Eating Gluten-Free? Are You Eating Enough Protein?

chick fil a nuggets gluten freeAccording to a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Gluten-Free Craze: Is It Healthy? (6/23/2014) — over 29% of people surveyed said they are cutting back gluten consumption or avoiding it completely.

Whether a gluten-free diet is a “craze” or fad for those not diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity is debatable. Important questions for anyone eating a restrictive diet — for whatever reason, should be, “am I eating a balanced diet? Am I eating optimal amounts of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for my individual needs?”

Why Is It So Important to Eat Protein?

Protein provides energy, it’s necessary for the growth, maintenance and repair of our skin, muscle tissue, organs, bone and connective tissue structure, it’s used to manufacture hormones and enzymes, helps maintain our fluid and acid/alkaline balance and is needed to form antibodies that protect us from a myriad of diseases. In other words, protein is vital to human health.

Which Foods Are Good Sources of Protein?

Animal foods including meats, poultry, fish and shellfish, high protein dairy foods like Greek yogurt and eggs are all excellent sources of protein. These foods contain the right balance of “essential amino acids,” the building blocks of protein that we have to get from our diets. Our bodies cannot manufacture them.

Beans and peas, seeds and nuts and whole gluten-free grains are all good sources of plant-based proteins although they aren’t complete proteins. They don’t provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids but can be combined to form complete proteins.

For more about complete and incomplete proteins read “How Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein.”

Protein Content of Popular Gluten-Free Grains:

  1. Amaranth – 28.1 grams
  2. Oats – 26.3 grams
  3. Teff – 25.7 grams
  4. Quinoa – 24 grams
  5. Wild Rice – 23.6 grams
  6. Buckwheat – 22.5 grams
  7. Millet – 22 grams
  8. Sorghum – 21.7 grams
  9. Brown Rice – 14.7 grams
  10. White Rice – 13.1 grams


How Much Protein Do I Need?

Protein requirements are individual and depend on age and gender.

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein
Grams of protein
needed each day
Children ages 1 – 3 13
Children ages 4 – 8 19
Children ages 9 – 13 34
Girls ages 14 – 18 46
Boys ages 14 – 18 52
Women ages 19 – 70+ 46
Men ages 19 – 70+ 56


Source: Center for Disease Control

Nutrition for Everyone: Protein

Is It Possible To Eat Too Much Protein?

Yes. It’s important to determine your protein needs and try to design a diet that includes varied sources of protein in the amount you need. Just 3-ounces of meat contains about 21 grams of protein so if you are eating meat most days of the week, you are likely getting enough protein in your gluten-free diet.

Vegetarians need to plan their diets carefully to make sure to get enough high quality protein. Learn more about this from our Nutrition Expert — read Vegan Protein Combinations.

10 Gluten-Free Protein Recipes:

Gluten-Free Salmon Croquette Recipe

Gluten-Free Fish Fry Recipe

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

Gluten-Free Chili Recipes

Gluten-Free Navy Bean Soup with Corned Beef Recipe

Gluten-Free Scandinavian Meatball Recipe

Gluten-Free Reuben Sandwich Recipe

5 Prime Rib Recipes

Gluten-Free Meatloaf

10 Gluten-Free Bean Salad Recipes


Understanding Nutrition, E. N. Whitney and S.R. Rolfes, 9th Ed.



Author Information: Teri Gruss, MS Guide to Gluten-Free Cooking
Teri was diagnosed with gluten intolerance after decades of symptoms that culminated in malabsorption syndrome. Teri has written numerous health and nutrition articles for the popular website and was a founding member and moderator of, a nutrition forum for healthcare professionals and students. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association and supports the non-profit organization Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of North America as a member.
Email Teri Gruss, MS here.

About Teri Gruss, MS

Teri Gruss, MS

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