(This is another post by our renowned guest nutritionist Andrea Faught. Please enjoy responsibly.)
When I tell people that I don’t eat meat, sometimes their faces morph into a look of concern and they ask: “but how do you get enough protein?” as they check me over to make sure I’m not wasting away. The truth is there are many very efficient and easy ways to get adequate protein without eating animal protein. Let me tell you how!
Protein is indeed very important in the body for tissue repair, for growth and formation or various tissues including muscle and in regulating metabolic pathways. Protein is also needed to make enzymes and hormones.
It’s not actually protein as a whole that your body uses for all of these functions. It’s protein broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are the usable form or building blocks of protein in the body. There are two types of amino acids: essential amino acids (ones you have to provide your body with by eating) and non-essential amino acids (ones that can be made by the body).
There’s an important difference between animal and plant protein and that is:
Animal protein contains all of the essential amino acids and is therefore considered a complete protein.
Plant sources of protein often lack in one or more of the essential amino acids and so can’t be considered a complete protein.
Luckily for me and other vegetarians it’s actually quite easy to make a complete protein to replace meat! This is achieved by eating a varied diet and combining certain plant proteins to make complete proteins. It might sound like a lot of work, however if you can consume these different foods over 1 to 2 days the body will be able to put them together to make complete protein!
How to get enough protein from plant sources:
4 plant source groups (each group lacks at east one essential amino acid)
1. Pulses: Beans, lentils, peas
2. Grains: bread, pasta, rice, oats, corn
3. Nuts and Seeds: peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds
4. Tofu and Tempeh
All you have to do is choose foods from at least 2 of these groups throughout the day. And that’s it!
Now for an example: For an active individual 1.4 g of protein per kilogram is more than enough to maintain and build muscle as well as ensuring all other bodily processes requiring amino acids. So for one day a 58kg person would need approximately 81 grams of protein . Check out this tasty example vegetarian menu that provides 81 grams of complete protein:
(just a heads up, CHO means Carbohydrates (carbs) or technically Carbon-Hydrogen-Oxygen.)
Breakfast– Fruit smoothie (pineapple, spinach or kale, banana, almond milk, chia, cinnamon) with 1 scoop Vega One powder (41g CHO-27g protein-17g fat). 2 slices wholegrain toast with jam (73.5g CHO, 7 g protein, 2 g fat)
Snack– Pumpkin muffin made with ½ all-purpose flour, ½ whole wheat flour, pumpkin puree, apple sauce and vegetable oil. (17g CHO, 3 g protein, 2.5g fat) 250 mLs chocolate milk. (28g CHO,8 g protein, 5g fat)
Lunch– Chickpea salad sandwich with celery, dill pickle, bell pepper, veganaise on a whole grain wrap with leafy greens (15g CHO, 5g protein, 8g fat). 2 crispy almond butter chocolate chip cookie (14g CHO, 5g protein, 16g fat).
Afternoon Snack– air popped popcorn and dried cranberries (58g CHO, 4g protein, 1.5g fat)
Dinner– Veggie Burger (yam, black beans, carrots, spinach) with whole grain bun ( 58g CHO, 15 g protein, 9 g fat) with baked sweet potato fries ( 42 g CHO, 2.3 g protein)
Desert– oat apple crumble with honey, cinnamon, brown sugar and butter. Served with 1 scoop vanilla ice cream (68g CHO, 5.6g protein, 18g fat)
Totals- 427g CHO, 81.9g protein, 80.5 g fat
A few other high protein snack ideas:
Homemade hummus with gluten free crackers, 1 large carrot and 1/3 of a cucumber and an orange (66.6g CHO, 14.1g protein, 13.3 g fat)
Dried apricots, raw almonds, dried raisins (one handful of each) (123g CHO, 23.9g protein, 14.8 g fat)
1 apple with peanut or almond butter (18 g CHO, 8 g protein, 16 g fat)
Glow bar made with dates, oats, peanut butter, honey and dried fruit. (20g CHO, 3-6 g protein, 7 g fat)
Chocolate smoothie (avocado, dates, cacao powder, almond milk) with one scoop Vega-One protein powder (64g CHO, 23.6 g protein, 12.7 g fat)
A no-meat diet doesn’t have to be a compromise, there are tons of delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes out there today thanks to the growing popularity. If I haven’t coerced you in to buying it yet, check out both of the Oh She Glows cookbooks. You won’t regret it.