Plant-Based Portions and Proteins

Proteins are known as the building blocks of life as they breakdown into amino acids that help the body grow and repair. Our hair, skin and muscle are all made from the protein we eat. Three plant sources – soy protein, quinoa and Quorn – contain all the essential amino acids needed for good health. Other plant sources of protein lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Sometimes animal protein is thought of as a ‘complete protein’ for this reason. But it’s not true that vegetarians will lack protein, or that you need to eat plant-based proteins in certain combinations. Eating a variety of plant protein each day gives you all the essential amino acids you need. Most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day (for the average woman, this is 45g, or 55g for men).

Keeping the vegan Eatwell Guide in mind, you can personalise your portion sizes.

Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potato:

  • Portion size: Your clenched fist
  • Include 1 portion at each main meal and ensure it fills no more than ¼ of your plate

Protein like tofu/beans/pulses

  • Portion size: Palm of your hand
  • Aim to have a portion at each meal


  • Portion size: 1 of your cupped hands
  • Enjoy as a snack or part of a meal

Vegan spreads/nut butter

  • Portion size: The tip of your thumb
  • Eat no more than 2 or 3 times a day

Savouries like popcorn/crisps

  • Portion size: 2 of your cupped hands
  • Enjoy as a snack/treat

Bakes like vegan brownies/flapjacks

  • Portion size: 2 of your fingers
  • Enjoy as an occasional treat

Good sources of plant based proteins are:

  • Beans and Pulses – they are cheap and convenient and work in partnership with grains to provide a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Lentils and beans (especially soya beans) are also rich in iron.

Baked beans – 120g– 6g of protein

Chickpeas – 105g –8g of protein

Lentils – 120g – 9gof protein

  • Soya - soya beans are a complete protein, comparable in quality with animal protein, but are low in fat and contain fibre and iron. Eating 25g of soya protein a day, instead of meat, can help lower cholesterol levels. This is equivalent to a glass of soya milk, a pot of soya yoghurt or an 80g serving of tofu.
  • Tofu, tempeh, and edamame

Tofu is a plant-based protein made from soybeans. The beans are soaked, cooked, and crushed into a liquid. With the help of a coagulant, the liquid thickens to become tofu. Tofu is low-carb, dairy-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free.

Tofu is extremely versatile. It doesn't have a lot of flavour on its own, and it takes on the flavour of whatever you cook it with. The more firm, the less water content, and therefore, the more calories and nutrients. The more liquid varieties, likes silken and soft tofu, have more water in it, and fewer calories, carbs, protein, and fat.  

100g tofu gives you 8g of protein

Edamame beans are immature soybeans and 40g will give you 5g of protein. They can be added to soups, stews, salads and noodle dishes or eaten as a snack.

Tempeh is a nutrient-dense soy product with a high amount of protein, as well as various vitamins and minerals. It may decrease cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and appetite while improving bone health. Tempeh also contains prebiotics, which may improve digestive health and reduce inflammation. has a strong, nutty flavour. It also tends to absorb the flavours of any food or sauce to which it is added, making it a versatile choice for many sorts of dishes, from chilli’s and stews to sandwiches.

100g of tempeh gives you 19g of protein

  • Seitan - Seitan is a complete protein made from mixing wheat gluten with various spices. You can buy seitan in tins or jars, cooked and marinated and     ready to eat, or you can easily make your own.

100g of seitan gives you 75g of protein

  • Quorn - Like soya, Quorn is a complete protein. It is made from an edible fungus and has a meat-like texture. It is naturally low in saturated fat. It contains more     fibre than an equivalent portion of baked beans, wholemeal bread or brown rice. It is sold in a range of forms from mince to fillets, so can easily be swapped with meat, but take care to read labels as the salt content can vary.

100g of quorn gives you 11g of protein

  • Quinoa - is cooked and eaten like a grain, but is actually a seed of a green vegetable related to chard and spinach. It is a good protein food, but it’s not the amount that is impressive, it’s the type. Unlike cereals, quinoa has all of the essential amino acids you find in animal protein. It is an easy substitute for rice and pasta. 

185g cooked quinoa gives you

  • Nuts and seeds - are an excellent source of protein and also have a surprising amount of fibre, they are high in fat bit these are, on the whole, healthy fats. Walnuts, as well as many seeds (such as ground flax, chia and hemp) also contain some essential omega-3 fatty acids that the body can’t make on its own. The     combination of fat and fibre is excellent for keeping you from feeling hungry. Like nuts, seeds contain healthy unsaturated fats and protein. They can be easily added to salads and pasta or you can eat them plain as a simple snack.  A serving of nuts or seeds is about 30g and you can sprinkle them on salads, soups and add them to your breakfast and many other meals.

Peanuts – 30g serving– 8g protein

Walnuts – 30g serving – 4g protein

Hazelnuts – 30g serving - 4g protein

Sunflower – 30g serving – 6g protein

Pumpkin – 30g serving – 7g protein

  • Cereals and grain - Wholegrain breads, rice and pasta have more protein, fibre and iron than white versions. Brown rice with beans, or bread with hummus or nut butter, can give you as much protein as a piece of meat.

Wholegrain rice –185g cooked – 7g protein

Wholegrain bread –medium slice – 3g of protein

Oats ( uncooked ) –40g – 4g of protein

Wholemeal pitta –58g – 5g of protein

Spelt - is a cereal grain from the wheat family, but is not wheat (same genus, different species), looking very similar to wheat in appearance. Once turned into flour it has a nutty and slightly sweet flavour, very similar to whole wheat flour. 100g of raw spelt has 15g of protein.

 Teff – is a tiny grass seed with a high calcium content as week as containing iron and protein. It has a mild, nutty flavour and can be used in many ways – ground into flour or as a whole grain. It can also be boiled or steamed as a side dish. 100g of teff flour has 12.2g of protein.

Vegetables – Many dark-coloured, leafy greens and vegetables contain protein. Eaten alone, these foods are not enough to meet daily protein requirements, but a few vegetable snacks can increase protein intake, particularly when combined with other protein-rich foods.  Mushrooms are also a good source.

a single, medium stalk of broccoli contains about 4g of protein

100g kale has 4.3g of protein

5 medium mushrooms have 3g of protein.