As I study holistic nutrition, I am learning SOOOO much about food...it's honestly amazing. If done right, you can really have a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle as a vegetarian or vegan. But you have to take the time to understand protein, what your plant-based protein options are and how to properly incorporate the right foods into your diet. I think we often take food for granted. I've started taking a moment here or there to be grateful...grateful for the healthy foods I have access to, for the fresh water I can drink each day without thinking twice, for the kitchen I can cook in and for my health, my family, friends and myself. Gratefulness in it's simplest form...it goes a long way internally.
Okay, soooo here are some delicious and yummy plant-based proteins to incorporate into your diet. Whether you are a vegetarian/vegan or not, these are healthy, wholesome foods that everyone should be eating. Try something new and be adventurous with food.
1. Quinoa: One of my absolute favourite plant-based proteins! Quinoa is a complete protein and this means it contains a balance of all 9 essential amino acids. It's nutrient rich, high in fiber and naturally gluten free. Check out my Rainbow Quinoa Salad Recipe...it's on tonight's dinner menu. Who wants to join? ;)
Nutritional Value: 1 cup of cooked quinoa has approximately 8 grams of protein.
Uses: Quinoa is one of those foods that you can incorporate into a lot of meals. It's great for breakfast (stay tuned for my yummy breakfast quinoa recipe), in salads, with stir fry instead of rice or noodles, in soup and the list goes on and on.
2. Legumes: Legumes include lentils, beans and peas. Growing up, lentils were a huge part of my diet, as they are a staple in most Indian households. Lentils are high in protein, low in fat and a good source of fiber. There are brown lentils, puy or french green lentils, red lentils and beluga lentils. If I'm going to be completely honest, I am not a fan of beans. I love garbanzo beans but it ends there. This is solely my opinion and I just want to be honest about how my tastebuds don't agree with beans...it's kind one of those, "it's not you, it's ME" situations lol. However, beans are healthy as they are high in protein, high in fiber and rich in many minerals. And they are super delicious, according to many haha. There are different types of beans including garbanzo beans (see my Roasted Chickpeas Recipe), kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans and navy beans. Also in the legume family, are green peas and they are a great protein source.
Nutritional Value: 1 cup of cooked lentils has approximately 17 grams of protein. 1 cup of cooked beans has approximately 12-15 grams of protein.
Uses: Lentils, beans and green peas can be a great addition to salads, stir fry, hearty soups, combined with quinoa or brown rice, used to make veggie burgers and so on. Be creative!
3. Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are a staple in most vegetarian and vegan diets. There are sooooo many to list. They are both protein-rich and mineral-rich. Here are some of the most common nuts and seeds; almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds.
Nutritional Value: 1/4 cup of nuts has approximately 6-9 grams of protein. 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds has approximately 13 grams of protein. The other seeds range in amount of protein from 3 grams to 8 grams per tablespoon.
Uses: Nuts and seeds are so much fun to add to meals. They make a delicious addition to salads, pasta dishes, quinoa, smoothies, and desserts. My girls love hemp seeds on top of quinoa pasta!
4. Soy: The top soy-based foods are tempeh, tofu and edamame beans. They are all rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is important you choose organic, high quality sources of soy protein. Tempeh is a better choice than tofu because it's fermented but tofu is still another good option.
Nutritional Value: 3 ounces of tempeh has approximately 13 grams of protein. Half a cup of edamame beans has approximately 11 grams of protein.
Uses: These soy protein sources can be added to lots of meals like salads, stir fry, veggie burgers and more. My girls love eating edamame beans as a side to a meal.
5. Nutritional Yeast: This is a recent discovery in my world and it's amazing! It's a deactivated yeast with a nutty, cheesy flavour and it's flaky in texture. It's packed with protein and lots of vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional Value: 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast has approximately 12 grams of protein.
Uses: Nutritional yeast is an acquired taste at first. It's great to sprinkle on popcorn, add to dishes to enhance the flavour and to dressings and sauces.
6. Protein Powder: What better way to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet? Try a vegan protein powder instead of whey protein. My absolute favourite is the Sun Warrior Raw Vegan Chocolate Protein Powder and it contains a complete amino acid profile. I pick mine up at Nature's Source....one of my favourite natural supplements and food stores.
Nutritional Value: 1 serving of protein powder has approximately 15 grams of protein.
Uses: Protein powder is a great addition to smoothies, smoothie bowls and steel cut oats. It's also fun to add to different desserts and snacks like protein balls. Stay tuned for some delicious protein-powder packed recipes.
Okay so as you can see it's not all about animal-based proteins. There are sooo many healthy and amazing plant-based protein options Try having a vegetarian or vegan day once a week and see what kind of delicious meals and snacks you can come up with. And don't hesitate to reach out to me for ideas!