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Protein is found in many foods and is needed to keep you healthy. Your body uses protein to:
- Provide building blocks for growth and for repairing cells like those in your muscles, skin, and nails.
- Make enzymes and hormones, which carry out key body functions.
Protein is found in peas, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and their butters, soy products like tofu and soy beverage, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Grains, vegetables, and fruit also add small amounts of protein to your diet. Eating protein from a wide variety of food sources will help you meet your needs for nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and calcium.
Plan your meals based on Canada’s Food Guide https://food-guide.canada.ca
Include protein at all your meals.
- Fill ¼ of your plate with protein foods
- Choose plant-based protein foods more often
This resource will help you to check if you get enough protein in your diet.
Steps you can take
1. Find out how much protein you need
Most adults over 19 years of age need about 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. You can use the following equations to calculate your protein needs.
Step 2: Weight in kg × 0.8 = Average Daily Protein Need (g)
Note: 1 kg = 2.2 lbs
An adult who weighs 80 kg (176 lbs) needs about 64 g of protein each day, while an adult who weighs 65 kg (143 lbs) needs about 52 g of protein each day.
The following groups have different protein needs than what is recommended above:
- children and youth
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- some athletes
- people with certain health conditions
Talk to a registered dietitian to help determine the amount of protein that’s right for you.
2. Find out how much protein you eat
To estimate the amount of protein in your diet, keep a food record for one or two days. Record what and how much you eat and drink. Then, add up the protein in your diet using the amounts in foods listed below. The amount of protein in foods can also be found on food labels.
|Meat, fish or poultry, cooked||75 g (2 ½ oz) / 125 mL (½ cup)||21|
|Pumpkin seeds||60 mL (¼ cup)||17|
|Yogurt, Greek style||175 mL (¾ cup)||14|
|Cottage cheese||125 mL (½ cup)||13|
|Hemp seeds||60mL (¼ cup)||13|
|Firm tofu||150 g / 175 mL (¾ cup)||12|
|Beans, peas or lentils, cooked||175 mL (¾ cup)||12|
|Egg, chicken||2 large||12|
|Cheese||50 g (1 ½ oz)||12|
|Cow's milk||250 mL (1 cup)||9|
|Peanuts||60 mL (¼ cup)||9|
|Peanut butter (natural)||30 mL (2 Tbsp)||8|
|Almonds||60 mL (¼ cup)||8|
|Almond butter (plain)||30 mL (2 Tbsp)||7|
|Yogurt||175 mL (¾ cup)||7|
|Fortified soy beverage||250 mL (1 cup)||7|
|Sunflower seeds||60 mL (¼ cup)||7|
|Sunflower seed butter (plain)||30 mL (2 Tbsp)||6|
|Walnuts||60 mL (¼ cup)||5|
|Cashews||60 mL (¼ cup)||5|
|Cashew butter (plain)||30 mL (2 Tbsp)||4|
|Bread||1 slice (35 g)||4|
|Pasta, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||4|
|Quinoa, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||4|
|Cereals, hot||175 mL (¾ cup)||2 to 4|
|Cereals, cold||30 g||3|
|Rice, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||3|
|Fortified plant-based beverages (almond, cashew, rice)||250 mL (1 cup)||1|
|Vegetables||125 mL (½ cup) or 250 mL (1 cup) lettuce||1|
|Fruit||1 fruit or 125 mL (½ cup)||1|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2015.
Most people do not need protein powder. If you find it hard to get enough protein from food, protein powder may be helpful.
Protein powders are often dairy (for example whey or casein) or plant (such as soy or pea) based. In general, choose a simple protein powder with no extra ingredients such as sweeteners, vitamins, minerals or herbal products.
Protein powders often provide 10 to 30 grams of protein per serving. Scoop size may vary between products. Check the nutrition facts table on the label to find out how much protein the product contains.
For information and advice based on your specific food and nutrition needs and preferences, call 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a HealthLink BC dietitian.
For additional information, see the following resources:
- HealthLink BC www.healthlinkbc.ca – Get medically approved non-emergency health information.
- Dietitian Services Fact Sheets - Available by mail (call 8-1-1) or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthy-eating
- Quick Nutrition Check for Protein: Sample Menus www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/quick-nutrition-check-protein-sample-menus
- Canada’s Food Guide https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
- Canadian Nutrient File https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp