Protein is found in many foods and is needed to keep you healthy. It provides building blocks for growth and for repairing cells like those in your muscles, skin, and nails. Your body also uses protein to make enzymes and hormones. This resource will help you to make sure you are getting the right amount of protein in your diet.
How much protein do you need?
Adults over 19 years of age need 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. You can use the following equations to find out how much protein you need.
Step 1: Weight in pounds (lbs) ÷ 2.2 = weight in kg
Step 2: Weight in kg x 0.8 = Average Daily Protein Need
Note: 1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs
An average adult man needs about 56 g of protein each day.
An average adult female needs about 46 g of protein each day.
The following groups have different protein needs than what is recommended above:
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- some athletes
Talk to a registered dietitian to help determine the amount of protein that's right for you.
Steps You Can Take
Protein is found in meats, fish, poultry, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, dried or canned peas, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and their butters, and in soy products like tofu and soy beverage. Grains, vegetables, and fruit also add small amounts of protein to your diet. Eating protein from a wide variety of food sources will also help you meet your needs for nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D.
Protein powders (e.g. whey powder) will add protein to your diet, but do not have significant sources of other nutrients that your body needs. In contrast, milk is a source of protein, and also has calcium, vitamins D, B12, and B2 (riboflavin).
Follow Canada's Food Guide when you plan your meals. This will help you meet your daily protein needs. Canada's Food Guide suggests that each day you aim for:
- 7 - 10 servings of vegetables and fruits: one serving is equal to a medium sized vegetable or fruit, or 125 mL (½ cup);
- 6 - 8 servings of grain products: one serving is equal to/could be 1 slice (35 g) of bread or 125 mL (½ cup) cooked pasta or rice;
- 2 - 3 servings of milk and alternatives: one serving could be 250 mL (1 cup) of milk or 175 mL (¾ cup) of yogurt or 250 mL (1 cup) of soy beverage; and
- 2 - 3 servings of meat and alternatives: one serving could be 75 g (2 ½ oz) of meat or 175 mL (¾ cup) cooked legumes or tofu.
To estimate the amount of protein in your diet, keep a food record for one or two days, recording what you eat and drink. Then, add up the protein in your diet using the amounts in foods listed below.
|Food||Portion||Protein (g) (approximate)|
|Meat, fish or poultry, cooked||75 g (2 ½ oz) / 125 mL (½ cup)||21|
|Firm tofu||150 g / 175 mL (¾ cup)||21|
|Egg, chicken||2 large||12|
|Cheese||50 g (1 ½ oz)||12|
|Fortified soy beverage||250 mL (1 cup)||7|
|Dried beans, peas or lentils, cooked||175 mL (¾ cup)||12|
|Cow's milk||250 mL (1 cup)||9|
|Yogurt||175 mL (¾ cup)||8|
|Peanut butter or other nut/seed spread||30 mL (2 Tbsp)||6|
|Nuts or seeds||60 mL (¼ cup)||7|
|Bread||1 slice (35 g)||4|
|Cereals, cold||30 g||3|
|Cereals, hot||175 mL (¾ cup)||4|
|Pasta or rice, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||3|
|Vegetables||125 mL (½ cup) or 250 mL (1 cup) lettuce||2|
|Fruit||1 fruit or 125 mL (½ cup)||1|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, March 2015.
Dietitian Services Fact Sheets available by mail (call 8-1-1) or online:
Last updated: April 2015