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Ask Dr. Gourmet

How much protein should I be getting?

How much protein should I eat at a meal? I am a non meat eater. I do eat egg whites, cheese and some seafood. No salmon or steak-like fish. What do you suggest?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

common food sources of protein, including fish, eggs, beef, legumes, and quinoa

The USDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is set a little higher than what we might need. This is done to allow for a wide variety of needs.

The average need for protein is 0.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, with variations based on your ideal body weight and age. The USDA RDA is 0.8 grams per kilogram, however, to make sure that most folks get an adequate supply. So an adult male weighing 70 kilos (155 lbs.) would need around 56 grams of protein per day, and a 50 kilogram (110 lbs.) woman would need about 40 grams each day.

There are some exceptions to this, including pregnancy (add 30 grams per day) and breast feeding (an extra 20 grams a day). Kids also need more and the table below will show you the different levels of protein needs based on age:

Age Protein RDA
(grams per kilo of body weight)
0-6 months 2.2
6-12 months 2.0
1-3 years 1.8
4-6 years 1.5
7-10 years 1.2
11-14 years 1.0
15-18 years 0.9
19 + years 0.8

So what does that break down to in practical terms? 4 ounces of skinless chicken breast contains about 25 grams of protein. It is up to you how much protein to consume at each meal, but it is a good idea to have at least some protein at each meal as protein helps keep you satisfied.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet

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