How to Eat Enough Protein as a Vegan and Have Sustainable Energy
September 28 2012
Do you find that a vegan diet is restrictive or that it requires a lot of willpower? Do you think of vegan food as bland and boring? Is finding protein one of the biggest challenges you face as a vegetarian or vegan? Is it tough for you to figure out what protein sources are okay to eat as a vegan?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’ve got some easy steps for you to follow which will help you pump up the protein and boost your energy too. Plant based protein gives us steady, lasting energy that encourages focus. Animal based protein can make us tired or crave unhealthy fats. Also, plant protein is by far easier on your digestive system than meat is. Even better? Plant based sources of protein almost always contain fiber which is extremely important for colon health.
In the past 18 years of being a vegetarian/vegan, I’ve learned to win the challenge of getting more than enough protein without resorting to animal products. In the beginning, getting enough protein was a struggle. I found myself overeating carbs and not eating enough protein…which made me feel restless and always hungry. I learned the hard way and made mistakes as do a lot of new vegetarians and vegans. Eating enough protein is no longer difficult, bland or a tough challenge for me. It’s a breeze now! Practice makes perfect and you can certainly do it too.
Instead of being one big chunk of recognizable protein like say for instance, a steak, vegan sources of protein are spread out in each meal and scattered throughout the day.
Grab some vegan protein!
Lentils. Come in red, brown or green varieties and can be found in the bulk aisle or in the soup, rice, pasta section.
Try in wraps, soups, casseroles, pate, or a loaf.
Expand your knowledge of using lentils by watching this short video.
Sprouted seeds. Can be found in the refrigerated produce section of a health food store or you can easily sprout your own. Rinse well, use within 3 days.
Try atop a salad or burger, or layer into your sandwiches.
Sprout your seed of curiosity into a stalk of knowledge at www.sproutpeople.org.
Sprouted Beans. Can be found in the refrigerated produce section of a health food store or you can easily sprout your own. Rinse well; use within 3 days.
Try as a garnish to stir frys, a veggie medley, or in soup like crackers.
Incorporate these nourishing little goodies into your diet with these simple tips.
Split peas. Can be found in the bulk foods aisle, and come in green and yellow varieties.
Try making soups or hearty chili with split peas, or try them in mashed potatoes, as part of a sandwich spread, or sprinkled into casseroles.
Tambra’s Split Pea Breakfast Scramble can really start your day off with flavor and energy!
Beans. Varieties like pinto, garbanzo, black, adzuki, lima, great northern, navy and many others are all tasty! Canned is easiest, always rinse well, or if you buy them dried in the bulk foods aisle then soak overnight in water.
Beans can be used in casseroles, burritos, fajitas, rice n’ beans, dips, and pot pies…the possibilities are endless!
The Vegan Coach can help you understand Bean Cooking 101 better!
Nuts. Found in the bulk foods aisle usually, sometimes the baking aisle. Great examples include: Almonds, brazil, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and others.
Eat them raw if possible (except peanuts) so the oils are not ruined.
Try nuts in snacks, trail mix, granola bars, crust, patties, or french toast.
Nut butter is a clever way to make an eggless French Toast Batter!
Seeds. May be found in the bulk foods aisle or elsewhere.
Why not try some sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds (ground up) or sesame seeds?
Seeds and seed butters can be used in sandwich wrap fillings, stuffed peppers, mixed in with rice, pie toppings or salad toppings.
Robin Robertson’s book Vegan Planet has lots of ideas using seeds and seed butters.
Nut and Seed Butters. Can be found by the peanut butter. Try cashew butter, Hemp butter, Tahini (Fancy name for Sesame seed butter) Almond butter, and even hazelnut and pistachio butters!
Use in sauces, sandwich spread, toast, batters, or gravies.
Have fun in the kitchen, experimenting with nut butter recipes from Once Again Nut Butters.
Green Bars and Food Bars. My favorites are Organic Food Bar, Vega Bars, and Honest Food Bars. Great to throw in your purse, backpack or briefcase for a nutritious snack that counts for something good and won’t bust your beltline!
Hemp Protein Powder. A complete source for protein. Easy to digest and doesn’t cause inflammation to joints or aggravate your system balance. Awesome for traveling, and is a quick perfect protein you can just mix with water. I like Vega the best.
Starting your day with a protein based meal is important because it reduces cravings for refined sugars. Foods like doughnuts or pastries in the morning is a surefire way to keep the sugar cravings coming and fuel the lack of concentration. So, stock up every day with at least 35-40% of your individual body weight in grams of protein per day. This means that since I’m 105 pounds, I make sure that I consume 37-42 grams per day. You may have to scribble down your amounts for a while everyday, but it is so worth it. In a few weeks, you’ll probably be a pro!
Certified Nutritionist, Vegetarian/Vegan since 1994 and Author of My Teenage Rejection of Death Products
OTHER HELPFUL ARTICLES: