Vegans and Our protein
This is probably the most common question I get when talking about my veganism with people. They will often ask "Where do you get your protein from?" or "How do you get enough protein in the day without eating meat?" And truly, it isn't that hard. As a disclaimer, this is my personal experience and not the opinion of licensed doctors. If you are having protein deficiency or are just interested in learning more about veganism, here are some tips. Absolutely consult your doctor if you are having serious issues because it might not be protein but vitamin deficiency!
There is a protein in every plant. Some have more than others, but it's always present. When I first went vegan, I focused on my calorie intake (yes, I counted calories but not for THAT reason). I used an app to log how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates I was getting. At first, I focused a lot on protein but we can't ignore carbohydrates and fats. That's where we get our energy from. Many people think eating lots of fatty foods is bad, and over-indulgence can be. But healthy fats are really good and boost your energy. Fat is basically stored energy. That's why diet culture has you cut down on fat because it will stop storing in your body. Or diet culture tells you to work out a lot because when you use up the energy from the carbohydrates in your body it will start taking energy from fat (aka using up the fat). I don't hate eating fats and carbohydrates because I know my body needs them and I like having energy!
Back to protein, a lot of people do not make the jump to go plant-based because they are worried about getting enough protein. I am not here to guilt anyone into becoming vegan but rather break it down for you!
An important thing to note with veganism - it does require you to eat higher quantities and this is something people do not always think of when they are transitioning. That's where the shakiness may come in; your body is telling you it needs more food. Sometimes that's protein and sometimes its carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are known for being low-carb (YAY!) but this also means in order to get your daily amounts of carbs to stay healthy, you simply need to eat more.
When I first went vegan, I looked for protein in the form of smoothies and plant-based meats. And it really was helpful. It helped me to kind of gage how much I needed to eat during the day. Smoothies are a lifesaver because you can get in a lot of healthy carbs and protein quickly. Your body views it as less food because it's liquid so you can have more quantity. Another important factor is how much protein your body needs because everyone's body is different! Your daily protein grams will be affected by how active you are and if you are trying to build muscle. For example, I try to get around 64g of protein a day. This works with how much I weigh and how active I am. There are different formulas you can plug in to find your daily protein goal or you can consult your doctor.
Here are some high protein foods you can incorporate for a vegan diet:
So to meet my daily protein needs, I'll break it down for you a bit meal-by-meal.
Breakfast: smoothie (pea protein, soy milk, blackberries, raspberries). Protein total: 29.75. With that, I am almost halfway to my daily protein goal!
Lunch: quinoa bowl (quinoa, mushrooms (2.2g/cup), butternut squash (1.4g/cup)). Protein total: 9.3 (for the servings I would eat).
Dinner: lentil loaf, potatoes with nutritional yeast, and asparagus. Using the items in this list for a meal you can easily up your protein intake! Total meal protein: 19.5. This is without me adding in the other proteins in lentil loaf (solely just the lentils so anticipate this being higher with an actual lentil loaf recipe).
Snacks: edamame (17g), a BIG spoonful of peanut butter (8g). These are small amounts of snacks but still with a protein total of 25g.
Eating these meals would give me a daily total of 83.55g. This is WELL over my daily protein goal and must of it was from foods you probably already eat too. Being vegan certainly has its challenges but it is easier than many people think!
And I do not eat these foods every single day but I do find ways to get my protein from them some days and eat other foods not on this list too!
Keep in mind, this is without fully diving into nuts and seeds (and their amazing amount of protein and fat). I hope this is helpful for anyone trying to go plant-based or even just eating more meatless meals!
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An elementary school educator by day, grad student by night. And I somehow manage to live life to the fullest in-between.