I have teetered on the edge of veganism for quite some time now, I’ve committed to a total plant based diet for a month in 2019, but my biggest challenge is losing weight as I get older and keeping it off, and without eggs I think I struggle getting enough protein into my body. The longer I don’t eat any meat, the more I want to cut all animal products from my diet, so as more and more plant based foods hit the shelves in our grocery stores here in NJ, and more and more restaurants are giving us vegan options, I am ready to commit fully.
I think it is time to really revamp my diet, I need to be adding more protein rich plant based foods into every meal that I eat, so it is time to do some more research and add a few essential protein rich foods to my grocery list.
If you are considering a more plant based diet, or you want to be totally vegan, this is what I have learned about eating more protein without eating any animal products.
Protein is vitally important for our bodies, if you do not eat enough our health and body composition suffers immensely. It is usually recommended that an average sedentary man needs 56 grams of protein a day, and an average sedentary woman needs 46 grams of protein a day, which when you eat animal product this is easy to achieve, but when eating plant based foods this can be more difficult to achieve, especially if you are like me and avoid all soy based foods.
I have never in my life struggled with weight loss, I consider myself to have been very lucky, but as I have aged and my metabolism has changed I have noticed my weight creeping up, and despite calorie counting and eating a very clean healthy diet I still yo yo from day to day or week to week, but what I have noticed is that the weight difference can be attributed to how much food I have eaten that day, and most importantly how much protein I have eaten too.
So with all this in mind I am setting about changing my eating habits yet again. I have always struggled to eat large meals, but as I age I find I need to eat a good amount of healthy calories a day, but what I need to think about is the make up of the calories, how can I add more protein into every meal I eat. Eating avocado on sourdough toast is not enough protein in that meal, if I average out 46 grams of protein for each day, each of the three meals I eat needs to have approximately 15 grams of protein in. If I eat two meals a day I have to add a whopping 23 grams of protein to each meal.
So lets look at some plant based foods that can give us a healthy amount of protein for each meal…
Of course soy foods are one of the highest protein plant based foods, I avoid soy for personal reasons, so I never include them in my meals but they can give you a whopping 10 – 19 grams of protein per 3.5 oz, pretty good for adding that 15 grams into every meal.
Now I do love me some lentils, green, red or French, I love lentils in everything. Lentils not only provide you with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup, they also provide you with a type of fiber that has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon. I can see many more lentils appearing in my meals in the very near future.
Garbanzo beans, chickpeas or whatever you want to call them, they are delicious and provide 15 grams of protein per cooked cup, I love, love, love them, hummus, roasted or ground into a flour to make pancakes, thicken sauces or make into a totally gluten free pizza base. Chickpeas and all other beans are most definitely a must pantry supply for adding a punch of nutrition to your meals.
Now I have been using nutritional yeast for many years now, not to be confused with yeast we use for baking. Nutritional yeast adds some nice cheesy flavor to many meals, it is delicious in mashed potatoes and it is delicious sprinkled over pasta. From my research I discovered that using nutritional yeast on or in my meals can add 14 grams of protein per ounce, it will also give me 7 grams of fiber… I need to be buying this in bulk and using it on everything.
I do love to sprinkle hemp seeds on many of my dishes, they not only look pretty but they add some great nutrition to your meal. Now what I did not realize was the amount of protein these tiny little seeds could add to my food, 10 grams per ounce of completely digestible protein… I may just have to sprinkle a few more into each meal now.
When I was a child I hated green peas, I used to hate the fact my Mom put them on my plate with what seemed like every meal… Now I just love green peas with everything, how our tastes change, I love them mashed with some salt and pepper, I love them in casseroles, I love them in salads, it is fair to say that I really do love some green peas with everything these days. Not only do these little round green peas provide you with 25% of your daily fiber and vitamin A,C and K, they are a great source of protein weighing in with 9 grams of protein per cooked cup, making them a great addition to every meal.
Now this one surprised me, I have to be honest I bought spirulina quite some time ago, and I haven’t used it once, I am totally rethinking this, 2 tablespoons gives you 8 grams of protein, it is also an anti-inflammatory… I may just have to add a little to our green juice in the mornings and sneak a little into casseroles here and there.
Quinoa has become a firm fave in our house, whenever I feel I need a little more protein in a meal I cook up some of this ancient grain that is totally protein packed giving us 8 – 9 grams of protein per cooked cup… definitely a staple pantry item in our house.
I am thinking I may need to add more oats and oatmeal into our diets, I love oat milk, but as for actual oats we very rarely have them… half a cup of dry oats gives you 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber… oats can be added to everything from casseroles to veggie burgers and of course a good bowl of oatmeal anytime is the perfect comfort food to get you through a long cold winter.
Did you know that wild rice contains 1.5 times more protein than brown rice or basmati… now I did not, but now I do, guess what type of rice will be added to my grocery list. One cooked cup of wild rice gives us 7 grams of protein… wow, who knew?
Who makes chia pudding… hands up, me, me, me! 1.25 ounces of chia seeds give us 6 grams of protein, and a huge 13 grams of fiber making them a great addition to any meal, go grab some and chia pudding away.
Now we all know about nuts, seeds and nut butters, one ounce can give us between 5 – 7 grams of protein depending on the nut or seed… I always try to buy raw nuts and seeds and the most natural nut and seed butters I can find, its always a bonus if you find an organic one too.
Finally there are protein rich fruits and vegetables, this is something I always forget, loading your plate up with them not only adds great protein but a host of other nutrition too. Lets look at the vegetables that can give you between 4 – 5 grams of protein per cooked cup, broccoli, a firm favorite in our house, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts, these all make a regular appearance on our plates, but now I will be thinking of the protein I am adding to my plate. Surprisingly fruits can be protein rich too giving us 2 – 4 grams of protein per cup, guava, blackberries, nectarines and bananas to name a few that can really pack a punch of nutrition.
Eating the rainbow is a must… but adding just the right of protein is just as important too, it keeps our bodies healthy and can really aid in weight loss when done correctly… now to work out the formula that is perfect for my body… wish me luck!