As a vegetarian, the one thing you can be sure of is that someone, somewhere, likely more often than you’d like will ask you, “Where do you get your protein from?” And as the educated vegetarian you are, you sigh, and silently ask yourself why people are so ignorant about food and nutrition, but then smile and respond kindly, “You know I get that question all the time, but I get it from nuts, legumes, beans, grains, veggies, and my favorite quinoa!”
Actually I didn’t always respond so kindly. I used to be very defensive about my way of eating and very annoyed by how little people know about food and nutrition.
Now please understand that my annoyance is because I am so passionate about getting people healthy and I KNOW that the number one answer for 90% of health concerns out there is to fix what you’re eating. For me, becoming vegetarian(vegan at the time) fixed all my health concerns. Really though, it’s simply adding “real” food into your life: fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. and getting rid of the “fake” foods. Think anything in a box, can, or package: swiss cake rolls, hot dogs, lunchables, ravioli, Campbell’s soup, macaroni and cheese, etc. Becoming vegetarian or vegan just demands this switch from “fake” food to “real” food.
Now for this protein concern.
Let’s start with the basics here. If you are eating a 2000 calorie diet (you do not need to be counting calories by the way, but that is a whole other can of worms to talk about) you need 10-15% of those from protein. Ok, so that’s 50-65 grams of protein each day. Seems like a lot right?
Not hardly! My vegetarian breakfast this morning had nearly 30 grams of protein in it! More than half of what I need for a whole day and that’s without bacon, sausage, ham, or any other kind of meat! And let’s be honest I’m a 5 ft tall girl. I’m sure I don’t need 2000 calories a day or 50 grams of protein. I personally only need about 40 grams. I’m basically set for the day!
If I go back to my meat-eating days, my breakfast would have been an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich. Follow that up with a turkey sandwich for lunch with chips and chicken breast for dinner with some rice-a-roni and broccoli and cheese. That’s nearly 75 grams of protein. Almost double what a teenage girl my size should eat. And let’s not even look at the lack of fruits and vegetables.
Ok, actually that’s exactly what I intend to do. Why all the protein fuss? Why?! For the average American, that is the last thing they should worry about. Now if you lived in a 3rd world country, protein should probably be a concern. However, that’s not the case here. If you’re eating meat or cheese based food at all your meals that’s 50-70 grams easy. Then we’ve got people drinking 1-3 protein shakes with it. That’s more than 100 grams of protein, but where are all the fruits and veggies?
So what’s the big deal? Too much of a good thing? Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Eating excess protein causes digestive issues. When your digestive system doesn’t work properly you store fat. Not to mention the research on animal protein and cancer growth is a little scary. (Check out The China Study) You could be a work-out machine, chugging down protein shakes and eating a shload of animal protein AND actually getting fatter, sicker and still building muscles at the same time!
What’s the alternative? Stop worrying about protein consumption. You’re getting enough. Really! Start worrying about getting enough veggies and fruits and other plant foods. Yes, plant-based is always my answer. That doesn’t mean you need to go vegetarian, but there are so many plant-based protein sources out there. What’s great is they’re also packed with the vitamins and minerals you find in fruits and veggies (because they’re plants too!).
Examples. Quinoa. Nut butters like peanut, almond, or hazelnut. Almond or soy milk. Nuts and seeds, especially hemp seeds. Two slices of whole grain bread have 10 grams of protein. Beans. Make a bean and rice burrito and get 17 grams there. So many bean options, like hummus. YUM! 1 cup of cooked spinach equals 13 grams, but less than 100 calories. Seriously, there are so many plant sources of protein!!!!!
Try this! Instead of the old-fashion whey protein powder in the can (yes, whey is an animal protein) put a banana, a big scoop of peanut (or other nut) butter, some flax or hemp seeds, a handful of spinach or kale leaves, some cooked oats, almond milk, and some berries in a blender. This will make a protein packed smoothie using REAL foods instead of some powder in a can! 🙂
It’s vegetarian. It’s vegan. It’s good for you. In fact it will fight off half the diseases out there and help you build muscle! Tell me that won’t make one happy, healthy, and hot… chick, dude, grandma, whoever?!
So, Enough with the protein concern!
What are your favorite plant-based sources of protein?
Any good protein-packed smoothies to share?