How to get enough protein on a vegetarian/vegan diet
Vegetarianism and veganism have tremendously grown in popularity over the past few years. While some people grew up without eating animal products for religious reasons or parental preference, recently, many have switched to a vegetarian or vegan diet out of concern over their personal health, the environment, animal rights or feeling funny about the amount of antibiotics and hormones used in livestock. Me, personally, I live by the “a little bit of everything” principle when it comes to food. I eat (or at least try) almost anything. Alligator, wallaby, crickets, etc… but sneak a mushroom on my plate and we’re gonna have a big problem! (I just can’t get down with its texture) 😊 While I thoroughly enjoy steak, chicken wings or salmon in my diet, I most definitely also get excited about a vegetarian bowl full of amazingness or indulge in vegan desserts.
To be veg or not to be veg
Whether you prefer to eat or not eat meat, one of the main discussions between the two parties is still the question if you can get enough protein from a plant-based diet. The simple answer: Yes, you can! Is it as easy and convenient as on a meat-based diet? Hmm… probably not. Especially if you’re just starting out on your vegetarian/vegan journey and are still trying to make it fit into your life. The good news is, because vegetarianism and veganism are gaining in popularity, grocery stores and restaurants are offering more and more options to fit this lifestyle.
Plenty of articles, movies and TV shows have long debunked the myth, that you can only get adequate protein from animal sources. Eating a well-balanced diet with lots of different vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds will supply the body with all the nutrients it needs.
Protein in a nutshell (pun intended) :-)
Just a quick overview on what protein actually is: Protein is a naturally occurring macronutrient that every cell in the body needs to build and repair cells and body tissues (skin, hair, muscle, bone). Proteins are molecules composed out of one or more chains of amino acids. Our body can simply make some amino acids, but there are 9 (essential) amino acids we cannot produce and therefore, we must get them through our diet. The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Don't worry, you don't need to remember them!
Animal products like beef, fish, dairy, and eggs are complete proteins, as they contain every one of the essential amino acids. Most plant-based sources are missing one or more of these essential amino acids. So, eating a wide variety of proteins is important.
Here’s a list of the few complete plant-based proteins:
Soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
Not a complete but still a great source of protein:
Dark-colored, leafy greens and vegetables
Wondering about protein supplements?
Unless you have professionally diagnosed protein deficiency or are a professional/office athlete, you probably don't need to use supplements. But if you are looking for a suitable option, there are some plant-based protein powders out there, for example this one by nu3. Depending on the plants used to make the powders, they may be complete or incomplete proteins. Some protein supplements may also be high in sugar or sodium to improve the taste, so it is important to read the nutrition labels and not rely on protein in form of powder alone to fill your body’s needs. Balance is key!
Don’t overthink it! We don’t need to have every amino acid in every single meal. Simply eat a rainbow of different produce and base most of your meals on whole and unprocessed foods. Consuming a well-balanced diet with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds will provide the average person with all the nutrients needed.
Want to learn more about how we support our vegetarian/vegan clients on their nutrition journey? Or do you also want to reach your optimal weight, lose excess fat, and/or simply have more energy? Then check out our programs here.
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