Where do you get your protein? I bet you have heard this one from your friends, colleagues or even asked that yourself when eating plant based.
And it’s no wonder. The marketing message that you don’t eat enough protein can easily get in your head popping up every time you take a plant powered bite.
Often you may wonder, should I start the day with a protein bar or finish a workout with a protein shake? Is protein the key nutrient I’m missing to keep my weight steady, have more energy, blood sugar balanced and cut back on colds and flu?
How much protein do you need?
You can easily get the perfect amount of protein without being extra cautious about it. When you eat a whole plant based diet, you get the healthiest, highest quality protein without the toxic burden of another living creature.
The RDA for an adult is 0.8 gr/kg of healthy body weight/day. This means about 8% of all the food you eat should be protein.
Whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and vegetables, have from 8-15% of their total calories coming from protein. Fruit is slightly lower than that. Meaning? You can mix and match your favourite beans, grains, potatoes and veggies, all you like. When you do, you can relax knowing that not only are you getting enough protein, but you’re also giving your body the healthiest form of this nutrient there is.
A simple 3 rule approach
Here are three simple rules to go by so you stay on the top of your relationship with protein:
#1 Eat unprocessed, whole plant foods 80% of the time.
All of the brown rice, buckwheat , quinoa, Bulghur wheat, beans, peas, lentils, broccoli, cabbage etc. they contain the full package of essential nutrients including protein. While eating these foods you’re skipping disease causing saturated fat and cholesterol which come along with the animal sources of protein, meat, dairy and eggs.
I believe it’s a natural win- win situation. Because when you’re enjoying oatmeal, chillies, bean burgers, stews and brown rice pilafs, all the nutrients flooding your body are working in tandem with protein. Together they strengthen your immunity, build strong and efficient muscles and keep your hormonal system working spot on.
#2 Eat until full
When working out, pregnant or healing after surgery, you may feel you need to increase the protein in your diet. But your body is smarter than you think. When it really needs more, it asks for it. How? Your feeling of hunger increases, so you’re forced to eat more!
And more calories from natural plant foods equals more protein for your body.
I mean think about what happens when you join a bootcamp or simply jog a few days in a row. You feel much hungrier, right? That’s your body adjusting to your new needs. It’s your body’s way of asking for more fuel to recover and build muscle.
To be clear, muscles don’t grow from extra portions of protein on your plate. They grow when you stimulate them – from your favourite exercise routine. That’s why it’s not worth ignoring the rumbling stomach. Simply enjoy an extra helping of beans or snack on an extra portion of steamed broccoli when you feel like it.
#3 Eat ½ – 1 cup of legumes per day
Beans, peas and lentils are the richest sources of protein. They are your short cut and the safest bet to getting enough protein. A cup of cooked legumes contains 14 gr of protein, about a quarter of your daily requirement. You can eat them in one meal for your dinner or enjoy them through the day as a dip or snack away on sprouts.
Now take a sneak peak at protein rich snacks and meals:
- soy yogurt & 1 tbsp flax seeds (10 gr)
- scrambled tofu on whole grain toast for breakfast (12 gr)
- cup of lentil/bean chilli or stew with brown rice (14 – 20 gr)
- 1/2 cup mashed chickpea with 1 tsp mustard & 1 tbs sunflower seeds as a dip (9 gr)
- 4 oatcakes, 1 tbsp peanut butter & banana (9 gr)
- cup steamed broccoli & cup green beans (6 gr)
- 2 squares dark chocolate (70% cocoa min.), 10 almonds & orange (6 gr)
Have you found your dark horse among these plant protein rich snacks? I hope so because they are all so easy and delicious to enjoy.
Let me know all about your favourite in the comments below.
Let’s enjoy a healthy plant protein journey!
PS: If you happen to be new to plant based eating, have more questions about protein and how to transition, you may also enjoy reading the post Want to quit eating meat? .