There’s lots to know and lots to keep track of when it comes to getting proper nutrition! Of course, there are tips and tricks to getting enough of everything. Have you ever heard of eating the rainbow? This is one such tip, simply fill your plate with plant-based foods of every color and you pretty much have all your basis covered.
With that said, some nutrients are a bit harder to get in the proper amounts on a plant-based diet such as protein.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that not only provides energy, but is also an essential building block for muscles, the immune system, and various bodily functions and organs. If you don’t get enough, then you could be in trouble! This is especially true for those of you who are avid exercisers, are training for an event, take part in regular endurance training, or absolutely love those weights! Any of these physical activities are ferocious at breaking down your muscle and you need protein in order to build them back up and keep them strong!
If you’re looking to get a bit of protein into your diet throughout the diet, we’ve got you covered! But first, let’s take a quick look at protein and how to figure out the right amount for your body!
What is Protein and Why It’s Important
Yes, protein is incredibly important and not just for bodybuilders and athletes!
Protein is one of three macronutrient — protein, fat, and carbohydrates — all of which have “their own specific roles and functions in the body and supply us with calories for energy.” Protein is created from a series of building blocks called “amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, or sulfur.”
Proteins are broken down to help “fuel muscle mass, which helps metabolism.” On top of that, per Jessica Crandall, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, protein “also helps the immune system stay strong” and it “helps you stay full.” But that’s not all! Protein is also helpful for maintaining a healthy weight, losing unwanted weight, and can build strength.
How Much Protein is Enough?
When it comes to protein, there are a few ways to determine how much you need. First off, there are the recommended dietary guidelines provided by the government, which recommends “0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound.” What exactly does that mean? This adds up to about “56 grams per day for the average sedentary man” and “46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.”
On the other hand, if you’re looking to build muscle mass you may want to look at increasing that protein, especially if you’re pairing protein with exercise. This is due to the fact that “resistance training and endurance workouts can rapidly break down muscle protein.” Per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, if you’re going for those bulky muscles you’ll want to consume “between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the best performance and health.” With that said, we’re all individuals and require individual nutritional needs.
If you’re looking to determine your specific protein needs, you’ll need to calculate your weight in kilograms — by “dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2” — then deduce “how many grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is appropriate for you.” If you’re in good health but are currently not physically active go with 0.8 grams per kilogram. If your health is a bit waning or if you are “involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training” you’ll want to go with a little higher number “between 1.2 and 2.0.” Then, simply “multiply your weight in [kilograms] times the number of protein grams per day.”
Of course, it’s always a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor, nutritionist, trainer, or dietitian before making any changes to your diet!
10 High-Protein Twists to Your Meals
If you’re looking to add a bit of plant-based protein to your meal, look no further than the following 10 protein champions! Add a dash or a whole heaping pile of these plant-based foods to one or all of your meals to boost your protein intake throughout the day!
Soybeans are one of the best plant-based sources of protein! Luckily, you can find soybeans nicely packaged and pressed into easily cooked (or not cooked) tofu. Along with about “10 to 19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)” — this is all dependent on the type and firmness of tofu you choose — tofu is also a great source of iron and calcium.
Legumes are a must-have on a plant-based diet and are especially great at adding in some extra protein. There are lots to choose from, but if you’re really looking for the most bang for your buck, then go with lentils! One cup of cooked lentils offers a whopping 18 grams of protein. Plus, they are excellent to thicken soups, replace a heavy carb like rice, or even create a meatless dish such as meatloaf. Lentils are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Another one of the legume family because they are just so wonderfully packed with that much-needed protein twist!
Chickpeas are particularly wonderful to use as a protein add-on due to their versatility in the kitchen. From traditional — and super easy hummus — to simple baked chickpea snacks to more elaborate chickpea entrees and desserts, these little nibbles are the perfect source of plant-based protein power. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains “about 15 grams of protein.”
