How Do You Get Protein on a Plant Based Diet?
When Saul and I decided to switch to a plant based diet in late 2015, we had to rethink protein. Coming from a bodybuilding background, we thought of protein as meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt and whey protein powder. So if we stopped eating meat, eggs and dairy, where on earth would our protein come from?! I was familiar with faux-meats, tofu and veggie burgers, but that was about it. After some experimentation and a lot of research, we figured it out. We also realized that there is protein in virtually ALL foods - even fruits & vegetables!
We were getting protein from many foods that we had ignored before in favor of animal products - like beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts and seeds. We were able to meet our protein requirements, enjoyed more variety AND were getting all kinds of nutrients and fiber. We definitely had a new appreciation for these foods, and had a lot of fun learning to make meals from them.
To this day, people ask us the infamous question (that all vegans get asked):
IF YOU DON’T EAT MEAT, WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?
Many people are genuinely concerned and curious about this, because we are raised to associate meat with protein. So we thought we’d share the many plant-based foods that are packed with protein and many other important nutrients. These are foods that everyone can enjoy, no matter what diet you choose. Take a look to see how you can rethink protein & add more variety to your plate!
Faux meats have a similar texture to the real thing, and are very high in protein (10-25g of protein per serving). You can find these in the freezer aisle, meat section or the vegetarian refrigerated section of the grocery store (and online). If you’re new to plant based eating or looking to cut down on your meat consumption, these make an easy and convenient swap.
Here’s a few examples:
- Beefless Crumbles
- Impossible Burger
- Beyond Sausage
- Meatless Meatballs
- Tofurky Slices
- Chik'n Nuggets
- Tempeh Bacon
(This is the Impossible Burger - it looks and tastes just like a beef patty, right down to the pinkish center)
SOY PROTEINS, SEITAN & TEMPEH
These are all excellent sources of plant-based protein, and are made from soy, wheat or legumes. They are very versatile so you can use them in place of meat in many dishes. We prefer foods in this category since they’re more natural & are minimally processed (especially compared to faux-meats).
- Soy Curls
(How good do these Spicy Chipotle Tempeh Tacos look? Get the recipe here)
LEGUMES (Beans, Peas & Lentils)
Beans don’t get enough credit - they are essential to any healthy diet. Eating 1 cup of beans per day adds about 4 years to your life expectancy! Beans are packed with protein, fiber, iron, zinc, folate and potassium - all essential nutrients for good health. It’s easy to add these to your diet, just start with small amounts if you’re not used to eating them (about 2 tbsp). By increasing them slowly, you can avoid excess bloating and gas.
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Kidney beans
- Adzuki beans
- Split peas
(Swap your Mom’s Meatloaf for this delicious Lentil Loaf. Click here for the recipe)
NUTS & SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are not only a healthy source of fats, but they can boost the protein content of your meals. Try blending ground flax seed into a smoothie, or topping your oatmeal with walnuts. Nuts & seeds are very calorie dense, so use them sparingly as a topping or addition for flavor. About 1-2 tbsp is sufficient for the health benefits.
- Nut butter (peanut, almond cashew)
- Nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, Brazil nuts)
- Seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
(Chia Pudding makes a tasty, healthy dessert or snack! Get the recipe here)
HOW YOU CAN RETHINK PROTEIN
We hope you found some inspiration to incorporate one or a few of these foods into your meals! The biggest takeaway here is adding VARIETY to your diet and rethinking your definition of “protein”. Once you remove the protein = meat association, it's easier to understand how easy it is to get plenty of protein from plant based sources. You don’t have to be vegan or fully plant based to include the above foods in your diet - these are healthful foods for everyone (unless you have an allergy or intolerance of course). To start rethinking protein, swap meat for the options we shared here. You can do a Meatless Monday dinner, or go with meat-free lunches all week. Let us know if you try these recipes, or how you’re rethinking protein. Thanks for reading!
If you’re interested in eating plant-based and would like more guidance with how to start, consider our Heroic Nutrition Program. This includes a customized plan for your nutritional needs, meal plans, recipes and coaching every step of the way. We’ve helped many clients easily incorporate plant-based eating in a way that works for their lifestyles and preferences. Once you try it, you’ll see and feel the many benefits of plant-based eating - including weight loss, better digestion, glowy skin and more energy!