.4 million posts on Instagram tagged with #highprotein for example. This is also a concern since too much protein can also be harmful.

So how do we get the right balance? I am here to clear up fact from fiction and explain exactly how much protein you need and how to get it.

The perfect balance

Actually, protein is like many areas of nutrition; we need not too much, or too little, but a Goldilocks just right amount. Protein deficiency in the Western world is rare because, as stated, protein does occur in some levels in all (whole) foods; although a diet based very highly on processed junk foods could lead to deficiency.

However, like with so many macro or micronutrients, not being deficient is not the same as having optimal levels, and we do need to get enough if we want peak health. This is not only for muscle growth and repair, but also many areas of health including hormonal health, immunity, and liver detoxification, amongst many other things.

On the other hand, excessive protein over a long period of time can be harmful, potentially leading to acidosis and disease states.

Calculating protein requirements

Luckily, the way to work out protein requirements for most people is quite easy. Take your weight (or your ideal weight) in kilograms and multiply by 0.8; this gives you your daily protein requirements in grams. For example, a typical woman weighing 70kg will need 56g of protein per day, and further down I have included an example of how this looks. Some people might need more, for example those under a particular amount of stress, competition level athletes, people recovering from illness or trying to loose weight. But even these people will only need a little bit more than that – perhaps 1g per kg of bodyweight, or 1.2g at the most.

Protein deficiency can occur in diets with less than 0.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight; while long-term very high protein diets of 1.5-2g per kg can start to become harmful so keep in mind that more is not always better.

What does that look like?

If like me you aren’t really into doing lots of calculations and weighing things out, there is an easier way to think about this. Basically we need to have a portion of protein with every meal, and a portion looks like a palm sized amount or a handful. This is a really easy and useful measurement because people with larger hands usually weigh more and so have a greater protein need. So if you are cooking for your children, bear this in mind, and consider what one of their handfuls looks like.

Another way to look at it is, around a quarter of your plate should be your protein source (with another quarter your carbohydrate source and the rest vegetables).

Where can we get our protein from?

Many people think of meat when they think of protein and it is true that this is the main source of protein in the Western world, along with dairy, eggs and fish.

But there are numerous ways to get protein from plants, and these have the added benefit of also providing fibre. Most of us do not get enough fibre in our diets, so switching animal protein to plant protein is a great way to help with this.

If you get your protein exclusively from plants like me, try considering the protein element of your meal as your beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, hummus or nuts and seeds. This should be around a quarter of your plate. Other elements of the meal will add to your protein intake too, as illustrated below. Note I don’t recommend heavily processed meat alternatives as your protein source.

Why you should spread protein throughout the day

Most people are good at including protein with their evening meal, since typically this would include meat or fish, or a dish based on pulses for vegans and vegetarians. Actually for meat-eaters, this one meal can push them into having an excess of protein. An average 70kg woman having steak for dinner might consume 62g of protein in one sitting: more than her total 56kg requirements for the whole day!

Meanwhile other meals may be lacking in protein. Many people in the UK have a carbohydrate based breakfast of toast or sugary cereal, or even just a piece of fruit. Lunch might be a light bowl of soup, a sandwich or a salad. Adding protein to these meals is the thing that makes the biggest difference to my clients. One of the many things protein does is slows the release of sugar into the blood, helping us feel sustained, with increased energy levels and a more stable mood, and better resilience to stress, to help us through our day. I find that by improving this for my clients gives them the resilience to go on to tackle other health issues.

Spreading your protein intake evenly throughout the day might actually mean reducing the amount with your evening meal if you are a meat eater. Most people don’t eat steak every day but even a chicken breast contains 35g of protein: still more than half the average woman’s requirements in one sitting.  This is even more when we take into account the protein content of the rest of the meal which does add up; it may surprise you to know that by serving the chicken breast with a tomato sauce, white rice and salad could take the protein content up an additional 8 or 9 grams; make that 15g if the tomato sauce was replaced with a creamy cheese sauce.

How to meet your protein requirements: an example menu

Here is an example menu for an average 70kg woman requiring 56g of protein per day, using only plant-based foods. I recommend dividing your daily protein requirement by 3 and spreading it across 3 meals evenly. If you weigh more or less you would need to increase or decrease the quantities accordingly; an average British man for example weighs about 85kg and therefore needs 68g protein per day.


Porridge or overnight oats with oat milk, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and fruit containing:

  • 50g rolled oats – 6g of protein
  • 1 x10g spoonful of flax seeds – 2.3g
  • 1 x10g spoonful of chia seeds – 2.4g
  • 1 x10g spoonful of pumpkin seeds –2.5g
  • 80g frozen berries – 0.8g
  • 250ml Oat milk – approx. 2g depending on brand

Total protein content: 16g


Quinoa and green pea salad with pupkin seeds and hummus containing:

  • 80g Quinoa – 3.5g of protein
  • Half tub hummus – 6.6g
  • Quarter bag of rocket – 0.5g
  • 1 x10g spoonful pumpkin seeds – 2.5g
  • 80g peas – 4g

Total protein content: 17.3g

Afternoon snack

2 oatcakes with 10g peanut butter = 5g protein


Chickpea, aubergine and tomato stew with brown rice and broccoli, containing:

  • 1/4 tin chickpeas – 4g of protein
  • 1/4 tin tomatoes – 1.5g
  • Aubergine and onion – approx. 1.5g
  • 80g broccoli – 3g
  • Brown rice portion – 7.5g

Total: 17.5g

Grand total – 55.8g protein (likely slightly more if we were to add in the negligible amounts of any other ingredients!)


Ensuring you are having enough protein

Don’t get anxious about the numbers and calculations I have provided, this is just an example illustration. But I do recommend considering your protein intake and consciously including some higher protein foods with all meals. For example if you are a vegan who has a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes with oat milk for breakfast, this is only giving you maybe 4g of protein. This is not enough for most people and will likely leave you reaching for the biscuits mid-morning!  A breakfast based on whole oats and plenty of nuts and seeds like the example above will more likely give you the required amount. Try to be observant amount the amount of protein in what you are eating, you can easily find out by checking out the nutritional information on the back of the packet.

Another thing to note is that this blog is based on general advice for most people. Some of my clients I recommend more protein to, for example those who are under a particular amount of pressure, recovering from illness or trying to loose weight. I have also not in this blog touched on amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Most people can meet their requirements of these by having a varied diet, but for some of my clients I may recommend particular foods high in particular amino acids to support a specific requirement. This is what personalized nutrition is all about since we are all different, and is why I work with people on a one-to-one basis to tailor their diet to their unique needs. If you are interested in finding out how I could help you optimise your diet to your personal requirements, I invite you to book a free call with me to discuss further. Just click here to book in.

Thank you for reading!