THE BLOG

Protein: How Much Is Too Much

06/05/2015 06:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016

Protein is an important macronutrient that plays a role in many bodily functions and is a necessity of a proper diet. But how much is too much? Research shows that most Americans consume more than enough protein each day, especially in the form of animal sources like beef, pork, fish, chicken and eggs.

The average adult needs between 46-56 grams of protein per day for women and men respectively. (Reality check: 3 ounces of animal protein is 20-30 grams of protein). Yet, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our average protein intake is closer to 70-100 grams per day.

This is not to say you need to remove animal proteins from your plate (though it doesn't hurt every once in awhile), but you can become more aware of your intake and recreate the landscape of your plate for the better. What many people don't know is that plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains are also great sources of protein.

With farmers markets in full-swing and the summer bounty on the horizon this is a great time of year to embrace a more plant-centric plate!

Local, seasonal produce can act as inspiration for meal planning and preparation. Celebrate plants and spotlight them at the center of the plate, while viewing animal proteins more as a condiment. Cut portions by blending ground meats and poultry with vegetables like mushrooms or whole grains and beans.

When it comes to rearranging your plate, a little meal prep goes a long way. Pre-chop and/or cook a variety of vegetables so you have them on hand for easy mealtime use. Plan weekly meals and menus that use plant-centric recipes and challenge yourself to a couple of meatless meals each day or week. Get creative and find ways to make your favorite meat-based meals more vegetable-rich (i.e. halving the meat in your chili and adding extra vegetables instead). This can also be as simple as filling half your plate with colorful, seasonal vegetables to help crowd out the often enormous servings of animal proteins that we serve ourselves.

By arraigning a more plant-based plate, especially one that is vegetable centric, you will not only be championing your health, but also improving your environmental sustainability, as well.

The production of animal protein has a huge impact on the environment. A 2014 study showed that animal agriculture is responsible for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions, and beef produces five times the amount as compared to other meat and animal products. So even small changes on your part can have big benefits in the long run.

On average, 10 grams of plant-based protein are required to produce one gram of animal protein. So the question is, why not simply eat 10 grams of plant-based protein instead? Luckily, now you have to the tools to try.

As Originally seen on Philly.com