***RECIPE FOR PROTEIN PACKED MEAL PREP AT THE BOTTOM***Jump to Recipe
Up until this point, I have only shared recipes on this blog. Ultimately, though, I have a vision for this blog to be the resource for people going plant based that I didn’t have. There’s a lot of opinions and misinformation on the internet, especially on the topic of veganism. It can be hard to know what’s true and what isn’t. I want you to have access to the whys and hows, find great recipes, accurate information, and have all of your questions answered in one place.
I hope that by starting an FAQ series, we can achieve that together. I’ll start by going through the frequently asked questions I’m getting from family, friends, and coworkers and leaving it up here under the “Information and Resources” section. I hope that this series sparks a conversation and leads to YOU asking more questions and getting them answered as well!
Here we go!
Before we go into where to get protein, let’s talk about how much do we actually NEED? The current number circulation around most nutrition websites says 0.8 grams of protein per healthy kilogram of body weight daily (or 0.36 grams per pound). That turns out to about 40-50 grams of protein per day for women and 50-60 grams per day for men. You can actually plug your own information into this calculator on the USDA website and out pops a whole list of not only your protein and caloric requirements, but also lots of other nutrients! It’s a great tool to check out.
The subject of protein is pretty funny. It turns out that having a protein deficiency (other than the setting of malnutrition and starvation) is pretty darn rare. There’s actually a small amount of protein in almost EVERY plant we eat. That’s right. I’ll prove it.
Plant based protein sources are easier to come by than you think! I’ll say it again: almost any plant you eat has SOME protein in it. Even if it’s only a few grams of protein per serving, if you eat an adequate caloric intake daily (let’s say 2000 calories), you are almost guaranteed hit your protein requirements.
Let’s take broccoli for example. A cup of broccoli has about 30 calories and 4 grams of protein. If you ate ONLY broccoli all day, and consumed all of your caloric requirement (2000 calories worth of broccoli), that means you would have eaten 66.67 cups of broccoli. At an amount of 4 grams of protein per cup, that means you would consume 266.68 grams of protein that day! That’s about 5x what most adults need (if we are using 50 grams of protein a day as our benchmark). Even if you were an athlete aiming to consume the recommended amount of protein for high intensity training (1.8-2.0 grams protein/kg body weight), you would STILL be consuming roughly DOUBLE the protein needed!
How many Americans have a protein deficiency? About 3%
So unless you are consuming foods COMPLETELY devoid of protein (replacing meat with processed, refined grains, and only consuming fruits and veggies extremely low in protein), it is HIGHLY unlikely that you would fall short of your protein requirement.
It IS, however, HIGHLY likely that if you aren’t eating plant based, you are falling short on FIBER! A super underrated nutrient that we need for gut and cardiovascular health. It is even now believed that gut health and the gut microbiome could play a HUGE role in autoimmune diseases. A high fiber diet = a healthy microbiome.
How many Americans get adequate fiber? About 3%
How many people can you think of in your life that have diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, had a stroke, or got diagnosed an autoimmune disease (crohn’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, grave’s disease (hyperthyroid), hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroid), JUST TO NAME A FEW)? I’m not saying a vegan diet is a 100% guaranteed way to prevent all of these diseases all of the time or cure them by any means (after all, genetics and our environment DO still play a role). But I AM saying diet does play a HUGE role in contributing to these risk factors. Some would argue it is the primary role. Fiber is crucial here people. (PS: Are you worried about wind? Passing gas IS a side effect that happens from a sudden increase in dietary fiber BUT your body WILL ADJUST, especially if you increase slowly over the course of a few weeks)
Now back to PROTEIN: I’ll admit, eating 2000 calories of broccoli would be pretty hard. That’s a lot of broccoli.
Let’s do a food experiment. Take a moment and think about everyone’s favorite childhood lunch. A peanut butter sandwich. Whether it be peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and banana, or peanut butter on toast with some other fancy topping, peanut butter is pretty darn high in protein (or if you’re allergic, almost ALL nut butters are high in protein so you can sub any of them).
- One serving of peanut butter (2 tablespoons) has 8 grams of protein.
- Let’s put the peanut butter on one slice of whole grain bread, which can have anywhere from 4-6 grams of protein per slice depending on the type (for extra protein, you could put it on Ezekiel bread, which has about 8g!!).
- That’s anywhere from 12-16 grams of protein JUST from peanut butter on ONE slice of bread.
- Let’s add a banana. Thats another 2 grams of protein. If you want to get really wild and add a second slice of bread, that’s now totaling anywhere from 18-26 grams of protein total JUST from a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread!
- That’s one third to half of your protein requirement for the WHOLE DAY! All from a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Easier than you thought, right?
Maybe you’re thinking okay, that’s great, but I can’t live off of broccoli, bread, and peanut butter. What the heck can I eat? Here is a great, easy to read article that has a list of protein rich plant foods
Plants included in this list that are super high in protein include: Seitan, soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk), lentils, chickpeas, beans, nutritional yeast, ancient grains (barley, farro, spelt, teff), hempseed, green peas, spirulina, quinoa, amaranth, breads made from sprouted grains (Ezekiel bread), oats, wild rice, chia seeds, nuts, seeds, protein rich veggies (broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, sweet potatoes, asparagus).
Some of these are more familiar than others. Let’s do a super simple, protein rich meal prep for the week that is super fast, super customizable, and I think almost anyone would like.
Protein Packed Meal Prep
- 1 cup dry quinoa or brown rice, or high protein grain of choice (will expand to double when cooked)
- 1/2 pound brussel sprouts or broccoli
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp hummus for optional dressing
- 1 tbsp lemon juice for optional dressing
- 1 tbsp water for optional dressing
- Pre heat oven to 400 degrees
- Start by cooking your grain of choice according to package instructions
- Chop your veggies
- In a separate small bowl, combine spices
- Place veggies on a sheet pan and lightly coat in oil
- Sprinkle veggies with seasoning mixture
- Bake for 20 minutes. Turn once halfway through
- Optional lazy lemon hummus dressing: combine 2 tbsp hummus with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp water. Mix and use as dressing!
- Divide your finished product into four separate containers, top with lemon or dressing of choice (balsamic vinaigrette, vegan ranch, tahini, lazy lemon hummus dressing are all good choices!)
I will have to get a picture of a typical meal prep like this posted. I make this all the time, especially in the fall and winter months! Next time I do, I’ll be sure to photograph and add to this post.
I know what you’re thinking again. The top two protein rich plants on the list are seitan and soy, two things you were likely told were bad for you! Well I used to think that too until I did the research. I highly recommend going over to nutritionfacts.org and seeing for yourself what the latest research says. In summary, unless you have an allergy or insensitivity to either of them, they are both okay to eat, and soy is actually highly beneficial to consume! On the topic of soy, this is an excellent video to start with. As for seitan, since it isn’t a whole food, I try to keep it to a minimum. But I do enjoy a good seitan chick’n nugget once in a while and here is why I don’t feel guilty about it!
In summary: that answer to the FAQ is…EVERYWHERE. High quality, plant based protein is EVERYWHERE. I promise, if you are eating enough calories, you will not be lacking protein. Try using an app like myfitnesspal to get nutrition info on the foods you eat and see for yourself!
I hope you liked this post, please drop a comment or add your questions below. I would love to start a dialogue and get some good info out there to you all! If you like this content, give me a follow, and find me on instagram (@chrissygoeshippy).