Am I Getting Enough Protein Without Meat?

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Breakfast featuring grapefruit, blueberries, and dates with green tea.

After switching my diet to a mostly plant-based one, the question I continue to get asked the most is: “How do you get enough protein?”

My standard answer would be: “Oh, I eat a good amount of tofu, beans, and nuts.”

But the thing was, I actually didn’t know how much protein I consumed and if it was indeed “enough”. I assumed that with my weight and muscle mass in a pretty stable place, I was getting as much protein as I needed to. However, it’s one thing to assume and another to actually measure, so I decided to analyze some typical meals to see how much protein I eat on a daily basis.

How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

I’ve read up on protein requirements on a few different websites and the number seems to vary. The government’s Dietary Reference Intake suggests 0.36 grams per pound of protein per day. At 153 lbs, that means I should be getting at least 55 grams of protein every day. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that for active males, the protein intake should be in the 0.64 to 0.82 grams of protein per pound each day. Let’s say I’m on the lower spectrum of active (I exercise 3-4 times a week) and need 0.64 grams of protein per pound or 97.92 grams total per day. Do I get enough?

My go to meal, especially when it’s chilly out, is a bowl of oatmeal. My oatmeal consists of the following (protein amount in parentheses):

  •  1/2 cup of oats (7g)
  • 1/4 cup of blueberries (.25g)
  • 1 tbsp of flaxseed (2g)
  • 1/4 cup of walnuts (4g)

Total: 13.25g of protein

During the week, I’ll make myself a quick stir fry at work or order something from Maple. Here’s a breakdown for a stir fry (protein amount in parentheses):

  • 1 cup of white rice (4g) — I really should be eating brown rice!
  • 1/4 cup of red peppers (.1g)
  • 1/2 cup of zucchini (1.4g)
  • 1/2 cup of mushrooms (1.1g)
  • 1 cup of broccoli (2.5g)
  • 2 cups of spinach (2g)
  • 1 avocado (4g)

Total: 15.1g of protein

Throughout the day, I’ll eat some fruit or take fistfuls of cereal.

  • 2 Medjool dates (0.8g)
  • 1 orange (1.2g)
  • 3/4 cup of cereal (2g)
  • 1/2 of cashew-nut based vegan ice cream (4g)

Total: 8g of protein

It takes me about 10 minutes to cook this dish. I absolutely love it and never get tired of it. I really overdo it on the soba, though.

  • 2 cups soba noodles (12g)
  • 2 cups of spinach (2g)
  • 1 avocado (4g)
  • 1/2 block of tofu (18g)
  • 1 serving of kimchi (2g)

Total: 38g of protein

The Grand Total

From this exercise, my total ends up being 74.35 grams of protein per day. It’s lower than the 97.92 grams but higher than the 55 grams suggested by the Dietary Reference Intake. I’m not too concerned about the amount. There are times during the week when I’ll have more beans, tofu, and quinoa and the typical meals above and some days when I’m not as hungry and probably come in lower. Overall, I’ve felt great about my diet, and I know that I’m eating more greens and getting more fiber and antioxidants on a regular basis than I did throughout my twenties.


To paraphrase Peter Drucker, what gets measured gets improved. I think this has been a pretty enlightening exercise in showing me that without tofu, soba noodles, and oats, my protein intake can take a big hit. I’ve been trying to find ways to incorporate more beans into the diet, and I also want to get back to eating more quinoa and chia seeds, two rich sources of protein. I’ll have to revisit this measurement exercise in a few months to see how I’ve made progress. For now, I’m going to hit the sack and think about the warm oatmeal I’ll have in the morning.

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