The power of protein
Protein contributes to the maintenance of muscle mass. The amount of protein we require changes throughout our lifespan, for example children, pregnant women and breast feeding women require extra protein. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that we eat 2-3 portions of protein per day.
Estimated daily protein requirement
Adults require an estimated daily protein requirement calculated by multiplying their body weight in kg by 0.75g. So for example, a 70kg man will need approx 52.5g of protein per day. In the UK, the average daily protein intake well exceeds our requirements.
There are many different sources of protein such as meat, fish, beans, pulses and eggs. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that we eat 2-3 portions of protein per day. (see portion size section below).
The Eatwell Guide encourages us to eat more beans and pulses and eat less red and processed meat such as bacon, sausages, cooked ham and continental meats. This will help us shift to more sustainable diets and also means you get more fibre and move closer to your 5 a day.
Plant based protein
Plant based protein such as nuts, beans, pulses and soya are all good sources of protein and can be used in many different recipes.
The portion size of nuts is about 30g (about a handful). They make a great on the go snack or you could chop them up and add them to meals.
Three heaped tablespoons of beans and pulses counts towards your 1 of your 5 a day. These are great for adding to curries, stews and casseroles. Check out our Co-op recipes for some ideas.
Tofu and other plant based meat alternatives are really versatile and can be used in lots of dishes.
Fish is also a great source of protein. It’s recommended that we eat at least two portions (a portion is about 140g cooked weight) of responsibly sourced fish a week. This includes one portion of oily fish such as mackerel, herrings, sardines, trout, salmon or pilchards. Oily fish contains Omega 3 which contributes to the normal function of the heart.
There are different varieties of responsibly sourced fish that can be fresh, frozen, or canned. This means they vary nutritionally so it’s best to eat a range which will also help from a sustainability point of view. Check out our Co-op recipes for meal inspiration.
Red meat is a good source of protein but the Department of Health advises that if you eat over 90g red and processed meat per day (cooked weight) then you should cut down to 70g per day. As a visual guide, a 90g portion is approximately three thinly cut slices of beef, lamb or pork, where each slice is about the size of half a piece of sliced bread.
Eggs are a very versatile protein source which can be consumed as part of a meal or snack. Some cooking methods such as frying or scrambling will add additional fat so boiling or poaching are the healthier options. A medium boiled egg will provide approximately 8g of protein.
Cheese is a source of protein. However it’s recommended that a portion size of cheese is 30g (about the size of a small match box) because it can be high in fat. For a healthier alternative, try grating cheese to make it go further or look out for reduced fat cheese versions.
Tips, Tricks & Hacks
The Eatwell Guide recommends that for a healthier more sustainable diet we reduce our intake of red meat and processed meat. Here are some tips on healthier options if using meat and also ways to reduce your meat intake:
- Try to choose those leaner cuts and look to trim off any excess fat
- Grilling rather than frying is a much healthier way to cook it
- Don't forget that skinless chicken and turkey breast are lower in saturated fat and therefore make a great alternative
- Why not switch out your beef mince for turkey mince in your spaghetti Bolognese, cottage pie or lasagne for a healthier option during the week?
- Or add chopped veg like onions, grated carrot or beans so you can use less mince – lentils are also a great alternative
- Bulk out stews, casseroles, chilli and curries with plenty of veg and beans so you can use less meat
- You could try having meat free days, we have lots of delicious recipes on our website to help inspire you
You can find more information about the links between a healthy and sustainable diet on the WWF Live Well guide.