Food Myth: Eat meat for protein

True or false? You need to eat meat to get protein

False – There’s plenty of protein in plant foods. It’s a popular view that you need to eat meat to obtain protein, however this is far from the truth. Protein exists in many plant-based foods and in appreciable quantities. While you may not want to eat a vegetarian diet 24/7, some meat-free days may help your health and your finances.

The UK recommendations for protein are about 40g a day for women (weighing about 65kg and between 19-50 years old) and 50g a day for men (80kg and 19-50 years old). Most people get plenty of protein from eating a balanced diet, even when the diet does not contain meat everyday (see further details below).

Eggs contain perfect quality protein against which all other proteins are measured. Protein quality is a reflection of the number and balance of essential amino acids (protein building blocks) present.

  • One 50g egg ~ 6g protein

Dairy foods are great sources of protein.

  • 1 cup of reduced fat milk ~ 9g protein
  • 200g/7oz of low fat yoghurt ~ 13g protein
  • 40g/1½oz of cheese (hard variety such as cheddar) ~ 9g protein

Fish & seafood are excellent sources of protein (pesco-vegetarians eat fish, but not meat)

  • 100g/3½oz white fish (cooked) ~ 25g of protein
  • 100g/3½oz prawns/shrimp (cooked) ~ 24g protein
  • 100g/3½oz squid/octopus (cooked) ~ 21g protein

Legumes (pulses) are great sources of protein.

  • ½ cup baked beans in tomato sauce ~ 7g protein
  • ½ cup canned, drained cannellini beans ~ 8g protein
  • 2/3 cup cooked red lentils ~ 9g protein
  • 1 cup cooked split peas ~ 12g protein
  • 1 cup cooked soy beans ~ 23g protein
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) tofu (raw) ~ 12g protein
  • 1 cup light soy milk ~ 5g protein

Breakfast cereals, breads and grains are surprisingly high in protein, and the relatively high protein content of wheat is one of the reasons it has become such a widely grown staple food crop.

  • ¾ cup Special K Original ~ 6g protein
  • ¾ cup All-Bran ~ 7g protein
  • ¼ cup raw traditional rolled oats ~ 3g protein
  • 1 slice soy and linseed bread ~ 6g protein
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice ~ 5g protein
  • 1 cup cooked pasta ~ 7g protein
  • 1 cup cooked soba/buckwheat noodles ~ 9g protein
  • 1 cup cooked pearl barley ~ 6g protein
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa ~ 4g protein

Nuts and seeds are super nutritious foods that also contain protein.

  • A small handful (30g/1oz) of most nuts or seeds ~ 5g protein

Example meat-free menu

  • ½ cup oats 6g
  • 1 cup milk 9g
  • 2 slices soy and linseed bread 12g
  • 20g cheese 5g
  • 1 cup soba noodles 9g
  • 100g tofu 12g
  • 1 tub yoghurt 13g
  • 30g mixed nuts 5g


So, you don’t need to eat meat to get enough protein because it is easily available from plant foods. Meat does provide other important nutrients (including iron, zinc and vitamin B12) more efficiently than plant foods, which is why our health benefits from eating a variety of foods during the week.

Start the NEW YEAR with a promise to eat a wider variety of foods and enjoy meat-free mondays this year.

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