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Age-related changes are a fact of life, but a healthy lifestyle can delay their onset or slow their progression. One way in which both diet and exercise may have a big impact is in protecting muscle tissue. Sarcopenia is a reduction in muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. Although it begins as early as the mid-40s, sarcopenia accelerates as people get older, and chronic muscle loss may affect nearly a third of those over the age of 60.

A number of studies show that the best way to prevent sarcopenia is through resistance training like weight lifting. But getting adequate protein is important, too. While there is quite a bit of debate among researchers about whether protein needs increase with aging, the growing consensus is that giving protein a little boost may help preserve muscle mass.  Older vegans may need as much as 0.45 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of healthy body weight (which may or may not be your actual body weight). For someone whose healthy body weight is 140, that would be between 63 and 70 grams of protein per day. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to get that much protein from plant foods.

To make sure your diet is packed with muscle-protective protein, choose at least four servings per day of protein-rich foods like cooked dried beans, tempeh, firm tofu, seitan, edamame, soynuts, veggie meats, peanut butter, and pistachios. Opt for quinoa, potatoes or pasta often in place of other starchy foods since they’re higher in protein. Vegetables and most nuts have less protein, but they are still good sources. Here are some meals that pack a powerful protein punch:

Meal Total Protein
▪    1 cup oatmeal with ½ cup soymilk▪    1 slice whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons peanut butter▪    1 cup oatmeal with ½ cup soymilk

▪    1 slice whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons peanut butter

21 grams
▪    ½ cup tofu scrambled with 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and ¼ cup mushrooms▪    Slice of whole grain bread with 1 tsp vegan margarine▪    ½ cup fresh fruit 22 grams
▪    Grilled veggie sausage in whole wheat roll▪    1 cup steamed spinach 26 grams
▪    1 cup whole wheat pasta tossed with ½ cup garbanzo beans, 2 tbsp chopped walnuts, and 1 cup of braised broccoli florets▪    Tossed salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing 22 grams
▪    2 falafel▪    6-inch pita stuffed with ½ cup hummus▪    ½ cup tabouli

▪    ½ cup plain soy yogurt with chopped cucumber

25 grams
▪    ½ cup brown rice▪    4 ounces tempeh▪    ¼ cup spicy peanut sauce (made with 2 tbsp peanut butter)

▪    1 ½ cups cooked kale

30 grams
▪    Seitan stew made with▪    3 ounces seitan▪    ½ cup white potatoes

▪    ½ cup carrots

▪    ¼ cup mushrooms

▪    Vegetable broth thickened with ½ tbsp whole wheat flour

25 grams


Image Source: Suzette Pauwels/Flickr