How to Eat Less Protein

Two Parts:Identifying the Sources of Protein in Your DietCutting the Protein in Your Diet

If you have an abnormal kidney or a liver issue, you may have to learn how to eat less protein so that toxic nitrogen metabolites, ammonia or urea do not build up in your system and harm your general well-being. By reducing the protein, you ultimately help reduce the kidney and liver's workload and take unnecessary stress off your body. A low protein diet should only be undertaken when instructed and supervised by a doctor.

Part 1
Identifying the Sources of Protein in Your Diet

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    Understand why you might need to eat less protein. If you have problems with your liver or your kidneys, for example if you have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease you may be told to lower your protein intake. When your body processes food, the wast product urea is formed. If you have problems with your kidneys the urea may not be passed as it should. A build-up of such waste products can be very damaging for your health.[1]
    • By lowering the amount of protein you consume you are decreasing your kidneys' workload.
    • But remember that protein is an essential part of your diet and you should only switch to a low protein diet when advised and under the supervision of a doctor.
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    Determine high-value protein foods. The first step to eating less protein is getting a clear understanding of where and how you consume protein in the first place. We consume two types of protein, high-value protein and low-value protein. Animal protein is high-value protein. It's important that you consume enough of this in order to keep your body healthy. This type of protein typically produces less waste than low-value protein due to the balance of amino acids.[2]
    • Chicken, turkey, fish, red meat, eggs, and pork are high-value protein foods.
    • Dairy is also a high-value protein, but dairy products also contain a high amount of phosphorous. Because of this, you may be required to lower the amount of dairy products you consume.[3]
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    Identify low-value protein foods. Vegetable and plant proteins are known as low-value protein because they have less of the essential amino acids that high-value proteins contain. Examples of this kind of protein include cereals, bread, nuts, pasta, rice, noodles and dried beans.[4]
    • Sometimes high-value proteins, rich in amino acids, are known as complete proteins and low-value proteins as incomplete proteins.[5]
    • Always check the labels on food packaging to learn about the protein content.
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    Evaluate your normal diet. Once you know the main sources of protein and their respective values you can begin to analyse your diet and discover where and how you consume protein. If you have a problem with your liver or kidney that has required you to lower your protein, you should always carry out this evaluation with a dietician or doctor who can advise you on finding the right balance. You can use online tools to get a rough idea.[6]
    • You should never completely cut protein from your diet. The amount you need to reduce your intake by will depend on your particular condition.
    • The amounts you need to consume will change over time so you need to keep in close contact with your doctor to ensure your diet is helping your condition.[7]
    • The diet still has to meet your everyday nutrition needs, so it's not just a case of cutting things out haphazardly.
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    Know the recommended levels of consumption. How much protein you need to eat if you have a diagnosed liver or kidney problem will be determined exactly by your doctor and dietician. It will vary from case to case, but for kidney problems you may be told to consume just 200ml of milk, as well as one serving of protein, each day. This serving could be equivalent to 25g of meat (including chicken and turkey), 40g of fish, 1 egg, 25g of cheese, 25g of soya, or 75g of tofu, lentils or chick peas.[8]
    • For male adults (19-50) without kidney problems, the recommendation is 55.5g daily.
    • For women of the same age it is 45g.
    • Males between 11 and 14 normally need 42.1g and females slightly less, 41.2g.
    • 15-18 year old males should get 55.2g daily, and females 45g.[9]

Part 2
Cutting the Protein in Your Diet

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    Stretch out your protein intake. One way to lower the amount of protein is to subtly shift the way you prepare food. For example, if you are making a chicken sandwich, instead of loading it with chicken, just use a few thin slices. Add lots of lettuce, tomatoes and salad to balance it out so you still have a satisfying sandwich.[10]
    • Adding vegetables to egg or ground meats can significantly reduce the overall amount of protein in a meal or snack.
    • You can add bulk to soup by including low-value proteins such as rice. In cream soups cut down on milk and use a lower protein substitute.[11]
    • Favouring these lower-value proteins over high-value protein is a good way to lower your consumption but ensure you continue to get a balanced diet.
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    Eat less high-value protein. As part of your strategy for cutting down on high-value protein, you will have to reduce the amount of meat you eat. This doesn't necessarily mean cutting it out altogether, but rather re-organising your meal so meat is a smaller side dish instead of the main focus of the meal. You can try incorporating more meat free days into your week.[12]
    • Consider going vegetarian as many plant-based protein sources have far less protein in them than animal sources.
    • You should always try to replace the calories that you would have consumed from the meat with something else. For example, have more vegetables or grains to compensate for less meat. Use vegetables and whole grains as fillers and remember to consume healthy fats that do not contain high levels of protein (such as coconut oil, avocado, etc).
    • If you like cheese, try a smaller amount of a stronger cheese so you still get the taste but in a smaller more intense dose.[13]
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    Develop modified recipes. You can create new versions of your favourite recipes to make them lower in protein. One example is making a low-protein version of a chicken salad. A normal recipe could have 3 cups of chopped cooked chicken, with 1/4 cup of celery, 1 cup of red apples, 1/4 cup of pecans and 3tbs of mayonnaise.
    • You can make this low-protein by switching the ratios of ingredients.
    • Change to 1 1/2 cups chicken and raise the amount of celery to 1 cup to compensate.[14]
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    If necessary, include calorie boosters in your diet. There is risk of you consuming insufficient calories when you lower your protein intake. When you planned out your diet with your doctor or dietician, she will have taken this into account, and she may have recommended you include some calorie boosters. This could include healthy fats, such as olive oil, salad dressings, and sunflower oil.
    • Avoid adding too many carbohydrates to meals to boost calories. Healthy fats are a great calorie-booster and provide amazing benefits to the body.
    • Honey, jam and other sweeteners can be added to food and drink to boost your calorie intake.
    • If you are diabetic be sure to consult with your doctor before including these sugary boosters.[15]
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    Avoid food high in sodium. High levels of sodium can make it harder for your body to control blood pressure and fluid levels in your body. This will be particularly important if you have liver or kidney problems.Processed food is typically high in salt which means high in sodium. Fresh vegetables are a better option. If you are in any doubt, ask your doctor or dietician for advice or clarification.[16]
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    Maintain a healthy balanced diet. Your low protein diet will be specifically tailored to you and your health condition by experts and it's important that you stick to it. The diet prescribed for you will be one that balances the need to lower your intake of high-value protein, while still giving you the nutrients, minerals and calories you need.
    • If you have to cut down your protein, your doctor may prescribe nutritional supplements to help you secure all the nutrients you need.[17]
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    Keep drinking water. Unless you are advised by your doctor to reduce your fluid intake, be sure to continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water will help you stay hydrated as well as helping you to snack less. Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger and snack when we should be drinking water.
    • Eating fewer snacks can make it easier to lower your protein intake. Generally you are recommended to drink 1.2 litres of water a day.[18]


  • Supplement your diet with the minerals that you are cutting out by reducing or eliminating the protein. These include amino acids, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and iron.


  • A low protein diet should only be carried in consultation with a doctor or dietician.

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