One of the most common misconceptions about a plant based diet is that you don’t have access to enough protein without meat. That’s just not true. What is true is that you can easily fall into “carb overloading” on a vegan diet, which is eating primarily foods that fall into the carb family.
That happened to me in the beginning of my vegan journey 2 years ago. I didn’t really put much thought into getting protein, I just wanted to find vegan food and snacks that were good. That can mean lots of french fries.
I finally reached out my good friend, Coach Jaz Graham, who is a certified fitness and marathon trainer, and who is extremely knowledgeable about nutrition. Jaz quickly helped me figure out how much protein we need daily (46 grams for average adult woman/ 56 grams per average adult man), and she helped me identify easy, key protein sources to add to my day to day. Let me share:
*Seitan-not Satan… SAY-tan. protein: 25 grams per 3.5 oz
It is the gluten that comes from wheat. If cooked correctly, it can mimic the taste of steak, chicken, pork or sausage I have had fried ‘chickn’ seitan and waffles at Urban Vegan Kitchen and it was delicious. Try it next time you are in NYC.
*Tofu, Tempeh, Soybeans. Protein: 10-19 grams per 3.5 oz
Both tofu and tempeh are cooked from soybeans and are typically used as meat substitutes. Tempeh is considered the healthier of the two because it has more protein, less fat and is less processed. Both are high in phytoestrogens which can be problematic, but there are varying opinions on how helpful or harmful soy can be to our bodies. I try to limit my consumption of soy to one day a week. I suggest you do your own research and decide. Here is a link to get you started.
*Chickpeas, Legumes, Beans. Protein-15-18 grams per cup
So much variety and so many nutrients! This group of proteins never disappoint. Chili, stews, soups, burritos, hummus… the recipes are endless. In addition to being great protein source, beans are help reduce cancer, are nutrient pack and work as an antioxidant. When in doubt about what to eat on a vegan diet… go with beans. Chickpeas are my new favorites, especially when they are used in snacks such as the new Hippeas (hyperlink)
*Nutritional Yeast-protein: 14 grams per ounce
I never heard of Nutritional Yeast before becoming a vegan, but now I love it and it is an excellent source of protein. Basically, nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast (which is what happens with yeast dies… I know, I can’t. Just google it if you need to know more). It is commonly sold as flakes or a yellow powder. It has a mild cheesy flavor to me, and it is called for in many vegan recipes. You can also sprinkle it on popcorn, rice, salads, spaghetti, etc., just to add a little protein to your meal.
*Spirulina-protein: 7 grams per teaspoon
Spirulina is blue green algae is considered very nutritious. It dark green and typically comes in powder form. I use it in my morning smoothies, but I also sprinkle it in my vegan yogurt, or on top of peanut butter when ever I use it. It really doesn’t have much flavor, but I just add it for the health benefits and a little crunch.
*Quinoa-Protein: 8-9 grams per cup
Not a huge fan of the quinoa, but I don’t mind it inside of a vegetable soup. It is quite tasty in the right recipe, but again if you are eating for fuel, it is a good grain to add to your diet.
*Raw Nuts- protein: 5-7 grams per ounce
Nuts are a big part of my diet, in salads, in my morning yogurt, as a snack, or a quick handful when I need a bit of protein with a meal. But nuts pack lots of fat, so you have to be careful. It’s best to eat raw, unsalted nuts for optimal nutritious benefits.
So whether you are ordering out or cooking in, make sure to find ways to include these ingredients and get all the protein you need.