Hunting for Protein

Getting enough protein is a hot topic in wellness conversations right now, but making sure you get enough protein for your current needs can be a bit overwhelming.

I have an 80+ year old friend who keeps tally of how much protein he is getting over the day so he can be certain he is hitting his goal. He commented on the effort it can take to get all the protein he needs in a day.

If you are not much of a meat eater, for whatever reason – preference, cost, appetite, or cooking skill – then this is for you.  

Protein is important because of the many functions it plays in our body (more on this in another blog). There are different kinds of proteins and different sources of proteins. We can default to thinking first of animal proteins like meat, eggs, dairy and kai moana / seafood, possibly because animal protein is the most concentrated, and because it tends to be the main event of a meal.

However, plenty of proteins can be found in plant foods. Plant protein is packaged within the plant along with carbohydrates and fibre, and as such is not such a concentrated form. Sometimes this is described as protein quality, and plant protein is considered to be a lower quality protein than animal-source proteins.  

However, animal proteins – particularly meats - are not necessarily easier to eat than plant proteins. Some reasons for this include:

  • You have lost your appetite for meat

  • Chewing and/or swallowing meat is more difficult than previously

  • Cooking meat is a chore. Maybe you are cooking for one now and it is a bit of a fuss

  • You have chosen not to eat meat/ animal products

  • You dislike dairy / eggs - or they dislike you

  • Meat, eggs, cheese and kai moana/ seafood are expensive

So here is some hopeful news:

  1. Eating a little bit of protein many times in the day is better than 2 or 3 large protein meals a day – and probably more manageable.

  2. Unlike most animal protein sources, plant proteins can be easier to prepare and eat, such as nuts, green peas, and oats.

  3. A varied diet is essential for good gut health. Plants provide an enormous variety of complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals to our diets. Think grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, pulses, fungi. The greater the variety, the better. And there is some protein in most plants.

An effective amount of daily protein intake in older adults is 1.1g protein/kg body weight.

So, if you weight 64kg your daily protein goal will be 70g.  

I’ve created a list of common non-meat protein sources to help make it easier to get a little bit more protein here and there over the day.

If you like keeping lists, try keeping a running tally of how much protein you have eaten over the day. The results might surprise you!

Download the Non-meat Protein list here.