How to get enough protein when eating less meat

Did you know 27th September – 3rd October 2022 marks Meat Free Week around the world?

Seven days of meat-free eating to take stock of, and perhaps re-evaluate, your meat intake.

Research has proven that people who eat more plant-based food, such as vegetables and fruit, tend to have lower Body Mass Index, and reduced risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol.

Meat free week provides food for thought for people to make more informed decisions if they are eating over the recommended intake of protein. Replacing some of the red meat in your diet with plant-based proteins is a fantastic way to boost the variety in your diet and experiment with some healthy and delicious new foods.

With this in mind, our dieticians, Anna and Alex from The Biting Truth discuss how we can eat meat-free and still make sure to not miss out on the all-important protein in our diets!

The importance of protein

A common question received by non-meat eaters is ‘but how do you get enough protein?’. People’s obsession with protein and getting enough of it presumably stems from the fact it’s an essential component of all cells. Every. Single. Cell. Which tells us, protein is everywhere.

Sure, some sources of protein are of better value than others (more on that later), but the truth is it isn’t that difficult to get enough protein, even when you cut out (or down on) meat intake.

Protein is found throughout the entire body – in muscle, bone, skin, hair, hormones and almost every other body part of tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and helps carry oxygen around the body.

How much protein do I need?

On average, adults require roughly 0.8-1 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day. Meaning someone weighing 70 kilograms would need to eat between 56 and 70 grams of protein per day. Active people might need even more, say around 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.

Non-meat protein sources

A plant-based diet that cuts out all meat, leaving nothing but fruits, veggies, and grains can be tricky, especially long-term. It is important to make sure you are making up for the lack in meat-derived protein with an equally (if not more) nutritious and delicious option.

It’s a myth that vegetarian meals are low in protein. It is very easy to get enough protein without eating meat. However, to do so you must make sure you include a rich source of vegetarian protein (see image below for example of good sources of vegetarian proteins)

What about plant-based meat alternatives?

There are a variety of plant-based meat alternatives available at supermarkets now (e.g. burgers, sausages, mince meat). These alternatives can offer convenience, variety and enjoyment. Many are packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron, B12 and zinc. They are also high in protein. Some brands are higher in sodium (salt) and saturated fat than others, so where possible choose healthier options. It’s always a good idea to check the ingredients list and look for products that are mostly made from legumes (e.g. black beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans).

Meat Free Week and beyond

So, what do you say to giving Meat Free Week a crack? It could be any seven days you like!  Rope a friend or family member in if that helps, or get your colleagues on board.
When the seven days are over you don’t have to swear off meat forever, though doing whatever you feel is best for your body and health is most important!

Our top tip for you would be to plan your meals in advance making sure you’re including a protein source at each meal. For example, our Veggie Loaded Baked Eggs for breakfast, Grilled Zucchini and White Bean Salad for lunch, and Tofu Tikka Masala for dinner.

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