How Much Protein and Vegetables Should We Eat?

(Steak and Arugula Salad from my cookbook, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons).

As we are getting close to our 10 Day Produce and Protein Challenge, I wanted to talk more about the challenge’s guidelines and where they came from.

How much protein and vegetables should we be eating everyday on a normal basis (and what will we be aiming for in our challenge)? I believe that everyone is unique and that there is not one diet for mankind. However, I have personally found the suggestions and guidelines from Julia Ross’s book, The Mood Cure helpful.

In this fascinating book, Julia Ross talks about how protein provides the building blocks your body needs to regulate a healthy body (and a good mood). Vegetables provide other minerals and vitamins also much needed by the body. Fats help you absorb and carry those nutrients and carbohydrates help give us energy. This sounds like a well rounded diet, doesn’t it? Yet, if you are like many, our diets can be quickly imbalanced unnoticed by us, even while eating “healthy” foods.

In regard to protein, She had this to say, “ There’s no question about this one. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of people add more protein to their lives and report great changes in their moods within days as a result. The word protein actually means “of primary importance” in Greek. As I’ve said in every chapter of this book, without protein you cannot feel optimistic, enthusaiastic, calm or comforted.”

And in each chapter dealing with different needed hormones she walks you through why you need protein for the production of many different hormones and for the balancing of many different health issues.

About vegetables she says, ” They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that made good moods possible. They’re the indispensable partners to the good mood protein and fats in providing the nutrients you brain needs most.”

Here are her guidelines.

Put your first emphasis at all three meals on protein, fat, and vegetables. Eat 20-30 grams of protein at each meal, about the size of the palm of your hand. Eat lots of green and some red, orange, purple, and yellow vegetables every day. Your goal is at least 4-5 cups of vegetables a day.

Here is the example she gives for what it would look like to get that many vegetables, ” How many vegetables fill my mood requirements everyday? you ask. Answer: From 4-5 cups a day, the amount of veggies that would overflow if you put them into a quart container like a milk carton. Think a good size salad, plus 2 cups cooked or raw vegetables. Or a big salad (8 cups) containing lots of veggies. Think a large Caesar at lunch and a stir-fry with snow peas, cabbage and broccoli florets at dinner. (It takes 2 cups of leafy greens like lettuce or raw spinach to make a cup, because it’s so fluffy and insubstantial).

In my case of regaining my energy, I was eating two very large salads most days, as well as fruit, other veggies, and plenty of protein and carbs.

She goes on to say that there is not a quota for fat, but that you definitely should get plenty of essential and saturated fat (extra virgin olive oil, butter, coconut oil, ghee, etc). As well as plenty of liquids and high-carbohydrate foods such as fruit, high-carb vegetables, legume or whole grains as needed. As long as you don’t have blood sugar issues, she does think that fruits also add a lot of nutrients to your diet. Fish is recommended twice a week.

So those are her guidelines in her book. We, together will be aiming to eat that much protein and vegetables with plenty of high quality fats and carbohydrates. You Ready?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!


  1. says

    So interesting. This is the first I’ve really heard about your challenge. And inspires me to join in! Especially since I spend my efforts trying to get different kinds of produce every day, I forget about protein. This book also looks like a really interesting read! Thanks!

  2. says

    I am about 13 weeks pregnant, and the only way I make it through the first trimester is to eat protein and carbs (gluten-free, dairy-free this time around) every two hours. I read that years ago in a little cookbook called, “Perfectly Pregnant” which was written by a dietician. Looking back, I’d have to say that her advice on protein and carbs was just about the only tidbit I would still agree with, but I’m so thankful for that knowledge, four babies into the journey! Now that I am a little further along, I can stretch the eating to 3+ hours, but I’m shocked that I only feel really good if I eat a hefty amount of meat. Not doing as well on the veggie side, so I’m happy for your challenge!

  3. says

    Mmm… Well I eat about 2 pounds of vegetables at dinner a night – I think I am set! Oh and the protein thing is a sinch, I get TONS of it a day too! ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. says

    Sounds like a great, well thought out book. I’m not sure if it is prudent to eat fish twice a week unless you are sure of the source, being cautious to avoid mercury. Been practicing the recommendations in The Maker’s Diet and have had great results–of course, we occasionally have bacon or shrimp ;). You are on to something here, good luck with the challenge!

