As someone on a primarily plant-based diet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words “How do you get your protein!?” I find this ironic because I’ve never had a problem getting enough protein. But I get the confusion. Before I started becoming more vegetarian/vegan focused, I didn’t know the facts myself. So what’s the truth about protein?
How Much Do We Need?
The U.S. is fixated on this idea that ‘we gotta get more protein!’ However, the reality is, while protein is of course essential for our bodies and plays a role in how our bodies function, we do not need large quantities as some would suggest. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 g/kg body weight per day. This means only 1 calorie out of 10 needs to come from protein. Surely, this is not something to be particularly concerned about, especially if you are from a developed country like the United States.
You may have heard that meat (and cheese) is the best way to get protein, but there are SO many other non-animal based sources of protein. And as long as you are paying attention to what you are eating– as you probably should be doing anyway regardless of your diet– your levels should be fine. These fabulous vegan foods have the highest grams of protein:
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As you can see, there are so many different ways to get protein into your diet. Giving up meat is not going to affect protein levels, as long as you are getting the proper amount of food in your body and focusing on a variety of different foods. Easy peasy! –> see what I did there? Cause yeah- peas have protein!
Are you considering a plant-based vegan diet? Or thinking about adding more Meatless Mondays to your routine? These are tips from my own personal experience…
Vegetarian/Vegan Does Not Necessarily Mean “Healthy”.
The reason for this section is because I failed miserably when I first decided to become more “healthy” and try a vegetarian diet. I put “healthy” in quotations because my idea of being a vegetarian included eating mostly cheese and pasta. Since I wasn’t eating meat I thought I was healthier, but sadly I was a little misinformed.
Then, when I switched to a vegan diet, I was consuming WAY too many nuts, nut butters, and avocados, as well as overall calories (I abruptly gained 8 pounds). So needless to say, a vegan diet won’t necessarily make you healthy. It’s all about keeping control of portions, making sure you’re getting good whole foods in your body and limiting (or avoiding) preservatives, fast food, and fried foods.
Get A Check-Up!
A few months after I decided to try a vegan diet, I had my blood tested and they said my protein levels were perfect! My iron levels, however, needed a little work. So my suggestion is, don’t just assume that you aren’t, or are, getting the nutrients you need. It’s always best to do a yearly checkup (alongside your annual physical) to make sure your body is getting the nutrition it needs. It was a wakeup call for me, and I’ve since added some supplements to my diet to make sure my body is getting the proper nutrition.
Start The Day Off Right
I start off every morning with this shake recipe, which I have for breakfast at least 4-5 times a week. Sometimes I’ll mix it up with different ingredients, but this one is my favorite. I feel good that this is the first thing I put in my body.
PB Chocolate Banana Shake
- 1 scoop Juice Plus Chocolate Complete vegan protein powder (I’ve done a lot of research and this is my favorite)
- 1 teaspoon Ion Charged Terramin Mega-Mineral Iron supplement (recommended by my doc because it absorbs better than other iron supplements)
- 1/2 medium banana
- 1/2 cup nondairy milk (almond, soy, coconut, cashew, or flax)
- 1/2 cup water
- 7-10 ice cubes (for some reason, my Vitamix requires more ice cubes than my old blender did)
- 1-2 teaspoons organic unsalted peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds (to get my Omega-3’s)
I also take 3 supplements every morning- B-12, Zinc, and Vitamin D, as well as 4 Juice Plus (whole food) fruit and veggie capsules.
The Bottom Line with Protein
It can be easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet! If you are on the fence about trying a vegetarian or even vegan diet, don’t be scared off by talks of “lack of protein”. It’s all about getting enough food in your body, and making sure you are focusing on a variety of whole-food nutrition.
Need some ideas? These recipes are great for those transitioning to a vegan diet.
Cauliflower “Rice” Stir Fry Bowl
Avocado Cream Penne with Herbs
Warm Veggie Quinoa Salad
Crushed Lentil Soup
“Egg” Salad Sandwich
No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Energy Bites
No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars