Getting the right amount of protein in your diet is essential. Still, many of us only get enough to prevent deficiency. Consuming more can help with several things, including but not limited to:
-Building muscle mass
-Promoting satiety and reducing cravings
-Adequate bone health, especially as we age
-Weight maintenance (due in part to that lean body mass which helps keep your metabolism optimized and satiety which helps keep you fuller for longer).
Consuming protein throughout the day is a good idea for many reasons. It promotes stable blood sugars, energy levels, and a feeling of fullness and may limit overeating later in the day.
Getting adequate protein without loading up on too many carbs can be a challenge for anyone who eats a vegan diet. While plant proteins contain a good amount of protein, they also contain carbohydrates, so it is vital to watch portion size. Choosing high-fiber, low glycemic index plant-based foods is key.
All plant protein sources are not created equal. Here’s a list of our favorites:
Lentils At 18 grams of protein per cooked cup, lentils are an excellent source of plant protein. Use them in soups and salads, or pair them with sautéd greens for a hearty meal. Lentils contain slowly digested carbs and can help promote a healthy gut.
Tempeh Tempeh is a fermented form of soy that’s high in protein (12 grams per cup!), easy to digest (easier than tofu), and rich in probiotics.
Edamame These immature soybeans are delicious steamed or boiled. Eat them on their own or in soups and salads, and get 8-9 grams of protein in every cooked half cup.
Black beans Their dark color indicates their strong antioxidant content, plus they have less starch than other beans. A half cup adds 8 grams of protein to your plate.
Chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans): These little guys are an excellent source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium and manganese and they pack 8 grams of protein in a cooked half cup.
Nuts, nut butter, and seeds One ounce contains 5–7 grams of protein, depending on the variety. (Almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds are all great choices.) Since blanching and roasting may reduce their nutrients, choosing raw versions (or, better yet, making your own at home!) are your best bet.
Nutritional yeast Sold as a yellow powder or flakes, nutritional yeast has a rich, cheesy flavor, which makes it a popular ingredient in mashed potatoes and sprinkled on salads and popcorn. It has an impressive 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber in every ounce.
Pea protein powder is made by grinding dried peas into a fine powder. The starch and fiber are removed, leaving a powdered concentrated protein substance (aka pea protein isolate). Pea protein is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
Try eating your protein first. A small study found when both protein AND non starchy vegetables were eaten first in the meal compared to when starchy carbohydrates were eaten first, the participants who ate the protein/veggies first had lower post-meal glucose and insulin levels than those who ate their starchy carbs first.
Tracking your macros is the most efficient way to see how much protein you are actually eating. Don’t want to track? Aim to build your plate to include ¼ plate of protein and ¼ starchy carbs, and fill the rest of your plate with colorful non-starchy veggies. 🥦 This “balance” will provide loads of antioxidants in all of the high fiber, colorful veggies, and protein to help you feel satiated, steadying blood sugar and energy throughout the day, and satisfying carbs that contribute to both energy and a sense of satisfaction.