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Do I have to eat meat to get enough protein in my diet?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you are a vegan, a vegetarian or a qualitarian (like me) you're eating right for optimal health by reducing your intake of animal proteins and fats, and when consuming them, having the best quality. But how do friends, parents, and even healthcare practitioners react? A lot of my clients tell me that despite the publicity for the health benefits of less animal, many will invoke the old myth, that vegetarians can't get sufficient protein, in the name of "health".

Let's be really clear. Gone are the days of having to combine foods at a singular eating occasion to achieve a "complete" protein -- another meal of beans and rice, anyone? And in fact, what we know of those eating occasions, is that they can actually be too carbohydrate dominant making weight maintenance and energy balance an issue. Today we know that, yes you can have your beans and rice (an ideal portion size of the combined rice + beans is about your fist, yes Shaq can eat more rice and beans at a serving than the average woman or man, and certainly child, despite the fact that when we eat out we are often given Shaq sized portions).

But beyond rice n' beans you can also choose organic berries with hempseeds (a complete protein), or quinoa (another complete protein) with cinnamon, nuts, oil, and stevia for a yummy breakfast bowl. Use tempeh (non-genetically modified organisms [GMO], fermented soy, another complete protein) in a salad or in place of the "meat" in your sandwich. With hemp, rice, soy, pea and sprouted grain protein sources popping up everywhere, it's easy, healthy and tasty to get sufficient protein not from animal sources. So go on, get your protein at every eating occasion and enjoy some of nature's best tasting and nutritious treats.
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

The simple answer: No, you do not need meat to get enough protein in your diet. The simple answer explained: there are plenty of people in the world who do not consume meat but are functioning perfectly fine on other types of food that supply the same amount of protein for a healthy lifestyle. Tofu is something that vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters and a lot of people in between have come across at some point, or will so in the future. Tofu is a great source of plant based protein (and delicious), but people either absolutely love it or hate it, there is rarely a middle ground. Other sources of protein, if you happen to be looking to get away from tofu, are things like quinoa, almonds, yogurt, legumes, cheese and seitan just to name a few

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

No you don’t have to meat in order to get enough protein in your diet. Plant based protein sources include beans, lentils, peas, soy, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and whole grains such as quinoa. One ounce of tempeh, ¼ cup tofu, ¼ cup soybeans, ¼ cup refried beans, ½ ounce of nuts or seeds, or ¼ cup of cooked dry peas or beans are each equal to one ounce of meat. Another option to get more protein is to consume Greek yogurt, a 6 ounce container can provide 14-18 grams of protein.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.