    Love your salad–Beef and arugula are a fantastic taste combo!

  5. Mickey K says

    Hi! Thank you for inspiring me!

    I’ve been trying to eat better for a while; I avoid HFCS, hydrogenated oils, shortening, etc. One thing I’ve been trying to incorporate is eating more veggies, but I never thought to eat so much! I am such a slow chopper that it becomes a deterrent for taking on eating so many veggies. Do you have any tips to speed that up? Your quote says that veggies can be cooked vs raw… do you think its better to be on the raw side for most of your veggies or 50/50 (or some other proportion)? Do you know of any good resources to give ideas for the different color categories of veggies?

    What would you say are the better protein sources to go after? Fish, beef, chicken, quinoa, beans?

    Just purchased your book. I hope that I’ll get more motivation to eat salads from it.

    I just got The Mood Cure out of the library and it’s been a fascinating read so far. Thanks for the heads up on that.

    Thanks again! Love your blog.

    • KimiHarris says


      The ratio of cooked to raw vegetables has a lot to do with how your body handles it. But it also depends on what vegetables you are eating. For us, we have been eating lots of dark green salads, but also cooked vegetables like green beans and broccoli. It’s all good. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Protein sources: Meat, fish, and poultry are the easiest to get the full amount of needed protein. But 1 1/2 cups of legumes will give you adequate amounts too. I can’t remember how much quinoa has in it. You are looking for 20-30 grams per meal. I am personally planning on having a mixed protein source throughout the week.

      Hope you like my book!

  6. Mary Kathryn says

    I am really going to try to make a conscious effort to do better- like this. Although, I did find out recently that I may be allergic to Vitamin K. Yikes!! Going to get that taken care of at the beginning of next week hopefully. Then I will load up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Ashley Ramsey says

    I just had my first baby, she’s 13 weeks this week, and I’m completely exhausted. My daughter is a great sleeper (she is only getting up once in the night for a feeding), so I’m not sure why I’m still so drained. I think bulking up my protein and veggies would really help since I eat a good amount of veggies, but not very much protein. The only problem is shopping for it. I struggle to consistently buy enough fruits and veggies because I don’t want them going bad before we can eat them. Any tips on how to buy enough for an entire week without anything spoiling?

    • Amy Durham says

      Hey there,
      I would guess that you need more protein and fat and fat in your diet for energy, and that you may be dehydrated (especially if you are nursing). Are you drinking 8+ glasses a day?

      • says

        I like to buy fresh spinach or cabbage for salads. That way I can always cook it if we do not eat it fresh in salads. I often will make soup at the end of the week if there are a lot of fresh vegetables leftover too.

  8. Heidi says

    I am allergic to dairy. What are some good protein-rich foods besides meat? It is rather impractical financially to eat that much meat at every meal.

    • KimiHarris says

      That does limit you, as dairy is one of the best sources of protein if you aren’t eating meat (like cottage cheese). Here are a few things I thought of Eggs (I believe you would eat three at a meal), 1 1/2 cups of legumes per meal, or nuts and seeds equal to 20-30 grams of protein per meal.

      • Tara says

        Kimi, Is there a decent amount of protein in homemade chicken stock/meat stock? It’s certainly nourishing, but not sure about protein content.

        • KimiHarris says


          No there isn’t, unfortunately. In time of protein deficiency, the broth has a protein “sparing” effect, helping your body not turn to take protein from your own body. But it doesn’t actually have very much protein.

          For the record, we will be eating lots of broths and soups this week though! Broth can help you digest your food (like all of that protein we will be eating).

  9. says

    I’m definitely a protein-type so I make sure I have sufficient protein with my vegetables. I do feel a difference in alertness and energy when I include a bit more protein in each meal.

  10. says

    Kimi – I also forgot to mention that there are herbs you can take to help increase your digestive enzyme secretion. They might be a cheaper option than buying the straight-up enzymes. You may already know about this though. ๐Ÿ™‚

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