Diet & Nutrition

Here’s how to calculate how much protein you need each day

Breaking down nutritional info can feel like rocket science, but this excerpt from the CSIRO Women’s Health & Nutrition Guide will show you exactly how to decode it.

Our body’s requirement for protein varies at different life stages. For women, protein needs are highest during childhood and adolescence, as well as during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Australian recommended dietary intakes (RDIs) for protein are a daily average of 0.75 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight for women 19-70 years of age.

However, recent research and expert committees conclude that healthy adults might benefit from a higher daily average protein intake of between 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight.

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Let’s take a look at an example. Samara weighs 70 kg. What does 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight look like for her?

  • Samara’s lowest calculation: 1.2g of protein X 70kg body weight = 84 grams of protein
  • Samara’s highest calculation: 1.6g of protein X 70kg body weight = 112 grams of protein

So Samara should aim for approximately 84-112 grams of protein per day.

The plan below is an example of Samara’s eating habits and shows how she would achieve a protein intake in this range. She has spread her protein intake fairly evenly across the day, which allows the body to make the best use of the dietary protein. Aim for about 25 g of protein per main meal. This is equivalent to about 100 g raw lean meat. The main meal recipes in this book provide about this amount of protein per serve.

The Protein Plan


  • 30g of breakfast cereal = 3 grams of protein
  • 100g of yoghurt = 7 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup of milk = 5 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of milky coffee = 10 grams of protein
  • Total breakfast = 25 grams


  • 100g of tuna = 22 grams of protein
  • 1 slice of cheese = 5 grams of protein
  • 1 crispbread = 3 grams of protein
  • Salad = no protein
  • Total lunch = 30 grams of protein

Afternoon tea

  • 14 nuts = 3 grams of protein
  • Total afternoon tea = 3 grams


  • 150g chicken = 33 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice = 2 grams of protein
  • Mixed vegetables = 1-6 grams of protein
  • Total dinner: 36–41 grams

Samara’s daily total would be between 94 and 99 grams of protein.

How to get enough protein per day

  1. Increase your protein at breakfast by adding foods such as milk, yoghurt, eggs and legumes. Typically, breakfasts are high in carbohydrate, such as cereal and toast. Aim for plenty of variety.
  2. Add more fish dishes to your regular rotation of meals.
  3. Try some plant-based protein sources, such as tofu, and experiment with recipes containing legumes.
  4. To get the same amount of dietary protein, a larger volume of plant-based proteins is needed compared to meat, fish, eggs, etc. Remember to trim fat and remove the skin from animal meats because these are high in unhealthy saturated fat.

Benefits of protein:

  • helps build and maintain muscle mass and strength, when combined with resistance exercises
  • helps with weight management by regulating appetite
  • promotes healthy ageing. Combining resistance exercise with adequate protein intake prevents the muscle loss that happens as we get older. This is important for retaining physical strength and independence.

This is an extract from the CSIRO Women’s Health & Nutrition Guide by Jane Bowen, Bev Muhlhausler & Gemma Williams, Published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $39.99.