When people consider switching to a plant based diet, one of the first things that crosses their mind is, “Where will I get my protein?”
The answer is easy – it’s everywhere! To demonstrate, I’d like to share with you a very typical day for me eating a plant based diet. Thanks to the wonderful calculation tools on fitbit.com, I am able to keep a food journal and it calculates the contents of my meals for me. This is a fabulous way for anyone (on any diet, or changing any diet) to track actual consumption and composition. It can be a major eye opener. It certainly was for me.
One of the major issues with getting enough protein is simply letting go of the myth that protein = meat and vice versa. Pretend for a moment that you’ve been brainwashed your whole life, and that today you may realize the truth. That veggies, legumes, and whole grains = protein, but without all the nasty side effects.
So, here’s a look at today’s diet:
Breakfast: Cereal: Rolled oats mixed with Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, topped with almond milk, dried cherries, raisins, and fresh raspberries.
AM Snack – fresh apple
Lunch: Leftovers from last night – Vegetable curry: broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, daikon (japanese radish), baby corn, bamboo shoots, and red bell pepper cooked with panang curry sauce diluted with some coconut milk to stretch out the supply. We served this over another leftover dish- the wild rice and lentil blend from Thanksgiving.
PM Snack – Hummus and multigrain crackers (no flour in these – just seeds and whole grains). Also, some yummy Kabocha squash soup leftover from Thanksgiving too.
Dinner: Picture a Chipotle style veggie burrito bowl made at home – brown rice and black beans, sauteed onions & peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce.
To recap: No meat. No dairy. No processed foods except for the hummus, crackers, and plant milk. No added oil except what was in the hummus, crackers, and plant milk. By the way, cutting out processed foods as much as possible helps cut out the fat big time.
The composition of today’s diet: 14% of the calories came from protein, 13% from fat, and the remaining 73% from carbs. For those of you who work better with grams, that’s 55g protein, 24g fat, 300g carbs including 52g fiber. Total calorie count was 1614 just for reference, but I don’t ever worry about calories unless they get low.
Today’s diet was right within the target range for protein consumption (50-75g/day), yet none of it came from any animal source. Nor was there any protein shakes, tofu, tempeh, seitan or other meat substitutes. This is not to say that any of these things are harmful, but it is simply to point out that they’re not necessary, and since they’re all processed ingredients, they do carry some negatives. It’s important to point out that this diet is intentionally low in fat. I strive for 10% of my calories from fat for heart health. Today’s was 13% thanks to the hummus, coconut milk, and almond milk, but not altogether bad!
The main protein sources for today were the oatmeal, lentils, brown rice, and black beans. Take those away, and I’d still have 31g of protein – sourced completely from vegetables.
The only thing you need to know about eating a plant based diet is that variety is the spice of life, and it’s essential to health. Eating fruit and tossed salads all day may be cruelty-free, but it’s not healthy. Maintaining a tasty variety of veggies, whole grains, legumes, and fruit is the easiest way to satisfy all your nutritional requirements and your taste buds a the same time.