This is the type of dietary pattern featured in healthy eating guidelines around the world, where predominantly plant-based diets are complemented by animal derived ingredients. More recently, it has also been recognized that a dietary pattern such as this has a lower environmental impact, particularly in relation to its carbon footprint.
For most of us, achieving dietary recommendations means eating more of some types of food, particularly fibre-containing vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and fruit. It also means diversifying the sources of protein we choose, to incorporate more plant sources, such as pulses and nuts. But it doesn’t mean eating more protein overall. The vast majority of us in the UK already exceed recommended amounts, which are 45g/day and 55g/day respectively for females and males aged 15-64 years. Children need less owing to their smaller body size. The Department of Health advises against consuming more than twice the recommended daily amount of protein.
Current protein intakes
Daily protein intakes in women and men aged 19-64 year are estimated to be 64g and 88g respectively. On average, 37% of UK adults’ protein intakes comes from meat/meat products, 23% from cereals/cereal products, 14% from milk/milk products, 10% in total from vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds (including pulses), 7% from fish and 3% from eggs.
Protein as a marketing strategy
Investment in alternative protein sources seems to be on the increase and, despite average protein intakes exceeding recommendations, protein content is often highlighted on food packaging. Yet, ingredient decisions shouldn’t just be about protein. In formulating foods based on alternate protein sources, is consumer desire for clean labels routinely considered? Also, is inclusion of the variety of essential nutrients needed for health, which are provided generously by animal-derived foods such milk, eggs, fish and meat, being overlooked when substitute plant-derived foods are developed?