Monthly review: getting enough protein when not eating meat

getting enough protein when not eating meat

I gave up meat for Lent. When I committed to abstaining from eating meat I was not at all sure that I could stick to it. While I have never been a huge meat fan, I worried about how I would work non meat eating in with the family meals and how I would get enough protein.

This post is not at all recommending for others to not eat meat, nor is it to be treated as nutritional advice in any way! Once Lent finished I thought I would go straight back to eating meat, but much to my surprise, I actually didn’t feel like eating meat. I have felt really good not eating meat and without the desire to eat it at the moment, I will continue going meatless until I feel like eating meat again.

I am very conscious of the impact removing any one food group from your diet, so in line with my habit for 2019 of dedicating two hours a week to learn something new, in April, I dedicated my time to learning about consuming enough protein when not eating meat. And oh my is there conflicting information out there! Depending on whether you eat meat or you don’t, you can find studies, articles, podcasts, books and videos to support what ever choice you have made.

For me there were three key areas I wanted to concentrate finding information on – how much protein do I need to be eating every day, what are good non meat sources of protein and how I can fit my meatless diet in with the family. I will share some of the info I found below, but as noted previously, there is so much conflicting information out there I highly recommend doing some research your self.

How much protein do I need?

Even this basic piece of information is not without debate. The Better Health website created by the Victorian Government has the below recommendation which is inline with the Australian Government nutrient reference values:

As a rough guide, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for protein (measured in grams per kilogram of bodyweight) is:

  • 0.75 g/kg for adult women
  • 0.84 g/kg for adult men
  • Around 1 g/kg for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for men and women over 70 years.
Better Health

The has U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg. But one of my favourite health and wellness websites Examine which, is the largest database of nutrition and supplement research on the Internet has some differing recommendations based on its research and analysis which you can see in their table below. The full article is definitely worth a read and you can find it here.

For a large chunk of April I tracked the food I ate, so I could see if I was getting enough protein each day. Using a calculation of daily protein intake of 2 grams per kilogram of body weight (g/kg), I was easily meeting my protein requirements.

Non meat sources of protein

My mindset for most of my life has been to associate protein with meat. But as noted on the Australian Government’s Nutrient Reference Values website

Proteins are found in both animal and plant foods. The amino acid profile of animal proteins is closer to that of humans but all of the necessary amino acids can be provided in the amounts needed from plant sources. The major sources in the Australian and New Zealand diet are meat, poultry and fish (about 33%), cereals and cereal-based foods (about 25%) and dairy foods (about 16%). Vegetables also provide about 8%.

Nutrient Reference Values

My main sources of non meat protein have been:

  • Whey protein isolate – I have this in my smoothies for breakfast which is what I was doing prior to going meatless. Per serve there are 26.1 grams of protein.
  • Eggs – there are 6 grams of protein in one egg
  • Tempeh – there are 19 grams of protein per 100 grams.
  • Chickpeas – there are 19 grams of protein per 100 grams.
  • Peanuts – there are 26 grams of protein per 100 grams. Almonds have 16.5 grams so I have been having peanuts as a snack instead of almonds.
  • Quinoa – there are 14.1 grams of protein per 100 grams of uncooked quinoa.

This is the first time I have cooked with tempeh. I find it is a good substitute for meals like slow cooker satay where I would usually use chicken. The tempeh soaks up the satay flavour and you don’t notice it is there!

I have been making big batches of falafels (main ingredient is chickpeas) and use these as a substitute for meat when we have meat and veg type meals and for lunches.

I love poached and fried eggs, so adding a few more eggs into my weekly diet has not been an issue. In fact I find that my nails grow much faster and stronger when I eat more eggs!

Fitting meatless meals in with the family

This has been the hardest thing about going meatless. For over half the evening meals per week I am having something completely different to the rest of the family. I have been able to sustain this through my weekly prep sessions, but I do prefer when we are all eating something close to the same meal.

The kids don’t like chickpeas or tempeh and I am not pushing the issue with this. With food and the kids, my goal has always been to not make food an issue we fight over. It has been a lifestyle choice for me to make this change, so I continue to cook meat for most meals for the family.

For now I will continue to use my weekly prep sessions to cater for my particular eating preferences and keep feeding the family the same way. I will try more vegetarian based meals on them and see if I can find some winners. I haven’t really had any to date!

Do you have a meatless diet? If so I would love to hear what vegetarian recipes are winners with your family (no one in our family including me likes black beans!)?

April monthly review

HabitConnection to goal - Nurture new routines to re-energise, re-invigorate and create personal growth.Poem quoteApril review
Establish a new work routineI have been working from home for the last 10 years and the last couple I have had less connection with others.

In 2019 I want to change the way I work to re-energise the way I feel about work.
“Don't let your life goals fall victim to the allure of comfortable routines.”
~ Zero Dean
I only worked for about half of April as I took most of school holidays off.

I am still theming my days, but have played around to get the right fit with what to do on what day.
Establish a new morning routineI have had the same morning routine for about the last 5 years. It has served me well, but with the changes in ages of the kids there is now greater flexibility and it is time, I tried some new routines to re-invigorate the start to my day.“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”
~ John C. Maxwell
April continued the same as March but I will make some changes again in May.
Dedicate two hours a week to learning something newI read, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, but I haven't taken the time to really learn something new for some time.

This habit may change a little along the way, but the aim is that I learn something that helps me grow or gives me a new skill.
"Change is the end result of all true learning."
~Leo Buscaglia
As you can read above I have been learning about protein! This has been helpful to make sure I eat well on a meatless diet.
Create a bimonthly non fiction book clubStarting a book club has been on my list of things to do for years and by making it non fiction, it will support my goal for personal growth. Yes I could read the books on my own, but I always get so much more out of a book if I know I have to discuss it with others.“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
~Dr. Seuss
Our second book is The War on Normal People by Andrew Young. I have started it and am really enjoying it, even if what Yang is predicting is a bit scary!

Comments 7

  1. A meat free meal our family loves are sweet corn/zucchini fritters topped with poached eggs and smashed avocado, yum!

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  2. I haven’t eaten meat since I was a teenager (over 30 years). My biggest issue is getting enough iron. I don’t worry too much about protein. It’s only when I start getting too hungry between meals that I add in an egg or something at lunchtime. One of our family meals on high rotation is sweet potato and black beans tacos with fresh tomato and lemon juice in the sauce, with the usual Mexican spices – cumin, coriander etc. Always a hit in our house.

    1. By the way – when I say I don’t worry about protein, what I mean is that I don’t measure it. I do always try and make sure I have a protein source in every meal. Usually some form of legume – chickpeas, lentils etc or tofu, tempeh or eggs. Red lentils are an easy one to hide in family meals because they break down into almost nothing.

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    2. I also haven’t eaten meat for many years and also find Iron can be an issue, while protein hasn’t been. My son also eats mostly vegetarian since birth and getting enough Iron into him has taken vigilance – you can’t waste any snacks, got to make sure there is some Iron in there.

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