The number one question that everyone wants to know: where do vegans get their protein? Don’t worry – there are a lot of ways to get in more than enough protein just from plants. If you want to know all the details, use our in-depth Complete Protein Guide for Beginning Vegans. If you want the fast pass, here it is! Here are twelve quick and easy tips to help you easily switch to a plant-based diet.
1) Just swap regular meat for the plant-based version. Look in the freezer section and the vegan section (many stores have one now). Gardein makes crab cakes that are excellent and they even have algal oil added so you get a serving of EPA and DHA omega-3s just like you would from crab meat so the nutrition is even equivalent. There’s chick’n nuggets, sausage galore, plant-based ground meat, and so many plant meat burgers you could probably have a different kind every day for a whole month. Some of the plant meats aren’t very good (in my opinion), some are so excellent that they’re better than the meat version (again, in my opinion). Keep trying different ones until you find your favorites.
2) Get some protein pasta. There are a lot of these now: yellow lentil pasta, chickpea pasta, red lentil pasta and so on. Regular wheat pasta has a good serving of protein as well, but swapping for a higher protein version can double, triple, or more the protein level so that all you have to do is eat some pasta, nothing else (though of course you can add anything else you like – sauces, veggies, etc.)
3) Beans, beans, the magical fruit – two weeks in, no more toot! Yep, though we’ve all grown up hearing about how beans make you gassy, our bodies quickly adjust to them when consumed regularly, and the gas will subside. It is recommended that you go slow as the first few days can be a bit much of you dive right in to eating multiple servings of beans per day. With that being said, beans are such an easy and healthy way to get protein (one study showed that those who eat beans daily live 7-8% longer!). Put some chili on a potato, toss some white beans in with pasta, toss them onto a salad, make them into a soup, or mash them into a burger style patty.
4) Chickpeas are a bean, but they’re so versatile that they need their own listing. Pan roasting them is one of the fastest and best ways to eat them, and they can literary be added to any recipe at that point because they’re fairly bland themselves, so they pair well with just about any flavor (or of course you can season them in the pan). Blend them into hummus, or bake the blended chickpeas to make falafel‘s (chickpea meat). If you bake them until crispy, they’re a nice snack, can be added to salads for a crouton-like crunch, or can be crushed for use as breadcrumbs.
5) Grab some nuts and either lemon juice (or lemons) or oil. The nuts themselves make great snacks of course, or you can soak them overnight to soften them, then blend them with a little lemon juice to make a soft cheese. (The nut cheese needs to be chilled in the fridge in order for the lemon juice to ferment the nuts.) Instead of the lemon juice, you can use just a couple tablespoons of good oil to make a nut butter that can be spread over toast or used any other way that you would normally use peanut butter – it’s homemade, super easy, and makes you feel like you’re really eating something fancy because walnut butter in the stores is well over $15 a jar.
6) Grab a container of tahini, which is ground sesame seeds. Tahini can be added to so many foods: think smoothies, yogurt bowls, salads, even on toast, and it’s the ‘special ingredient’ that’s added to traditional hummus. At a whopping 8 g of protein in just 2 tablespoons, tahini by itself can knock out a significant portion of a daily protein requirement.
7) Seeds! Nothing parks in more protein in a smaller package then a seed. Seriously, birds are on a high protein diet! Just like nuts, they make great snacks themselves, or can be blended into seed butter. Larger seeds like pumpkin seeds work well tossed on salads, while smaller seeds can be mixed in with a veggie stirfry, sprinkled over pasta, mixed into a grain casserole, added to smoothies, or sprinkled over a yogurt bowl. The seeds we recommend most: sesame, hemp, chia, and pumpkin. Sesame is especially helpful for achieving our daily calcium requirement. Hemp and chia are both excellent sources of omega-3s. Pumpkin is very high protein and like the other seeds here, a great source of iron and zinc – two nutrients that plant-based eaters need to ensure we receive enough of.
8) Let’s talk about grain casseroles because you probably are wondering what that is. Many greens have a great level of protein: quinoa, wild rice, pharaoh, millet, and so on. Cook these greens up like pasta, rum mix them with other ingredients such as seeds, Dried fruit, nuts, or some cooked vegetables and voila: a casserole. Her add a presentation factor, serve the casserole in a cooked vegetable, such as half of squash, a bell pepper, or any other food that makes a nice ’bowl’.
9) Did your ears just perk up when you read that grains have protein? Yep, bread is a protein source! Two slices of bread and it doesn’t even matter what you put on them because the bread itself has protein. Obviously the type of bread you get will influence just how much protein there is, but even just run of the mill all purpose flour is made from wheat and that has protein.
10) Make sure you pick up a lot of fruits and vegetables. Yes, they have protein too, and quite a lot of it. Potatoes in particular are an easy way to increase protein content with a food that were used to eating (hash-browns for breakfast, roasted potatoes for lunch topped with tahini or not butter, and mashed potatoes for dinner). However, cauliflower and broccoli are two excellent sources of protein, so is eggplant, zucchini, and avocados. Pretty much whatever vegetable you make, you’re guaranteed to get at least a little bit of protein from it.
11) The traditional plant-based prepared foods are definitely going to be something you wanna look into. These mainly include tofu, tempeh, and seitan (wheat gluten, what many of the plant-based sausages and meats are made of), but there are many more. TVP (textured vegetable protein) and Nooch (Nutritional Yeast) are two products that you will likely hear vegans refer to often as well.
12) Read nutrition labels. Vegans and vegetarians need 1.8x more iron and 1.5x more zinc. Reading labels is important not just to make sure that there isn’t an animal by-product in the ingredients list (guaranteed you’ll be surprised, even breadcrumb labels need to be read), but it’s also important to see the exact nutrition level of your specific product. Every plant must be grown, which means the nutrition will vary based on the growing location and fertalizer used and so on. Check your nutrient requirement level in our Iron and Zinc (coming soon) guides, then count up the amount on the labels of your food products until you’re comfortable knowing that you’re eating the right things to meet your needs.
Congratulations, you now know how to eat plant-based! Check out our recipe section to find more ideas or if you’re hungry for more info, see our Complete Protein Guide for Beginning Vegans!