Protein - what you need to know!

Watch Claire Turnbull's recent TVNZ Breakfast interview to find out all about it!

As these interviews on TVNZ Breakfast are short, some extra info to help….


  • Protein is important for growth and repair, it will also help keep you feeling fuller for longer than carbs or fat.
  • Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, 11 of which our body can make and 9 others which we have to obtain from food and are referred to as ‘essential amino acids’.
  • Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products contain all 9 of these essential amino acids, as do soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk etc) and quinoa. Other types of proteins don’t contain all 9 amino acids, but when you eat a wide variety of them, you can still get what you need overall.


  • As with most things, it does vary from person to person but roughly 78-130g a day is a good guide which is best spread out through the day, so aiming for 20-30g/meal and 5-10g in a snack is a good starting point.
  • More isn’t better – if you have more than you need in a day, it is likely to just be providing extra calories that you may not be burning off, and extra calories will be stored as fat. Not ideal.
  • Most people in NZ are getting an adequate amount of protein, the main issues is getting TIMING wrong and also not realizing that there are plenty of plant based options to add into the mix!
  • It is MUCH better to spread your protein out throughout the day than having most of it at dinner time, your body can only deal with so much in one go.
  • Some good reading on this here.


These are approximate figures as this varies depending on the type/brand you choose.

  • 150g palm sized serving of meat/chicken/ fish has roughly 40g
  • tofu 150g = 15g
  • 2 large eggs = 14g
  • 1 cup milk = 10g
  • ½ can chickpeas = 10g
  • 30g nuts = 8g
  • 1 cup peas/corn = 8g
  • 150g yoghurt = 7g
  • quinoa = 1 cup cooked = 7g
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter = 4g
  • Mushrooms 150g = 4g
  • ½ cup oats = 4g

For a more comprehensive list of the plant-based sources, check this out here.


These above foods also come with different nutrients so mix things up for the maximum benefit!

There are 2g here, 3g there in different foods from bread to pasta to crackers so don’t think you need to get ALL your protein in a meal from the sources above, little bits will come hand in hand with some other foods.


  • If you have toast and jam for breakfast you will probably be hungry ½ hour later because the meal is too low in protein. Have eggs on top or have yoghurt or a glass of milk with it. Check out some healthy breakfast options here.
  • If you use plant-based milks like rice, oat, coconut etc, check the protein! If the one you are buying is low in protein, be mindful you might be hungry soon after having it, unless you add extra nuts/seeds etc to boost up the protein content.
  • If you have a salad at lunch, be sure to have enough protein with it.
  • Love soup? Make sure it has lentils, chickpeas or some kind of pulses in it to keep you full if it doesn’t have chicken or another protein source in it. Or, have a yoghurt or nuts/seeds after it.
  • Swap ham in your sandwich for tuna/egg or something with a bit more protein, or same issue – hungry at 3pm!
  • Coconut yoghurt is also low in protein, so add nuts/seeds.


  • Physical activity stimulates the muscles and protein provides the building blocks for repair.
  • Post-training (specifically weight training) protein is certainly beneficial, but there is a VERY big difference between going to the gym for 45mins 3 times a week and a competitive athlete who is doing heavy training every day who will have much higher protein needs.
  • Helpful to have 20-25g of high-quality protein within an hour of training.
  • Spreading the rest across the day is a good idea.


  • High protein yoghurt/milk? Regular yoghurt is around 4-5g protein/100g, the higher protein ones 8-9g protein/100g. The higher protein yoghurts are simply made in a slightly different way to standard yoghurt, but are no more processed, so they can be helpful if you are needing more protein at a meal like breakfast or a snack.
  • The Protein+ milk is 15g protein/cup v’s trim is 10g/cup, but the same brand of yellow top milk is actually 15g/cup even though it doesn’t say it specifically on the front of the label. It is a good idea to check the protein of the milk you buy if you are keen to make sure you are having enough protein at breakfast.


They can be convenient for busy people doing large amounts of weight training, but most people can get all the protein they need through normal everyday foods as mentioned above. It depends on what you are willing to pay for and also, being mindful of what else is in the powders you are buying? Artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols like sorbitol etc, not ideal! If you have hungry teenagers needing extra protein in their smoothies, add more yoghurt or a tablespoon of trim milk powder.

More on protein powders here and a great read here.

NEED PERSONALISED ADVICE? We can help... the awesome team of qualified and experienced Dietitians and Nutritionists (all with a minimum of 4 years full-time training) here at Mission Nutrition are here to help. Tom, Jo and Jess are also great sports Dietitians with experience working with professional athletes as well as Masters/Ph.D. qualifications behind them so they will be able to help sort a personalised plan if you need it.



Published By

Claire Turnbull



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