Try a few of these chickpea-based recipes for each of your meals: Deep Dish Chickpea Omelette, Red Pepper Hummus, Smashed Avocado, Chickpea and Pesto, Chickpea Tempeh Tacos With Cashew Crema, or these Tahini Vanilla Blondies.
With the surge in popularity in other nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and cashews, oftentimes peanuts are forgotten about. Of course, peanuts aren’t actually nuts, but they are classified as legumes. Which means they fall under that legume umbrella and are packed with protein. A 100-gram serving of peanuts offers a whopping 25 grams of protein!
Try a few of these protein-rich recipes for each of your meals: Peanut Butter Banana Muffins, Peanut Chickpeas, Homemade Peanut Butter, Easy Peanut Noodles, Peanut Stew, or these No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Coconut Bars.
If you’re already on the almond wagon, then go ahead and load up a bit more! Almonds are an excellent source of protein — 100 grams offers about 21 grams of protein — as well as a slew of healthy fats including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids. On top of that, they’re a great plant-based source of calcium and magnesium.
Try a few of these almond-rich recipes for each of your meals: Apple Almond Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts, Raw Veggie Burger, Creamy Almond Mac ‘n’ Cheese, or this Almond Peach Crisp.
Quinoa should not just be a staple for those gluten-free folks, but is a great plant-based ingredient for any kitchen! This pseudocereal — meaning it’s not actually a grain, but a seed — is loaded with vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. One cup of cooked quinoa offers about eight to nine grams of protein, along with a healthy dose of “complex carbs, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.”
Try a few of these quinoa-based recipes for each of your meals: Quinoa and Spice Blueberry Bircher, Vegan Lemon Blueberry Superfood Granola, Apple Quinoa Salad, Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, or these Truffled Chocolate Nougats.
7. Chia Seeds
You can’t go wrong with chia seeds. These minuscule little nibbles are not only super easy to add to almost any meal, but they’re also loaded with protein and other nutrients. In just 35 grams of chia seed, you’ll get “[six] grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber.” On top of that, chia seeds are a wonderful source of “iron, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and various other beneficial plant compounds.”
Try a few of these chia seed-based recipes for each of your meals: Mixed Berry and Tahini Chia Pudding, Super-Seedy Muesli Bars, Body Mind and Soul Smoothie, Simple Lentil Loaf, or this Chocolate Sponge Cake.
8. Hemp Seeds
Another easy protein-packed addition!
Much like chia seeds, hemp seeds are actually packed with protein and other vital nutrients. In fact, hemp seeds pack in 50 percent more protein than both chia seeds and trendy flaxseeds. For every 28 grams of hemp seed, you’ll get a whopping “10 grams of complete, easily digestible protein.” Along with that protein, you’ll also get a healthy dose of magnesium, iron, calcium, since, selenium, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Try a few of these hemp seed-based recipes for each of your meals: Yogurt Power Bowl, Seed Crackers, Crunchy Hemp Coconut Fruit Salad, ‘Chicken’ Nuggets With Hemp Yogurt, Quinoa, and Peas, or these High Protein Vegan Cinnamon Cookies.
9. Wild Rice
Rice is filling, versatile, and there are many varieties to choose from! If you’re looking for the variety that’ll give you the most protein per serving, then go with wild rice. One cup of cooked wild rice has around seven grams of protein, as well as a healthy dose of “fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and B vitamins.”
Try a few of these rice-rich recipes for each of your meals (make sure to substitute wild rice when needed!): Wellness Nourish Bowl, Matcha Rice Crispy Treats, Stuffed Peppers With Vegetables, Wild Rice, and Lemongrass, Wild Rice With Broccoli and Mushrooms, of this Rice Pudding With Apricot Jam, Whipped Coconut Cream, and Toasted Coconut Shreds.
Most vegetables aren’t exactly loaded with protein, but if you’re looking to get some of your protein twist from veggies, give broccoli a try! One cooked up of broccoli offers around four to five grams of protein. On top of that, you’ll also get a good dose of fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, and vitamins A, C, E, K, a bit of B6, and a whole bunch of folate!
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Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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