Monday, 3 November 2014

Protein in the Vegetarian Low-FODMAP diet

The question is - are you getting enough?

Hi again fodmappers. 

A couple of times lately I've been asked how I manage to get enough protein on a vegetarian low-fodmap diet. It's a good question because, as you probably know, many of the usual vegetarian protein sources (legumes and some nuts) are off limits. Though I felt intuitively that I do get enough, it never hurts to do a bit of research and check. So that's been my project this last week.

I soon realised that, before looking at whether I was getting enough, I had to find out how much protein I should be having. That seems obvious I know, but when you constantly see ads for protein shakes, bars and protein based weight-loss programmes, the suggestion seems to be that none of us are getting enough, let alone anyone on a restricted diet!

The first figures I came across were that a sedentary man needs 56g a day and a woman needs 46g. Those figures weren't working for me for a simple reason, and that is that our need for protein must differ according to our body size, age and health, as well as our activity levels. After a while I tracked down a suggested intake of 0.66g of protein per kg of body weight for both men and women. (1) For me that works out at 31.43g of protein per day - much less than the average guidelines.

My next task, of course, was to find out how much protein there is in the food I eat. (A summary of just one day is at the end of today's blog). It's surprising what contains what!

I've recently converted to using cups as a way of measuring dry and liquid ingredients, but if you don't have these handy little measuring devices you might like to know that 1 cup is the same as 250ml. Simply find something in your kitchen that holds 250ml and you're away.

Dairy and Milk Alternatives

  • 1 large egg = 6g
  • 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese = 28g
  • 1 cubic inch of cheddar cheese = 4.2g
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese = 21g
  • 1 cubic inch of feta = 2.4g
  • 1 cup of lactose free milk = 9g
  • 1 cup of almond milk = 1.25g
  • 1 cup of oat milk = 2.5g
  • 1 cup of oat milk = 0.25g

Nuts and Seeds

  • 1 cup of walnuts = 18g
  • 1 cup of brazil nuts = 19g
  • 1 cup of hazelnuts = 20g
  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds = 29g
  • 1 cup of sesame seeds = 26g
  • 1 cup of dried pumpkin seeds = 39g
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter = 4g
  • 1 tbsp of almond butter = 3.35g
  • 1 tbsp of tahini/sesame seed paste = 3g


  • 1 cup of cooked buckwheat = 6g
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa = 8g
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice = 5g
  • 1 cup of cooked white rice = 4.2g
  • 1 cup dry oatmeal/porridge oats = 6g

Fruit and Vegetables

  • 1 medium banana = 1.3g
  • 1 medium kiwi fruit = 0.8g
  • 1 cup of spinach = 0.9g
  • 1 large potato (baked with skin) = 7g
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper = 1g
  • 1 small courgette = 1.4g
  • 1 cup of shredded lettuce = 0.5g
  • 1 medium tomato = 1.1g
  • 1 cup of cubed butternut squash = 1.4g

Bread and Crackers

  • 1 slice of Genius triple seeded bread = 2.1g
  • 1 slice of Genius brown bread = 1.2g
  • 1 slice of Genius spicy fruit bread = 1.2g
  • 1 Kallo Organic unsalted rice cake =  0.6g
  • 1 Nairns oat cake = 0.8g


  • 100g Orgran buckwheat spirals = 11.2g
  • 100g Orgran corn and vegetable spirals = 6.9g

  • 100g of Tofu = 8g
  • 100g of canned chick peas = 4.3g

I could include much more ....

So, back to the question of whether I am getting enough protein. The only way this was going to be accurate was if I added it up as I went along. So one day last week I met a friend for a cuppa (Hi Jacqui) and kept notes.

My breakfast that day was 1 banana (1.3g) and a bowl of porridge made with half a cup of oats and 1 cup of lactose free milk (12g). Mid-morning I had a gluten free coconut and raspberry slice (4g). And lunch was a kiwi fuit (0.8g), a peanut butter sandwich on Genius fruit bread (6.4g) and a small savoury muffin (6g). The recipe for the muffin (and it's really easy) can be found here.

If you've been counting you'll know that comes to 30.05g of protein (remember I need to aim for 31.43g) and at that point I have to confess I stopped counting.

But this has been an interesting issue to explore. I had never realised what a difference there is in the protein content of the low-fodmap milks, for example, and how something as simple as a bowl of porridge can give a real protein boost to the start of your day. It's an exercise that's definitely worth doing.

And it's been reassuring. The low-FODMAP diet is complicated enough, especially for vegetarians and vegans, without worrying about protein too.

So a big thank you to those of you who have asked, you know who you are. It's been an eye-opener putting this list together, and an education. If there are any other topics you'd like me to explore, please let me know.


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